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Assistance dog trainer

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Assistance dog trainers and instructors train dogs to help people maintain their independence.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £13,500 to £27,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 35 per week

1. Entry requirements

Each organisation sets its own entry requirements for job vacancies, like:

  • Guide Dogs – you’ll need 3 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English
  • Hearing Dogs for Deaf People – you’ll need sign language skills (although training is given in British Sign Language) and experience of working with deaf people

You must be at least 18 years old.

You’ll usually need a full, clean driving licence.

It would be useful to have experience of working with dogs, like volunteering at a kennels, dog rescue centre or other animal welfare organisation.

Knowledge of basic dog handling and behaviour management methods would be helpful.

You’ll also need some understanding of the issues faced by people with disabilities.

It may help if you have a qualification in animal care work, although this isn’t essential.

You could get into this job through an advanced apprenticeship in animal care.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • patience with dogs and their owners
  • a commitment to helping people
  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to inspire confidence in dogs and their owners

3. What you'll do

You could work with the following types of assistance dog:

  • disability assistance dogs – carrying out tasks like pressing emergency buttons on phones and opening and closing doors
  • guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired – helping owners to use stairs, cross roads and avoid obstacles
  • hearing dogs – alerting deaf people to sounds, like smoke alarms, crying babies, telephones and alarm clocks
  • seizure alert dogs – recognising signs that their owner is about to have a seizure

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • working with volunteers who foster puppies and young dogs
  • helping dogs to adjust to the routine of basic training
  • training at a more advanced level related to the dog's future work
  • matching dogs to owners
  • training dogs and owners together
  • providing aftercare and support for owner-dog partnerships

4. Salary

Starter: £13,500 to £17,000

Experienced: £18,000 to £24,000

Highly Experienced: up to £27,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 35 hours a week, Monday to Friday, with occasional evenings and weekends. 

The job involves a lot of walking and bending, and being outside in all weather conditions.

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

6. Career path and progression

With experience you could progress to a role like area team supervisor, training manager or regional training manager.

Your experience as a trainer could lead to a care support job, like rehabilitation worker. 

You could move into a related field, like veterinary nursing or working as an RSPCA inspector.

You could also set up your own business, and provide services like dog obedience classes or private dog training.

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Last updated: 11 September 2018