The path to become an elite assistance dog instructor at Canine Companions is much like the journey our extraordinary assistance dogs experience: start small, learn the basics, pass the tests, flourish and become life-changers.
Our instructors begin their journey as instructor assistants exactly where our puppies do—at the Jean and Charles Schulz Campus in Santa Rosa, California. Instructor assistants come from all around the country to Canine Companions’ headquarters with a passion for dogs, learning and making a difference in the lives of others. Instructor assistants absorb one year of training and skills necessary to succeed and graduate to the next level. Then they transfer to one of Canine Companions’ regional training centers across the country.
Our Northwest Training Manager Flora Baird shares her experience in becoming a Canine Companions instructor. Flora was raised in Texas, graduated college and at 23, knew her life’s ambition was to help people. What attracted her to our organization was the appeal of working with dogs, but as Flora states, “I came to Canine Companions for the dogs; I stay for the people.” Instructor assistants learn by shadowing our experienced instructors during dog handling, grooming, helping in the kennels and by witnessing the beauty of the placement of life-changing assistance dogs with people with disabilities.
After learning the foundation for training assistance dogs in California, Flora relocated to Canine Companions’ Northeast training center in Medford, New York. Under the guidance of our Assistance Dogs International accredited professional instructors, Flora began training her first group of dogs. Almost nine years later, Flora is relocating again, back to Santa Rosa to begin training instructor apprentices as the new training manager. “I’ve moved all over the country, met wonderful people and gained so many amazing experiences through Canine Companions. Now I know I’ve come full circle—teaching college graduates to take the first steps on an amazing journey.”
Successful instructor assistant applicants have a willingness to relocate to one of our training centers across the country, knowledge of dogs, a college degree, strong written and verbal communication skills, physical stamina and excellent teaching skills.
If you are interested in more information or applying, visit cci.org/instructors.