Guide dog instructors train dogs to be responsible in guiding blind people to travel effectively. They plan the training sessions, match guide dogs with their clients and ensure overall routine care of the training dogs. Guide dog instructors also provide advice to the blind people in the use of techniques that facilitate dog’s travel skills and mobility.
The duties of a guide dog instructor include, but are not limited to:
- Working with volunteer puppy walkers.
- Training the dogs to specific programmes and standards using various positive training techniques.
- Meeting the dogs’ welfare needs, e.g. feeding, walking, housing, veterinary care and affection.
- Assessing and evaluating the dogs’ performance and abilities.
- Matching the dogs with new clients once the dogs are fully trained.
- Training the dogs and their new owners together.
- Giving specialist advice to owners when needed.
- Providing support and aftercare.
- Keeping accurate records and producing reports.
The following job titles also refer to guide dog instructor:
guide dog trainer
guide dog mobility instructor
hearing dog instructor
guide dog for the blind instructor
assistance dog instructor
seeing-eye dog trainer
A guide dog instructor can expect to work 35–40 hours a week, but they can do more or fewer hours depending on their role and the owner’s and dog’s needs.
Being a guide dog instructor is not a 9–5 job, and those looking at entering this profession must be committed to working unsociable hours. The role can involve occasional work in the evenings, weekends and bank holidays.
Travel is a requirement and can be extensive, especially if a dog is with an owner living further away. Guide dog instructors may also need to travel between clients during their shifts, which can lengthen the working day.
Most guide dog instructors will work for charities specialising in breeding and training guide dogs.
They can work in a variety of settings, such as (this list is not exhaustive):
- Training centres and schools.
- Clients’ homes.
- Their own homes.
- Outdoors and public places, e.g. parks, shops, restaurants and cafes.
- Public transport.
Guide dog trainers will be required to travel to various places. They will need to visit clients and the dogs at their homes and may need to take the dogs to different places in the car during training.
Guide dog instructors can go home at the end of their working day fulfilled, knowing they are making a positive difference in disabled people’s lives. As disabled people can also face more dangers, a guide dog can help them navigate potentially life-threatening hazards. Therefore, guide dog instructors can even help save lives.
The entry requirements to become a guide dog instructor can vary between employers. Having an animal behaviour, care or management qualification and experience with dogs and disabled people can maximise an individual’s chance of being successful. Individuals could go to university or college, apply for an apprenticeship or apply directly to charities. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.
Guide dog instructors must undergo a criminal record check, as they will have contact with vulnerable people. A criminal record, caution, warning or conviction may put off prospective employers. However, they should account for the seriousness of the crime, when it occurred and its relevance to the role.
Guide dog instructors will need to travel extensively as part of their role and need a full driving licence and access to a vehicle. If they are using their own vehicle, it must be insured for business use.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Guide dog instructor is a Skill level 2 occupation.
Guide dog instructor career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to guide dog instructor.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of guide dog instructor. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of guide dog instructor with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of guide dog instructor.
- Dog behaviour: Natural behavioural patterns of dogs, how normal and abnormal behaviour might be expressed according to dog breeds, environment, human-animal interaction and occupation.
- Animal welfare legislation: The legal boundaries, codes of professional conduct, national and EU regulatory frameworks and legal procedures of working with animals and living organisms, ensuring their welfare and health.
- Visual disability: Impairment of the ability to naturally discern and process viewed images.
- Guide dog training methods: The methods that are used to train dogs to guide people who are visually impaired.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of guide dog instructor.
- Control animal movement: Direct, control or restrain some or part of an animal’s, or a group of animals’, movement.
- Advise customers on appropriate pet care: Provide information to customers on how to feed and care for pets, appropriate food choices, vaccination needs, etc.
- Evaluate dogs: Assess whether certain dogs are ready to work as a guide dog or not, whether certain dogs should be withdrawn from the training programme, need extra training or a different approach, etc.
- Assess the compatibility of individuals and animals to work together: Ensure work harmony between humans and animals, regarding to physical characteristics, capacity, temperament and potential.
- Protect health and safety when handling animals: Protect health and welfare of animals and their handlers.
