Service Dog Training Certifications

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Service Dog Training Certifications
Service dog trainers teach dogs to help people with physical, psychological, or neurological disabilities accomplish everyday tasks by overcoming the limitations caused by the disability. The result is improved independence and enhanced quality of life. Service dog trainers also train dogs to provide alerts regarding medical problems or assistance when a problem occurs. To qualify as a service dog, the tasks performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability.

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What Are Service Dogs?
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service dog as a dog specifically trained to perform tasks for a physically or mentally challenged individual. Dog are trained to specifically assist a person with key daily activities directly related to the disability, such as:

  • Guide dogs for the visually impaired or blind
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  • Hearing dogs who alert deaf or hearing impaired people of alarm clocks, doorbells, and smoke alarms
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  • Mobility dogs to assist with tasks such as picking up objects, opening doors, and pulling wheelchairs
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  • Medical alert dogs to detect changes in body chemistry that may indicate a health concern, such as a seizure or low or high blood sugar
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  • Psychiatric service dogs for help with a psychiatric disorder such as PTSD or anxiety

Because service dogs are not considered pets, federal laws preserve the rights of people with disabilities to have their service dogs in public places.

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What Skills Do I Need?
To be a successful service dog trainer, you should have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, enjoy working with dogs, be familiar with traditional dog training equipment, such as tethers, targets, and clickers, and have a lot of patience.

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How do I Become a Service Dog Trainer?
Certification is not mandatory for service dog trainers, but many general dog training programs are available. Numerous institutions offer formal service dog trainer courses and certifications. Apprenticeships and volunteering are alternative ways of developing service dog trainer skills.

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Can I Earn a Degree in Service Dog Training?
Currently, there are no higher education institutions offering a degree in service dog training. However, there are many animal behavioral studies related degree options that you might consider. Because there is not a conventional educational program for service dog trainers, many choose to enroll in specific courses at vocational schools and local community colleges. Some course topics to consider include:

  • Animal learning theory
  • Teaching obedience cues
  • Initiating safety procedures
  • Understanding canine behavior
  • Developing problem-solving skills

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Are there Service Dog Training Programs?
The first steps to becoming a service dog trainer include contacting animal rescue groups, dog breeders, local humane societies or animal shelters, dog obedience training schools, veterinary practices, 4-H groups, kennels, and pet supply stores. Most of these organizations can direct you to programs focused on training service animals. The best method to gain experience as a service dog trainer is to connect with an experienced trainer as an apprentice by volunteering your time. Many established service dog trainers work as volunteers rather than as paid employees.

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Best Online Schools for Service Dog Trainers?
There is a variety of opportunities for earning an online certification for service dog training that teach you how to train dogs and the pet owners how to handle their dogs properly. Subjects range from the fundamentals of puppy-related concerns to specific training needs. A well-designed program can start you on a path toward opening a service dog training business of your own. Some online programs include:

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How Long are the Programs?
The length of a training program is modified for every dog, and there are numerous factors you need to consider, including the dog's age, command and skill sets they need to acquire, trainability, and level of involvement of the owner. Sometimes training can take up to one year to complete depending on these factors. Before enrolling in a program, ensure that it meets your career goals.

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Qualifications to Become a Service Dog Trainer?
A reputable service dog training program requires apprenticeships for individuals interested in a career training service dogs. Apprentice training programs can last two to four years. There are training programs and professional organizations that provide certifications for service dog trainers. Obtaining a certification is evidence of mastering expertise in the field and developing the requisite skills to train service dogs. It is a good idea to check with your state regulations because some states require guide dog trainers to be licensed.

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How Much Do Service Dog Trainers Earn?
The average salary for professional dog trainers is $32,000 per year. Professional service dog trainers earn about $20 an hour while some charge $50 per lesson. You might be able to earn a higher salary by specializing in a more profitable area of dog training, such as training scent-detection dogs for law enforcement or teaching dog obedience classes. Others work for organizations that train service animals and guide dogs in addition to working as a professional service dog trainer.

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