Guide Dog Trainers are employed by the individual Guide Dog School that they were hired by. Each Guide Dog School runs independently of one another.
Guide Dog Trainers major responsibilities include, but are not limited to, evaluation, care, and training of dogs for guide work, training with students and their guide dogs, any graduate follow-up services needed, and public relations for the school.
Prior to acceptance to Guide Dogs of America’s apprentice program, one must have a minimum of a high school diploma, a valid California drivers license, and at least one year experience working with dogs. The 3 year apprenticeship is designed to provide hands-on experience training dogs and working with students.
Guide Dog Instructors must be dedicated, reliable, honest, compassionate, responsible and hard working. One must also have excellent communication skills (both written and verbal), a natural ability to work with animals and people, and an excellent ability to deal with stress. It is also important to be able to problem solve, work independently, and be able to accept enormous responsibility. One must also have a good driving record and be willing to travel.
Potential advancement opportunities for Guide Dog Trainers include Senior Guide Dog Instructor, Training Manager, and Director of Training. Licensed trainers begin their salaries at levels comparable to an average school teacher’s salary. Salary increases continue after that with experience. Salary ranges differ at each Guide Dog School.
The job market for Guide Dog Trainers is rather limited as this profession serves only a percentage of the population. Many people like the idea of being a guide dog instructor and so they pursue the career saturating the market with potential applicants. However, there there are few job openings in this field. Only dedicated individuals who are willing to make sacrifices and have the best qualities for this field actualize their dreams of becoming a Guide Dog Trainer. Also worth mentioning are the possibilities of serving as another form of animal assistance trainer, such as a Hearing Dog Trainer or Mobility Dog Trainer. Looking into these possibilities may provide applicants with additional choices.
My advice to those who may be interested in becoming a Guide Dog Trainer would be to get as much experience with dogs and people as you can. Going to be a general dog trainer is a good start. Also, I suggest you read dog books, groom dogs, work for a veterinarian, etc. Spend time working or volunteering with people with disabilities. The people aspect is very important.
Guide Dogs of America generally hires its apprentice trainers from existing staff members who have shown great potential and interest in moving up into the position. We are interested in speaking to individuals who are experienced in the training of guide dogs. If you wish to apply for a position, send your resume to the attention of: “Director of Operations” and we will keep it on file for any future openings.