There are about 500,000 service animals in the United States who are helping people with various types of disabilities live a full life. Many of these animals assist individuals who are visually impaired or blind. Some of them remind their owners to take medications when their sugar level is low or when they are about to experience an anxiety attack. More than helping their owners in their daily activities, these animals can even save lives.
Note that service animals can only perform their job because of the intensive training they received from credible service dog trainers. Unlike ordinary instructors that teach dogs to do tricks and obey simple commands, service animal trainers have a much bigger responsibility.
They are in charge of teaching and ensuring that service animals will consistently perform their tasks to assist their physically, mentally, or psychologically-challenged owners without faltering.
Given the critical role that trainers play in the life of service animals and their impact on the owner, finding trustworthy and competent service dog trainers is a must. If you’re looking for a capable instructor, here are some pointers that you should consider:
Ask the trainer to provide you with his/her resume, credentials, and official certifications from reputable accrediting bodies. Once you have them, make sure to verify the authenticity of the documents by searching for the name on the organization’s website or school directory.
Below are some of the certifications you should look for in a service trainer:
- Certified Professional Dog Trainer
- Certified Behavior Consultant Canine (Knowledge Assessed or Knowledge and Skills Assessed)
- Certified Dog Behavior Consultant
- Certified Animal Behavior Consultant
- Certified Animal Behaviorist
- Certificate in Training and Counseling
Apart from these credentials above, you should take note of the training he or she handled in the past. Experiences should include the types of disabilities of the owners of the animals, the skills he or she taught them, and how long the training lasted. Knowing these things will give you an idea of the trainer’s knowledge, skills, and experience.
Take Note of Qualities to Look For
As you interview the service dog trainer, make sure to ask questions that will reveal the following ideal qualities of a trainer. You may also ask the trainer’s former clients for feedback. Note that genuine love and respect for animals are guaranteed qualities of a trainer.
- Quick thinker/good problem-solver
- Internally motivated
- Flexible in terms of adapting to your needs and requirements
- Seeks continuous learning
- No record of violence against people or animals
- Open to feedback
Watch Out for Red Flags
Note that even if the trainer has the right credentials on paper or did well in the interview, it would not hurt to do the following to check for warning signs:
- Watch the trainer’s training videos or look at pictures to see if the dogs in training are wearing choke chains or prong collars that can hurt them.
- Is the trainer guaranteeing the success of the training before it starts? Offering guarantees is considered unethical by accrediting organizations, as many dogs in practice will not be successful.
- Be wary of the trainer when he talks in general terms or appears to be secretive about his training methods.
Finding a reliable service dog trainer is critical in ensuring your dog will be able to assist you properly. Consider the tips mentioned above when screening potential trainers, so your investment does not go to waste. The search process may take time, but the results will be worth it.