A Breed Apart: Becoming a Certified Guide Dog Trainer
Becoming a Southeastern Guide Dogs trainer is quite an accomplishment. These caring professionals are handpicked and carefully evaluated before being selected for our three-year apprenticeship program. They begin their careers on our campus as canine care technicians, providing daily care for our puppies and dogs. Once selected as apprentices, their rigorous training includes intensive hands-on experience with our dogs and with visually impaired students; one-on-one mentorship with a certified trainer; and extensive academic reading, research, presentations, quizzes, and exams.
In year one of their training, apprentice trainers begin by shadowing a mentor trainer and having the mentor shadow them. Apprentice trainers work with dogs right away, but always work alongside their mentor trainer.
In year two, apprentices gain more independence. While they are training students with their new guide dogs, apprentices will still be shadowed by a mentor, but as time goes on, they work with less and less supervision.
In the third and final year, apprentices primarily work independently but check in regularly with the mentor. They will act as the lead trainer out of four trainers for a group of dogs and for a class of students.
Throughout the three years, apprentices continue with required reading and studying, and continue to conduct presentations and pass exams.
Upon successful completion of their apprenticeship, the trainers earn their official guide dog trainer certification and are celebrated by our entire organization.
Southeastern Guide Dogs is dually accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International. Our apprenticeship program has been approved by these organizations and thus our trainers’ certification is recognized internationally.
Becoming a certified guide dog trainer is a big deal! Hats off to all of our hardworking, committed trainers.