What Does It Take To Be a Service Dog Trainer?
Atlas Assistance Dogs is proud to be expanding the pool of qualified and ethical service dog trainers who are out supporting people with disabilities. Service dog training goes far beyond training the dog. It is about meeting the person where they are at and working with them to support their unique needs. A service dog trainer is someone who understands dogs, how they learn, and how a dog thrives. But even more, a service dog trainer is someone who can relate to people, who is caring, and who can adapt their teaching and training style to fit a person’s desires, needs and individual abilities.
Hear From A Service Dog Trainer
Lori got involved with service dog training about twenty years ago when she found her relationship with her adopted dog to ease her own mental health disability. Lori’s partnership with her dog inspired her to get more involved. Encouraged to normalize the use of service dogs, Lori became a trainer so that the benefits could reach more people. Furthermore, she saw how beneficial the use of positive reinforcement training was for both her dog and for herself and wanted others to benefit from these methods as well. Today, Lori is one of Atlas’ Team Facilitators, volunteering her incredible skills to support our clients and help them in the training of their service dog. As a dedicated learner, she is also finishing up Atlas’ Trainer Academy and will soon be an Atlas Certified Trainer.
Patience and Problem Solving
When working with people with disabilities, as well as service animals, practicing patience and flexibility is crucial. Lori discloses, “you really have to be paying attention in order to be both flexible and creative… someone once told me it’s like drinking from a fire hose, you need to slow it down!”
Openness to adapt can make the world of difference. It is essential to exercise this patience both for the sake of the service dog and their handler. Taking your clients reality seriously is also a big part of service dog success. Lori explains that some people want you to write down training instructions, some need it explained in spoken words, and others just need you to show them; taking everything case by case basis is crucial. Lori enjoys problem solving to make the quality of life better for both dog and person. She tells us that breaking behaviors into doable steps helps both dog and client.
Lori has seen people’s worlds open up and she has watched them thrive with their service dogs. Many people would benefit from a service animal. She also recognizes how crucial it is that people continue to train their service animal, even as the dog becomes older and more developed. “Your service animal can be fine with four different things one day, but the next find a simple task impossible to complete”.
Lori also recounts her greatest frustration as a service dog trainer: deceit. Some dog breeders will sell puppies under the guise that they can be a service animal. This can set both the person up for great disappointment and even a sense of failure. The reality of the situation is that not every dog can be a service dog. This doesn’t mean you’ve gotten a bad dog, but just a bad match. You can have a good dog from a good breeder with the best trainer, but the dog just may not be suitable for service work.
With Atlas, Lori has found a group of likeminded individuals passionate about people and service animal care. She shares with us how everyone at Atlas has exemplified their dedication to integrity, and the humane treatment of animals and people especially with different backgrounds. Atlas fosters a culture of respect and dignity as they continue to provide service for those in need.
About Atlas Assistance Dogs
Atlas Assistance Dogs is a non-profit organization that fundamentally expands access to assistance dogs. We support people with disabilities to train and certify their own service dog using positive, ethical training methods. At Atlas, we believe anyone who would benefit from a qualified assistance dog should be able to have one.
We work with people with a wide range of disabilities who wish to train their own service dog and offer a comprehensive Academy for professional trainers wanting to become service dog trainers.
Author: Eleanor Jennings