Train the human, not the dog

This is probably just another one of my rediculous ideas that will actually never happen, but I’ll tell you about it anyway!

Its true that when your studying, you usually can’t wait to be finished after a while, and think you’ll never study again. Now that I’m at work, in a job that I like but particularly don’t feel like I’m learning anything knew in, I want to study even more. There aren’t any courses at local colleges that appeal to me. I don’t want to move anywhere now because I’m close to friends and family, I’m planning on having my own house in the town I grew up in and know well, and I have a job. This means that my only option at the moment is distance learning.

Remember, I don’t always make the most useful decisions when it comes to choosing subjects. I go for things I like rather than things that are useful. As a result, I already have a music degree which I loved studying for, but didn’t exactly get me my dream job. I don’t think it helped me get a job at all, and I could easily be doing the one I’m in now without that degree. I have also tried an introduction to counselling, worked with a newspaper and considered a radio career. What will my parents think if I tell them about my latest idea?

I have recently been looking at canine behaviour and dog training courses, since its an area I’ve been interested in since i was small. I was especially reminded of this during guide dog training. I loved every minute of being there and found it all naturally easy. That doesn’t mean I’d make a good trainer of course. I’m not sure if I’d have enough patience. However, I found a good distance learning option that could give me an idea if I’m seriously interested in this or not.

The centre of applied pet ethology (COAPE) in the U.K is an established organisation with a great reputation and some of the best lecturers in the field of animal behaviour. They offer a foundation course ‘you and your dog’, which lasts four months but can be completed in half the time if you study hard enough.
Then you can choose from a few canine-related, OCN accredited certificate courses, which take 9 months to complete. Students who qualify can then do the diploma, which contains some practical modules at the college a few times a year. This diploma gives you the necessary skills to set up your own training business.

I like the idea that the courses are in stages. I could start the foundation now, and do the certificate in February next year, which is the next time it runs. There is a year-long course taught in Ireland starting next September, which I could do if I was still interested. This is also distance learning, with practical experience in the summer.

Dog trainers are encouraged to register with the association of pet dog trainers in Ireland (APDT) when they qualify. They have to pass an assessment to prove they have the necessary skills, and this entitles them to membership. So many people are setting themselves up as dog trainers, so this organisation ensures that they are fit to operate to the highest standards. Dog owners looking for trainers can find a trainer who trains in their area, and who they can be confident have met a minimum standard of training and use only dog-friendly training techniques.

This all sounds like a long process, but suppose if you enjoy what your doing you wouldn’t see it that way. Small courses would enable me to discover if I really like this area, and it would be much easier to manage it financially. I think I need to get some experience shadowing a reputable trainer to see exactly what is involved before I consider a complete career change.

I’m so confused.To study or not to study, that is the question!
If I go ahead and complete all this studying, am I likely to get a job? I mean, is there even such thing as a completely blind dog trainer? 🙂


23 thoughts on “Train the human, not the dog

  1. I remember you talking about this ages ago on skype. Yes it would be hard, but I mean if you were able to train the dog, you would be okay I reckon. You couldn't do it any worse than a sighted person anyway. You could even run obiedence classes maybe? Pluss you would be building on it with OJ, so he could be good to practice on!Take care, xxxxx, and it's so hard to know what to do.

  2. I studyed for two years doing animal care. I wanted to train dogs, so learnt about dog behaviour and first aid. I only went up to a b-tech diploma as i realised i wouldnt get a job. The animal care industry is extremely competitive and the pay is very poor unless you work for yourself. If you want a challege then go for it. I'm the same i like to learn new things and get bored easily. I really enjoyed learning about the behaviour and the first aid you could do on them including mouth to mouth resuscitation! I some times think about doing a course online and carrying on with it but at the end of the day its not going to get me a job. I went onto to do a admin course after my eyesight had deterioated loads, something i thought i would never end up doing, but i have a hard enough time trying to find a admin job let alone my dream job.

