Are you an animal lover?
Do you have a desire to help others?
Do you want to change the lives of those with disabilities?
These are just three of the several questions you should ask yourself when thinking about becoming a service dog trainer. If you answer yes to all of them, you may have just what it takes!
Being a service dog trainer is one of the most rewarding jobs any animal lover could have. As a service dog trainer, you provide hope for a brighter future, make simple tasks possible, provide peace of mind, and ultimately, you change lives! While service dog trainers are in high demand, those that are adequately trained are few and far between.
So, how do you become a service dog trainer? There are a few steps which we will outline in this article.
Step 1 - Evaluate Yourself
There are multiple characteristics that a service dog trainer should have. Patience, determination and perseverance are just a few on the long list.
As a trainer, you will be working on a daily basis with dogs – some of these pups will inevitably be tough to train! That happens with training dogs for any discipline, but patience is vital when you’re training a service dog. You are going to be spending close to two years with each service dog candidate. There are times when your pups will frustrate you. You will need to be confident in your ability to persevere with a difficult task and display patience when times get tough.
Customer service is another important (and often overlooked) part of being a service dog trainer. Many people enter a career in the dog training industry because “they don’t like people” or “they just want to work with dogs all day”. This couldn’t be further from the actual reality. As a service dog trainer, you speak to clients every day!
Whether it’s on the phone or by email, interacting with clients is one of the most important parts of the job. You’ll need to be able to answer their questions and provide them with valuable information.
While there are many other qualities a service dog trainer should possess, if you have these skills and characteristics, it might be the right career path for you.
Step 2 - Complete A Service Dog Training Course
Next, enroll in a service dog training program. It is so important to ensure you have the necessary knowledge and understanding to be able to train a service dog. This will give you the skillset you need to succeed as a service dog trainer.
Make sure that any service dog trainer course you enroll in covers the following topics:
- A practical understanding of canine behavior theory
- An overview of the most common types of service dogs and how they help their handlers
- How to properly select and socialize a service dog candidate
- An in-depth understanding of how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other applicable laws apply to service dogs and their handlers
The program you choose should offer you a mix of classroom theory and practical training to give you a well-rounded education. Ideally, you’ll learn how to train dogs in manners, public access skills and task training. These tasks are used to assist individuals who need help with challenges such as mobility, stability, autism and hearing.
There are many different schools and courses available. As one example, the School for Dog Trainers provides a comprehensive Service Dog Program which covers everything you’ll need to become a great service dog trainer.
Step 3 - Find Employment
With your education complete, it will be time to look for a job as a service dog trainer.
Initially, try to look for opportunities with an organization with plenty of experience in the service dog field. Do your research before you jump in to the first opportunity. Ask about the company and understand their ethics and values. It is important to find like-minded people in the dog training world – finding your ‘place’ after gaining proper training is an important step.
The people you surround yourself with will either help you build a good reputation or tear it down. When searching for a job, remember what your end goal is, and don’t settle.
Eventually, you may decide you have enough confidence and ability to start your own service dog training business. This will come with time, once you have honed your skills and have years of experience in the industry. Remember, you’ll never stop gaining new information – which is why the final step of this process is so important.
Step 4 - Perfect Your Skills
In any career, practice makes perfect. As a service dog trainer, you’ll constantly learn about your pups and yourself.
It is so important to practice your skills regularly in order to be the best trainer possible. Every dog you train will teach you something new. Every new experience as a trainer – with both dogs and clients – will provide you with the opportunity for growth.
Some dogs will require different training methods and reinforcements. Think outside of the box and get creative. Remember, every day is not going to be sunshine and rainbows. There will be days when you want to give up, but keep pushing forward and keep things simple.
Remember those characteristics we mentioned in the first step? Patience, determination and perseverance. Demonstrate these three qualities, and you’ll be able to overcome almost any obstacle as a service dog trainer.
Being a service dog trainer is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do. These incredible animals are capable of helping individuals with a variety of tasks – but they need a great service dog trainer in order to perform them reliably.
By following the steps laid out in this article, you will give yourself the best chance of making a successful career as a service dog trainer. It won’t always be glamorous or easy. But never forget – you are going to be responsible for changing so many lives!