How to Become a Service Dog Trainer

Are you interested in working with animals? How about helping the disabled? As a service dog trainer, you get to work with a variety of dogs while also helping people. 

A service dog trainer is someone who trains dogs that go on to serve disabled people. Daily tasks such as closing doors, picking up items off the floor, and getting around can be tough for a disabled person. Having a trained dog can help the person reclaim their life and be more independent.

If you’re curious about how to become a service dog trainer, you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading and we’ll walk you through how you can become more involved.

dog trainer

Take the Time to Volunteer

Even though you may have your own dog, that’s not enough experience to really know how to train a service dog. You should contact your local animal shelters and see if you can volunteer your time there. You might also want to try calling nearby animal hospitals, kennels, and veterinarians. 

You want exposure and experience with a variety of dog breeds so you’ll know how to handle all types. 

Look for Workshops, Classes, and Conferences

Search online and see if any dog training workshops or classes are happening in your city. Many times, they’re held at community colleges and universities. Look for classes that specialize in dog behavior, breeds, animal health issues, temperament, and how to become a service dog trainer.

Look for a Service Dog Training Program

If you’re serious about wanting to be a service dog trainer, then you should search for an apprenticeship class. Some good places to look are the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers or the National Association of Service Dogs.

There, you’ll be instructed by an experienced service dog teacher. These classes can take a long time to complete, sometimes four years or more. That’s because there’s a lot you need to learn, including teaching manners, training dogs to be in public, and completing tasks for people with different types of disabilities. 

You’ll also interact with people who have disabilities and instruct them on how to look after and work with their service dogs. 

Get a License

Depending on which state you live in, you might have to get a special license to professionally train service dogs. Contact your state attorney general’s office to see if a license is required where you live. 

Get a Job

By this stage, you should have several years of experience and training under your belt. You’ll have experience with a variety of dogs, the skills to train these dogs, and the ability to teach a disabled person how to work with their dog. 

Now, you’ll apply for an instructor position. Look up different employers online and see who’s hiring. To be a trainer, you’ll have to be physically fit.

This is because you’ll often end up with a large and fast dog like a German Shepherd, Labrador, or Golden Retriever. You’ll also be spending a lot of time running around outside. Employers are also going to want to hire someone who’s a good communicator, patient, compassionate, and has great interpersonal skills. 

And, of course, you’ll have to show a passion and love of dogs. Some employers might also have you do a field test or take a written exam before hiring. 

And depending on the type of job you get, you might end up training dogs for different services. Some of the most popular types of service dogs are guide, hearing, diabetic alert, PTSD service, and seizure response dogs.

Salary

Licensed service dog trainers typically have starting salaries comparable to ones earned by school teachers. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of paid service dog positions out there. That’s why it’s so important to be as trained and experienced as possible. 

However, there are plenty of volunteer positions for service dog trainers. And for those who don’t want to have to go through a ton of schooling, you can choose to raise puppies to their training age; this is usually for one or two years.

Raising Puppies

Raising puppies is a popular alternative to training service dogs. Known as “puppy raisers,” these are screened foster parents or families who receive the puppy when it’s just eight weeks old. A puppy raiser doesn’t train the dog the same way a certified dog trainer would.

Instead, the puppy raiser is supposed to provide a loving home, instill basic obedience skills, and teach house manners. They need to make sure the animal doesn’t chew on things it’s not supposed to, jump on furniture, or make messes. 

They also need to take the dog to plenty of social environments so it learns to remain calm in a variety of situations. Puppy raisers also need to be okay with the idea of sending the puppy “off to college” after raising it for over a year. 

Although puppy raising for Guide Dogs of America is only available in Southern California, there are different organizations around the country that offer this.

And if you wanted to just get a puppy for yourself, you could find out more from Super Dog.

The Importance of Knowing How to Become a Service Dog Trainer

Training service dogs is an admirable and worthwhile position to pursue. But first, make sure you know exactly how to become a service dog trainer before you actually get started. This way, you can keep your expectations and timeframe in check. 

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