  3. Its a tough and frustrating situation to be in Terri.Interesting to hear your experience.I could study all these interesting courses, spending a couple of grand getting qualifications, which could end up being pointless.Like you said, the industry is competitive enough, without having the challenge of being blind to compete with as well. It would be nice to do something you really want, but it can get annoying if you always have to work harder than other people to prove you can do a job, just because you can't see.

  4. I wouldn't let the blindness stop you. I mean, what sightling can say they continue to train a dog daily to keep them out of traffic? All us handlers are essentially continuing trainers, if you think about it that way. I think if it's something you're really interested in, it doesn't have to matter that you're blind. Dreams come true no matter what, if we try hard enough. What about the blind guy who wanted to be a doctor? Everyone told him it could never happen but he didn't listen and now he's a doctor. Sure, it's more challenging for us maybe, but hell, if you want it, go for it. Any competitive market is hard for anyone. A competitive market makes it so only the best succeed, so if you're the best, you'll succeed. Think about it, and if your gut tells you to look into it further, do it. And take to Google, maybe there are blind dog trainers out there. And if not, maybe you'll be the first. 🙂

  5. Oh, and what about blind O & M instructors? I thought that was crazy when I had one shadowing me and Dave. But who better to teach it, if you think about it? Maybe you could get involved in training guide dogs, too.

  6. Thanks for the encouraging comment Ro. Really appreciated :)If I know I can do something as well as a sighted person, I won't let it stop me.Someone said if I have any problems I can just say, look at my guide dog. Look at how well behaved he is. They'll think I'd trained him and agree!I didn't know you had a blind O and M instructor!

  7. Oh my instructor isn't blind, but we had a student who was visually impaired shadow us when I was new to it. He used a cane and just kinda did circles around me. It was pretty crazy. Scary at first, but then I settled in and he really helped me out a lot since at the time, I didn't know many blinks.

  8. Yeah, spammer how about fecking off? :)Ro I meant to say visually impaired not blind.I've done some quick searches on google but keep getting information about dogs that are trained for blind people, and I know enough about them already I think! I see the U.K have introduced a degree you can study to become a guide dog trainer. Mad!

  9. Oh I just said visually impaired because he can see a little. My O & M is a sighling, the student was visually impaired, and I'm total blind hahaha. I guess I don't call myself visually impaired because I have no vision. But to me, the student was visually impaired because while he had some sight, it was impaired. 😉

  10. I would rather people just came out with the dreaded "B" word, rather than pussy footing around!Awww class Jen is it for blind or visually impaired? That would be cool!!! You could always do stuff in the house first, then gradually do it outside so that you would know where the dog was all the time. The one you trained I mean.And that spammer had no right to say that. Jesus christ!Xxx.

  11. I love taking classes and learning new stuff, whether it leads to a career or not. What would it hurt to simply sign up for the “You and Your Dog” class and figure out later if yu want to take on more classwork after that? At the very least you’d learn more about something you already love so much: dogs!

  12. Jen I believe that you can do anything you put your mind to if you really want to. Unfortunately, at the current time, there is no guarantee of work no matter what qualification you do. If you can afford it, both financially and in terms of your time, why not sign up for the first part and see how it goes?It will always be more experience and something extra for the CV. I'm proud of how forward thinking and positive you always are.

  13. Thanks for the encouragement John and Beth. I'm going to sign up for it tomorrow, do that course and see how it goes.I'll be learning lots about puppies in the next few weeks, and no doubt it will make me want another one. The parents would definitely not be impressed!

  14. Jen,I know blind dog trainers, both low-vision and total blind. There are a growing number of people training their own guide dogs, especially growing numbers using positive reinforcement now in the US.I don't know how things work in t he UK in terms of jobs and certification and stuff, but reading about how look you had to wait for OJ, I think if you learned to train guide dogs, or to train other blind people to train their own dogs, that would be incredibly fun and rewarding and also lots of opportunities for work, no?

