Assistance dog trainer

guide dog instructor mobility instructor support dog trainer
Care

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would train the dogs who help people with disabilities or medical conditions to enjoy independent lives.

You'd work with the puppies and teach them how to help people with certain tasks and situation. Then you'd match a dog to a person so they are well-suited and have a happy partnership.

You could train:

  • Guide dogs, who help blind and visually impaired people to use stairs, cross roads safely and avoid obstacles
  • Hearing dogs, who alert people with hearing impairments to sounds like smoke alarms, crying babies, telephones and alarm clocks
  • Disability assistance dogs, who help people with physical disabilities with tasks such as opening and closing doors and pressing emergency buttons on phones. They may also be companions to children with autism to help them get used to being with other people
  • Seizure alert dogs who recognise signs that their owner is about to have an epileptic seizure or alert people with health conditions such as diabetes or severe allergic reactions before a medical emergency occurs

You'd work with volunteers who foster puppies and young dogs and help them get the puppies used to people so they will work well with their owners.

You'd then settle dogs in at the training centre, take them for walks and explore their abilities by playing with them.

You'd train the dogs in basic skills, for example, to obey simple voice commands, fetch items, avoid obstacles and stop for traffic. They also need to get used to wearing a harness for working, and being treated as pets when the harness is off.

You'd teach advanced skills specific to the type of support dog, such as responding to emergencies, picking items off supermarket shelves and loading and unloading washing machines.

When the training is complete you'd then:

  • Match a dog to the right person, for example placing a lively, energetic dog with a young, active person
  • Teach the new owner to feed, groom and care for the dog
  • Train the owner and dog to work together as a team
  • Help establish a dog in its new owner's home and make follow-up home visits to deal with any problems

You'd keep records of the training you have done and teach other instructors.

You might focus on one particular area of the work, for example carrying out the first part of the dog's training. As a mobility instructor, you would do advanced training and match the dog to its new owner.

Some organisations also employ aftercare officers and volunteers to provide ongoing support.

Working conditions

Hours

You would usually work 35 hours a week, Monday to Friday, with occasional evenings and weekends. Part-time work is possible.

Environment

This is a very active job, involving a lot of walking and bending, and being outside in all weather conditions.

Travel

You would travel all over the country to visit dogs and their owners.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Explaining things
  • Working as part of a team
  • Caring for people
  • Working on your own
  • Caring for animals

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

No formal qualifications are required though qualifications at SCQF levels 3-5 are preferred if you are working with guide dogs.

Once in the job you can gain relevant work-based qualifications.

You will also need

  • To be over 18 years old
  • To have a full UK drivers licence

 

Helpful to have

Past experience of working with dogs.

Qualifications that demonstrate patience, excellent communication skills and experience working with animals such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification in Animal Care (SVQ Level 2/3) may be helpful.