From obedience to aggression training, dog trainers have a variety of specializations to choose from. There is one area of dog training that’s less talked about but can grow your business and make you 10x happier: service dog training. Service dog training is an excellent field for anyone looking to use their dog training skills for a good cause.
Sounds great. Is it easy to become a service dog trainer?
Keep reading! We discuss everything you should know about service dog training and teach you how to land a job as a service dog trainer.
What Is Service Dog Training?
Service dogs help people with disabilities live safe and independent lives. As a service dog trainer, you train these dogs to take action when their handlers need assistance or are at risk of getting hurt.
There are several types of service dogs that you can train, including:
- Guide dogs for hard-of-hearing and visually impaired individuals,
- Mobility dogs for people with wheelchairs and walking devices,
- Medical alert dogs that can detect seizures and low blood sugar,
- Psychiatric service dogs for people with mental disabilities such as OCD or PTSD.
What Does Service Dog Training Include?
Disabilities present themselves in countless ways. So, as a service dog trainer, your work can change from client to client. In general, you teach the dogs how to behave in public and at home, how to settle by their owner’s side, and how to remain calm in potentially chaotic situations. But, there are also specialized tasks that service dogs must learn.
The most common service dog tasks include:
- Alert tasks: You teach the service dog how to communicate with its handler, whether they’re in danger or need to complete an everyday task. For example, a service dog can signal if their handler must avoid an oncoming car or if they miss an important sound.
- Mobility tasks: You can train service dogs to help your clients move or stay balanced. A service dog can adjust a handler’s position or pull their wheelchair if they get tired.
- Guiding tasks: You’re likely to train a lot of guide dogs in your career. Guiding tasks are similar to alert tasks but help the handler find a certain location or move safely down their path. For example, a service dog can learn to avoid obstacles on a sidewalk and let their handler know when they’re near some steps.
- Retrieve and deliver tasks: Handlers might need service dogs to bring objects to them or take objects away. That’s where you come in! You can train the service dog to find medication, carry packages, or even pay for items in a store.
Each service dog is trained to handle the specific needs of its handler. But your clients’ needs can change over time. So, expect to schedule follow-up appointments where you train a service dog to perform new tasks.
Should I Take A Service Dog Training Course?
Service dog trainers might start out training military dogs, police dogs, or other working dogs. While it’s not a requirement, it’s better to have some other kind of dog training experience under your belt. It’s also a good idea to complete a dog training program.
You’re not legally required to go to school or get a certificate to be a service dog trainer. A lot of trainers are self-taught. They pick up skills from books, online resources, and even other trainers. But it’s better to have formal training. You need to know what you’re doing and have 100% confidence that you can properly train a service dog. Otherwise, you’re risking the health and safety of someone with a disability.
Here’s why you should complete a service dog trainer course:
- Service dogs need special care and attention.
- A dog training course can teach specialized techniques and prepare you to work with clients.
- You learn fundamental skills to keep the dogs and their owners safe.
- Clients like trainers with some kind of professional qualification, especially when it comes to their service animals.
If you’re interested in a formal training program, look into the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCDPT). They have a highly respected certification program for professional dog trainers. And some of their courses focus on service dog training. You should be able to get certified for under $500. You can also take service dog training courses at dog training schools, but tuition can cost anywhere from $2000 to $14000.
Also, some jobs might require you to complete an apprenticeship before starting as a service dog trainer. Apprenticeships can take up to three years, and you might get paid.
How Do I Find A Service Dog Trainer Job?
Over 500,000 people in the US have working service dogs. So, your odds of finding a job are high. Like any career, first, you need to get your foot in the door. That’s okay, we’re here to help! Here are some tips for finding a service dog training job.
Start With The Basics
You can start by offering traditional dog training services and work your way up. Are there any dog shelters looking for volunteers? Do your neighbors need a dog walker? Any professional dog experience is good, especially if you are just starting out. Not to mention, these jobs are typically easier to find. They’ll keep your bills paid as you work towards your goal.
Expand Your Network
If you want to break into the service dog training field, you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone. We recommend attending workshops, conferences, or online seminars with other dog training professionals. You’ll have access to experts with valuable knowledge and resources to grow your dog training business. Who knows? One day, these connections could lead to a full-time service dog training gig.
Assist People With Disabilities
As a dog trainer, you need to be as much of a people person as you are an animal lover. You can volunteer at a hospital or clinic to gain experience helping people with disabilities. If you have a service dog training specialty in mind, find those communities and offer help where you can. Even if you don’t find a job, you learn more about your future clients and their needs.
Are There Any Rules for Service Dog Trainers?
There aren’t any official rules on how to train a service dog. And the ADA does not require handlers to receive professional training for their service animals. Handlers are also allowed to train their service dogs themselves.
However, many professional organizations provide best practices for adequately training a service dog. For example, The United States Service Dog Registry (USSDR) worked with trainers and service dog owners to create training and behavior standards for service dogs. These guidelines are more in-depth than public access tests and are highly respected. USSDR compliance is completely voluntary but highly recommended to keep service dogs and their handlers safe.
At a minimum, as a service dog trainer, you can prepare the service dog to pass a public access test. A public access test evaluates a service dog’s behavior in public places that don’t usually allow pets. Public access tests are not mandatory and can be administered by a trainer.
Is Service Dog Training Worth It?
Absolutely! With service dog training, you can expand your dog training career and make someone’s life a whole lot easier. There are endless rewards if you’re willing to put in the work. And people pay over $25,000 for a professionally trained service dog.
Remember, service dog training can be more difficult than regular dog training. You need great communication skills and a passion for animals and their owners. Sometimes, you have to tell your clients that their beloved companion isn’t cut out to be a service dog. So you must be empathetic.
If this sounds like you, you’ll love being a service dog trainer!
The Bottom Line
Service dog training is one of the most important and rewarding dog training specialties. Service dog trainers help people with disabilities live fulfilling lives with their furry companions. It will take time to master your skills and land your first service dog training job. But it’s worth the wait! And you don’t have to give up your regular dog training clients.
PocketSuite can help you manage all of your dog training services. We’re an all-in-one app for running your business. We provide a range of features, like bookings, payments, and contracts to help you get more clients and earn more money!