  15. I wouldn't let the blindness stop you.I have the same idea as you. I want to become a dog trainer. I am not going to let my sight problem or anything get in my way.You should do what you want to do and what you feel you will have fun with.A dog trainer can either work from home to home with there own personal business or work with a company.Anyway, even with the economy as not good as it is, people want good and well behaved dogs and the ones who will go forth and pay for a trainer are well worth all the studying and work.Good luck.

  16. Aftergaget I don't think I'd ever take the risk of training my own dog, but its an interesting idea. Do the blind people you know train their own dogs or do you know any obedience and behaviour trainers who work with a variety of dogs? I'd love to hear from someone who has attempted to work in the area already.Malak Have you done much work yourself?

  17. Hi Jen, I'm new to reading your blog, but find it quite interesting. I am currently working with my 3rd guide (Cessna) and am truly considering raising and training my next – it all depends on timing and money of course. for now I am working on training my 17 month old male golden (Canyon) to hopefully reach his Novice Obedience title once we get his canadian Kennel club paperwork together. Your thoughts about being a dog trainer are really neat and I also have thought about it, so far I'm just working on training with my own dogs (learning the positive way) and then we'll see where we can go from there. Look forward to reading more of your posts.Brooke, Cessna (currently working), Phoenix (retired), Aspen & canyon &

  18. Hi Brooke welcome to the blog!Thanks for the reply to the post. Its great to hear of other people's experiences. Training your own dog would be so interesting!Keep in touch!Jen

  19. So, I've found it. A lot of the worries that you voiced have been things I have toyed with as well. I think the online course is a safe gamble-you can continue working and maintaing a steady and reliable income while pursuing your interest/dream. By taking the four month course, you would be able to, as others have mentioned, figure out if this is really something you want to get into. I agree that it's not an easy field to get into. I have been slowly testing out the waters and have run into some resistance, but if you hit one road block, you try another path. The four month course would also give you a certificate that people will not be able to deny. Haveing that piece of paper may validate to others that you are more capable. Unfortunately, as blind individuals, in order to be considered average, it would seem that we must be better than average. (Sorry my sociology degree talking). I am a firm believer that any kind of education is not a waste. You gain life skills and experiences you otherwise would never have had. I guess the point of my ramble is, I would try if I were you. It's a great opportunity and it seems as though you have a pretty extensive support network even just through this blog. If you need a sound board, you could always talk to one of us. There is one blog I am "following" that is written by a woman who is deaf and blind who has trained both of her guide dogs. Maybe she could be a good resource for you? A lot of sighted people, service dog organisations and dog trainers alike, can be nay sayers. Not all, but a lot. Don't let that discourage you.I had guide dog and service dog organisations tell me I couldn't foster their puppies because I was blind. So, I've started exploring new avenues.Who knows, maybe one day I'll be showing dachshunds, or maybe you and I will open a dog training business together…you have to admit, there would be a bit of a novelty factor; two blind women having the best trained dogs on the planet. lol All right, enough rambling from me.

  20. Jes thanks for the very encouraging comment!I think I know the blog you are talking about. I just found it last week.I actually did start that course. I'm nearly finished and will have a review of it on the blog in the next couple of weeks.

  21. I'm Deafblind and a dog trainer. I've trained several types of assistance dogs as well as pets. I have also worked in shelter situations (both no kill and euthanizing) doing rehabilitation work with abused dogs. Yes it can be done. The thing you have to realize is that you'll have to go about it differently. The sighted people who tell you that it is impossible for a blind person to train a dog aren't thinking outside the box. Just because someone else can't imagine doing it doesn't mean you can't. The course sounds really great. It will give you a chance to try out different techniques and decide which work for you, personally and your situation. There are list serves for blind people who train dogs– the ones I'm most familiar with are clicker training lists. I'm sure there are other types of training lists out there but I'm a clicker trainer myself so that's the kind of environment I personally gravitate toward. If you'd like that information let me know! I'd love to hear about the course when you're done! Very best of luck to you.

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