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:
Most trainers are employed by the registered charities that form the umbrella organisation Assistance Dogs (UK). These are:
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.
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 a lot of 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.
To be an assistance dog trainer you should:
Each organisation relating to assistance dog trainers set out their own guidelines when it comes to entry requirements. For example, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People require candidates to have experience working with deaf people and sign language skills.
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.
If you would like to learn more about becoming an assistance dog trainer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.
Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
Tel: 0118 983 5555
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
Tel: 01844 348100
Dogs for the Disabled
The Frances Hay Centre
Tel: 08700 776600
Tel: 0845 658 0480
21 Jessops Riverside
Tel: 0870 609 3476