- Create animal records: Create animal records according to industry relevant information and using appropriate record keeping systems.
- Assist social service users with physical disabilities: Help service users with mobility problems and other physical disabilities such as incontinence, assisting in the use and care of aids and personal equipment.
- Show social competences: Ability to interact effectively with other people.
- Implement exercise activities for animals: Provide exercise opportunities that are suitable for respective animals and meet their particular physical requirements.
- Provide animal training: Provide training in basic handling, habituation, and obedience to enable the completion of day-to-day tasks while minimising the risks to the animal, the handler, and others.
- Implement training programmes for animals: Implement training programmes for animals for basic training purposes or to meet specific objectives, following a developed training programme, and reviewing and recording progress against set objectives.
- Train animals and individuals to work together: Train animals and individuals to work together, including the match between individuals and animals, the design of integrated training programmes for people and animals, implementation of integrated training programmes, evaluation of integrated training programmes for people and animals against agreed outcomes and evaluating the compatibility between individuals and animals in relation to physical characteristics.
- Deal with challenging people: Work safely and communicate effectively with individuals and groups of people who are in challenging circumstances. This would include recognition of signs of aggression, distress, threatening and how to address them to promote personal safety and that of others.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of guide dog instructor. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Animal welfare: Universally recognized animal welfare needs as applied to species, situation and occupation. These are:
- need for a suitable environment
- need for a suitable diet
- need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
- need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
- Physiology of animals: The study of the mechanical, physical, bioelectrical and biochemical functioning of animals, their organs and their cells.
- Anatomy of animals: The study of animal body parts, their structure and dynamic relationships, on a level as demanded by the specific occupation.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of guide dog instructor. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Manage a small-to-medium business: Manage the organisational, financial and day-to-day operation of a small-to-medium enterprise.
- Provide nutrition to animals: Provide food and water to animals. This includes preparing food and water for animals and reporting any changes in the animal feeding or drinking habits.
- Provide an enriching environment for animals: Provide an enriching environment for animals to allow the expression of natural behaviour, and including adjusting environmental conditions, delivering feeding and puzzle exercises, and implementing manipulation, social, and training activities.
- Design training programmes for animals: Assess the training needs of the animal and select appropriate methods and activities to meet training objectives.
- Advise on animal purchase: Advise clients and customers on the purchase of animals.
- Assist in transportation of animals: Assist with the transportation of animals, including the loading and unloading of animals, the preparation of the transport vehicle, and maintaining the wellbeing of the animal throughout the transport process.
- Provide first aid to animals: Administer emergency treatment to prevent deterioration of the condition, suffering and pain until veterinary assistance can be sought. Basic emergency treatment needs to be done by non-veterinarians prior to first-aid provided by a veterinarian. Non-veterinarians providing emergency treatment are expected to seek treatment by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Interview people: Interview people in a range of different circumstances.
- Stay alert: Stay focused and alert at all times; react quickly in the case of unexpected events. Concentrate and do not get distracted performing a task over a long period of time.
- Maintain animal accommodation: Make sure animal enclosures such as habitats, terrariums, cages or kennels are in the appropriate and hygienic condition. Clean the enclosure and provide new bedding material if called for.
- Maintain professional administration: File and organise professional administration documents comprehensively, keep customer records, fill in forms or log books and prepare documents about company-related matter.
- Administer appointments: Accept, schedule and cancel appointments.
- Work with veterinarians: Consult veterinarians and assist them in the examination and nursing of animals.
- Instruct on animal care: Provide employees in animal care with information on how to treat the animal, the animals eating habits, nutrition and medical condition and needs.
- Tolerate stress: Maintain a temperate mental state and effective performance under pressure or adverse circumstances.
- Support individuals to adjust to physical disability: Assist individuals to adjust to the implications of physical disability and to understand the new responsibilities and level of dependency.
ISCO group and title
5164 – Pet groomers and animal care workers
- Guide dog instructor – ESCO
- How To Become A Guide Dog Trainer | Hours, Roles & Earnings – CPD Online College
- Featured image: By John Robert McPherson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0