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How to become an Assistance Dog Trainer

assistance dog trainer careers

What does a Assistance Dog Trainer do?

Assistance dog trainers and instructors train dogs to help people with physical disabilities, hearing or sight difficulties or who are prone to seizures, to live independently.

There are four types of assistance dog:

  • guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired – help owners to use stairs, cross roads, avoid obstacles on busy streets etc
  • hearing dogs - alert severely and profoundly deaf people to sounds such as smoke alarms, crying babies, telephones and alarm clocks
  • disability assistance dogs - carry out tasks such as pressing emergency buttons on phones and opening and closing doors
  • seizure alert dogs - recognize signs that their owner is about to have a seizure.
Most trainers are employed by the registered charities that form the umbrella organisation Assistance Dogs (UK). These are:
  • Support Dogs
  • Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
  • Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
  • Dogs for the Disabled
  • Canine Partners.
Trainers deal with the initial stages of training, before passing the dog on to an instructor, who takes the dog through the final stages of training, and matches it to a compatible client. The instructor then works with the dog and client together, often in the client's home.

Aftercare and support is provided for client-dog partnerships. (Some organisations use aftercare officers and volunteers for this).

All trainers are also likely to be involved in giving talks and demonstrations, raising funds and helping to train other trainers.

What's the working environment like working as a Assistance Dog Trainer?

Assistance dog trainers work 35 hours a week, Monday to Friday, with occasional evenings, weekends and bank holidays. Part-time work is possible.

This is a very active job; there is much walking and bending, and lots of outdoor work in all weathers for which protective warm clothing is issued. Trainers and mobility instructors drive all over the country to visit dogs and their owners, and some jobs are on a live-in basis.

What does it take to become a Assistance Dog Trainer?

To be an assistance dog trainer you should:

  • be interested in dogs and have an understanding of their behaviour
  • be physically fit and willing to work outdoors
  • have patience both with dogs and their prospective owners
  • be committed to working with and helping people
  • be able to work alone and as part of a team
  • be able to inspire confidence in dogs and their owners.

Assistance Dog Trainer Career Opportunities

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is the largest of the training organisations, with around 500 trainers and mobility instructors. Guide dog trainers can be promoted to mobility instructor, although this might require relocating. Mobility instructors can then move into senior jobs like area team supervisor, training manager or regional training manager.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People employs about 20 trainers. Trainers can progress to supervisory jobs or become placement officers.

There are three organisations training assistance dogs for the disabled and medical alert dogs: Canine Partners, Dogs for the Disabled, and Support Dogs. Please see the Further Information section for contact details.

There are limited opportunities to become self-employed in areas such as dog obedience classes or private dog training. Some trainers move into a related field such as veterinary nursing or working as an RSPCA inspector. Experience as a trainer could lead to care support jobs, perhaps as a rehabilitation worker.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Assistance Dog Trainer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
Burghfield Common
Reading
RG7 3YG
Tel: 0118 983 5555
www.guidedogs.org.uk

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
The Grange
Wycombe Road
Saunderton
Buckinghamshire
HP27 9NS
Tel: 01844 348100
www.hearing-dogs.co.uk

Dogs for the Disabled
The Frances Hay Centre
Blacklocks Hill
Banbury
Oxfordshire
OX17 2BS
Tel: 08700 776600
www.dogsforthedisabled.org

Canine Partners
Mill Lane
Heyshott
Midhurst
West Sussex
GU29 0ED
Tel: 0845 658 0480
www.c-p-i.org.uk

Support Dogs
21 Jessops Riverside
Brightside Lane
Sheffield
S9 2RX
Tel: 0870 609 3476
www.support-dogs.org.uk

Courses to help you become a Assistance Dog Trainer