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Animal Training

Program Description

Just the Facts

Animal Training. A program that prepares individuals to teach and exercise animals for leisure, sport, show, and professional purposes. Includes instruction in animal psychology, health, and safety; human-animal interaction; learning and behavior styles associated with different breeds and species; and the technical and pedagogical aspects of training animals for such specific functions as obedient household pets, performing show animals, animal athletes, caregiving (e.g., seeing-eye dogs), search and rescue, and police/security work.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Related Careers

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Related Programs

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Additional Information

Guide dog training programs demand a lot more than just a desire to work with dogs and help the blind. Students need to be compassionate, patient and physically fit.

This is not your average training program. Students in the employee training program at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California, for example, spend every minute of their first 10 days at the school wearing a blindfold.

Guide dog trainers learn their trade on the job, with an established guide dog school. Most schools require their trainers or instructors to have a background in animal training and a college degree.

Guide dogs schools hire people into an apprentice program that allows them to learn on the job as paid employees. Positions are few and competition is tough.

"When there is a position that opens up, there are hundreds of applicants for that one position," says Robert Jones, head trainer at a guide dog school.

There are some things you can be doing now to give you a head start. Adam Waskow is a supervisor at a guide dog school. He suggests raising a puppy or working with horses.

Good physical fitness is extremely important, adds Waskow. Trainers walk about a dozen miles each day and work with eight to 10 dogs, which can range in weight from 55 to 100 pounds.

"I would strongly recommend volunteering with an animal charity such as the SPCA," adds Alan Robertson, a guide dog mobility instructor. "Also, volunteering for a charity dealing with people with disabilities is a great way to get experience and in some cases a foot in the door."

Robertson suggests high school students focus on science courses such as biology and chemistry. English is also good -- being able to communicate effectively both orally and on paper are essential skills for a guide dog trainer.

If you've got what it takes to be hired at a guide dog school, be prepared to begin at the bottom of the totem pole. You'll generally start in the kennels, feeding, grooming and cleaning up after the dogs.

As your training progresses, you'll work alongside and under the supervision of an experienced instructor to train the dogs. You'll eventually help dog users learn how to work with their new companions.

Other than in California, where guide dog trainers must pass a state licensing exam, guide dogs schools aren't required by law to adhere to any particular standards when it comes to training new instructors.

For a complete list of guide dog schools in the U.S., get in touch with the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Animal Care and Service Workers

Guide Dogs Schools
Listing by the National Federation of the Blind

FAQs About Guide Dog Puppies
What breeds of dog are used? Find out here

Guide Dogs of America
Check out their Puppy Raising and Training sections


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