Assistance Dog Trainer

The Job and What's Involved

Assistance dog trainers work for registered charities that train dogs to help people with disabilities in their day-to-day lives. The main types of assistance dog are:

  • Guide dogs for people who are blind or partially-sighted.
  • Hearing dogs for people who are severely or profoundly deaf.
  • Disability assistance dogs for people with various disabilities, including wheelchair users.

The main tasks of an assistance dog trainer are:

  • Training puppies and young dogs.
  • Running training classes and assessing the dogs' abilities.
  • Training dogs for advanced tasks specific to their future role.
  • Training dogs and future owners together.
  • Providing support and aftercare.

Assistance dog trainers often work on a rota, with some evening, weekend and bank holiday work. Part-time work may be available. They work indoors, in the training centre and in volunteers' and clients' homes, as well as outdoors. A driving licence is usually necessary as the job involves visiting volunteers, clients and dogs in their homes.

Depending on the charity, salaries range from around £14,000 on entry, to over £25,000 a year for work with additional responsibilities.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Charities that train assistance dogs in England are Canine Partners, Dogs for the Disabled, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Support Dogs.

Education and Training

Entry is competitive and requirements vary. Some employers take on trainees either with suitable experience, or with five GCSE's at grades A*-C (or equivalent).

Other employers may look for trainees with higher-level qualifications in subjects such as psychology, biology or animal science. Applicants will need experience working with dogs and with people with disabilities, either from paid or voluntary work.

Applicants undergo criminal record checks.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

It can take up to three years to become a qualified assistance dog trainer.

New entrants start training under the supervision of qualified colleagues.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships may provide a training route. Some trainees take qualifications while working, such as Diplomas in work-based animal care.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An assistance dog trainer should:

  • Be knowledgeable about animal welfare and training with special attention to animal learning theory.
  • Have excellent communication skills.
  • Be able to meet the physical demands of the job (the job involves a lot of walking and bending).
  • Work well in a team and also on their own initiative.
  • Be self motivated and able to work under pressure.
  • Have good planning and organising skills.
  • Have good ICT skills.
  • Be committed to providing a service for people with disabilities.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are opportunities for experienced assistance dog trainers to gain promotion to senior trainer or supervisory roles.

Some trainers move into other areas of work within their organisation, such as fundraising, marketing or general management posts.

Get Further Information

Canine Partners, Mill Lane, Heyshott,
Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 0ED
Tel: 08456 580 480
Website: www.caninepartners.co.uk

Dogs for the Disabled, The Frances Hay Centre,
Blacklocks Hill, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX17 2BS
Tel: 01295 252600
Website: www.dogsforthedisabled.org

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

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, The Grange, Wycombe Road,
Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire HP27 9NS
Tel: 01844 348100
Website: www.hearingdogs.org.uk

Support Dogs, 21 Jessops Riverside,
Brightside Lane, Sheffield S9 2RX
Tel: 0114 261 7800
Website: www.support-dogs.org.uk

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