Hanging out with dogs all day sounds like a dream job for dog lovers. But what does it take to train an assistance dog? So we asked Canine Companions Training Manager Chuck Dickinson from the Jean & Charles Schulz training center in Santa Rosa — “What is a day like as a dog trainer?”
Here’s Chuck’s response:
“Wow – this is a big question. I think any instructor would answer that what is nice is that it is so varied. We have the opportunity to work with clients, work with dogs, do paperwork, go out in the community, etc.
When dogs’ first turn-in to campus they go through temperament testing and medical checks. After that first week, we start the day with feeding and running of the dogs – each trainer has anywhere from 6-13 dogs that they work with. We then bring the dogs over to the training rooms to train commands, evaluate behavior(s), etc.
Sometimes we take the dogs on field trips, which means loading them all in the vans and heading out into the community for the day where we work with each dog individually for 20-30 minutes in environments of varying distraction and difficulty. This helps us understand how each dog will respond to future situations with their eventual humans.
In addition to the above, training staff is responsible for covering the duties of the applicant and graduate departments. We follow-up with graduate teams in their homes, on the phone, through email and assist with any other needs and support they require. We also manage the application process from the initial application requests to personal interviews. This includes phone interviews, medical evaluation paperwork and invitations to Team Training. Oh that’s right! We teach the two-week Team Training program too!
Team Training is what it’s all about for us. We work for months training dogs and getting to know our applicants so that we can all have the most successful Team Training experience as possible. We carefully observe and match the skills of our dogs with the abilities of the applicants. It’s when we get to see all of our hard work pay off and know that we’ve transformed the life of a person with a disability. This makes our job, the best job ever.”
Think a career as a Canine Companions instructor is right for you? Learn more at cci.org/careers.