Dogs are wonderful pets and companions, sharing in our everyday lives and offering health benefits to all who have the pleasure of owning one.
With dogs having the capability to learn to follow direction, work alongside us, and become our companions, it is no wonder that dogs are being trained as service animals.
What is a Service Dog?
Service dogs are used to help people with disabilities live independently. These dogs are not considered to be pets, but working animals, helping out where they are needed.
There are currently three types of service dogs. Guide dogs are able to lead the blind and visually impaired, while hearing dogs help those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing so they are aware of important noises.
Meanwhile, service dogs help those who have another disability unrelated to vision or hearing.
These are dogs that are trained to help in a variety of situations, including offering aid to people in wheelchairs, those who have balance issues, have autism, have seizures, or needed to be alerted to some other form of medical issue.
Is Being a Service Dog Trainer Right for You?
If you have ever said to yourself that you would like to become a service dog trainer, it is important to remember that this career path includes the training of a team, meaning both training the dog to help humans and helping the human to work with the dog.
This is important to remember because some people are not interested in working with humans, they would prefer to simply train animals.
One great way to both gain experience and truly discover if this is the right career path for you is to volunteer at either a rehabilitation center or local hospital.
This will help you not only understand what training these animals will entail but also should help to give you a basic understanding of the variety of disabilities that are out there and who would benefit from the help of a service animal.
How to Become a Service Dog Trainer
Work With Dogs
If you are interested in becoming a service dog trainer, it could be helpful for you to begin the process by seeking out conferences and workshops in the area of training and dog behavior.
Typically taking place at vocational schools and community colleges, these workshops tend to last anywhere from one to four days and cover a variety of topics from how animals learn, how to stay safe, and different techniques for obedience.
You can also gain experience working with animals by volunteering, either at a shelter or elsewhere.
In fact, some service dog training schools have volunteer programs that allow you to gain experience by caring for puppies until they are old enough to begin to be trained.
Complete Dog Training Courses
After you have gained some background experience through working with dogs, it is essential that you enroll in a certificate program.
Offered at community colleges, universities, and service dog training schools, the programs allow you the opportunity to gain formal knowledge on the topic.
While some courses only last a couple days and offer basic training, others can last for months at a time and give students a more in-depth look at what service dog training entails.
However, Assistance Dogs International Inc. state that any program that only lasts a few weeks will not give you the training you need.
They go on to stay that a reputable program will take anywhere from two to three years to complete and will also require you to complete an apprenticeship.
Become An Apprentice
Apprenticeships through animal training schools can last up to four years, and are required by many service dog training schools for those considering beginning the application program.
In general, you will work under the guide of an experienced instructor to help in the training of service dogs so that they will learn how to help disabled humans carry out certain tasks.
In addition, you will have the opportunity to teach humans how to care for their service animals.
You will also be in charge of completing a variety of other tasks, such as errands that need to be run, cleaning up after the dogs go to the bathroom, and completing paperwork.
Obtain a Certificate for Advancement
Although there is no national requirement for service dog trainers to hold a certificate, several states do require this. As such, it is up to you to look into the requirements of the area in which you live.
There is a voluntary certification available for dog trainers through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.
Upon completion of at least 300 hours of training as well as gaining three recommendations, those interested can apply to sit for the Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) certification exam.
In all, the 25-question exam covers a variety of topics, including animal husbandry, instruction skills and learning theory.
Get a Job!
In order to find a position in your area, you could do a search for “service dog trainer” online.
While all employers will be looking for a variety of different things, most will expect you to be physically fit, as the majority of service animals are larger breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds.
This line of work will mainly take place outside, where you will be running with the dogs.
In addition, most employers will be looking for people who are patient, have excellent communication skills, are compassionate, and work well with other people, as well as have a love for dogs.
While it may not be a requirement for all positions, some employers will ask you to pass a written test or take part in a field test.
If you think becoming a service dog trainer is the right career path for you, there are several steps you will need to take.
This includes completing an apprenticeship, training program, and possibly earning a certification depending on the requirements of your state.
Once you have finished all of that, training service dogs can be both a fun and rewarding career.