Introduction to Being a Service Dog Trainer
Service dogs are an important part of rehabilitation and the disability lifestyle in America. While there is no minimum standard as of yet for the certification of dog trainers nationally, a high level of expertise is still required to be successful in the job. Service dogs, as opposed to pet dogs, must also be trained above and beyond the normal canine good citizen behaviors to accomplish tasks that specifically support their handlers with their disability. It is this training that gives the service dog access rights according to the ADA and AACA (Americans Disability Act and American Air Carriers Act).
|Required Skills||excellent dog handling skills, pedagogical skills, excellent communication skills|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)*||16%|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$23,950 per year|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Steps to Become a Service Dog Trainer Online
Logistically speaking, those wishing to become a service dog trainer can do much of the academic work online, although the dog handling component is advisable to have real world practice. There are many platforms available with solid information on dog training online, though it is advisable to go through a professional organization or other reputable source for information as there can be a lot of misinformation on dog training online.
Step 1. Gain Dog Training Experience
There are dog training courses available from a variety of institutions online. These courses can enhance a prospective trainer's conceptualization of theory and training frameworks. It is important have a good grasp of methodology to be a dog trainer and these courses can help with that. However, the art of dog training is best practiced in real life. Improving a dog handler's skills can be done through volunteer work with service dog organizations, dog clubs of various sorts, or through private instruction. But these will have to be accomplished in person so that the prospective service dog trainer has adequate handling skills for the job.
Step 2. Flush out Resume with Certifications
One of the most common service dog trainer certifications is to become a Canine Good Citizen certified evaluator through the American Kennel Club. This test is often the launch point for training service dogs and is generally accepted as the standard for good comportment in public. It behooves trainers to be able to administer this test themselves. Another common certification to seek is the Council for Professional Dog Trainer's certification. There are two main ones--KA which means knowledge assessed, and SA which means skills assessed. The KA certification can be done online.
Step 3. Read up on the Laws
The ADA and AACA are the main laws which govern most of service dog rights in America. Trainers need to be aware of these laws. Also, trainers need to be aware of dog trainer regulations in the county in which they decide to train. Most counties or local municipalities do not restrict dog training, but a few do require licensure through the local government and requisite paperwork. Service dog trainers need to be experts in what their clients are and are not allowed to do and what business owners and other service providers can and cannot ask or allow. These laws are readily accessible online for reading.
Step 4. Decide Where to Work
Service dog trainers must also decide if they want to go into business for themselves, if they want to work for an established company, or if they want to work for another organization such as a nonprofit. Pay will vary greatly depending on the trainer's contribution to the organization (i.e. full time, part time etc.) and the funding of the organization. If a service dog trainer wants to do business on their own, they have to decide what types of service dogs they want to train (emotional and mental disability, mobility, medical alert, etc.) and how to best achieve this. Some trainers buy dogs and train them themselves and then sell them to a customer. Others give private lessons and do board and trains for clients with disabilities who already have a prospective dog. There are many combinations of client-trainer interactions and they all have different overhead costs a prospective trainer must consider. If this avenue is desired, the trainer will have to create the requisite online platforms for marketing (blog, website, Facebook page etc.). If the trainer wishes to work with a specific organization, then he or she will probably have to fill out an online application. However, the vast majority of organizations will not hire based solely on an online application and interviews and skills tests may be required.