On Tuesday, July 27, K9s For Warriors recognized three individuals who graduated from its inaugural dog trainer apprentice program. The five-month class (which garnered more than 500 applicants) was conducted at the organization’s Gold Family Campus (Alachua) in a strategic effort to develop a pipeline of highly qualified service dog trainers.
A critical element of the apprentice program is how it will help contribute to K9s For Warriors’ broader mission, as the largest provider of trained service dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD and other military-related trauma.
The number of veterans being paired with a service dog through the organization soon will be greater than ever. K9s For Warriors will break ground on a Northeast Florida mega kennel facility next week that can house more than 150 service dogs-in-training, and in September will officially open the Petco Love K9 Center in San Antonio, which will rescue larger canines to be trained as service dogs.
“It’s not as though we can simply turn a switch and make more copies of well-trained service dogs,” said Paul Mundell, chief program officer at K9s For Warriors. “The skill sets required of both the dog and trainer are unique. This program will allow us to ensure quality control and uniformity, regardless of location.”
The inaugural class of apprentice trainers will spend the next month or two working under the direction of a mentor trainer at K9s For Warriors’ national headquarters. Following that span and upon familiarizing themselves with their new responsibilities and surroundings, they will officially transition into a full-time trainer role.
With plans to utilize the apprentice program as the hiring standard for future prospective trainers, K9s For Warriors will welcome six individuals to take part in a second class of apprentice trainers this fall.
Developed over the past few years, the apprentice program curriculum is intended to prepare its graduates to seamlessly transition into full-time dog trainers. The immersive training focuses on things such as acceptable training methods and dog-learning theory, along with dog behavior and modification.
Apprentices are evaluated through research assignments, quizzes and written exams, three “check point” skills evaluations and an ability to read dog body language. Apprentices are responsible for training a “string” of multiple dogs specifically assigned to them.
For more information on the program, go to www.k9sforwarriors.org/blog/k9s-trainer-apprentice-program