Assistance Dog International (ADI) provides the bar of excellence for assistance dog trainers, programs and teams in the field. ADI's standards and expectations provide clear-cut goals for trainers to meet throughout the training and placement process. ADI does note trainers are encouraged to exceed minimum standards.
ADI publishes standards and ethical guidelines for trainers, programs, assistance dogs, service dogs, facility dogs, guide dogs, hearing dogs and the recipients of a trained dog. The ADI standards and ethical guidelines cover the rights and responsibilities of trainers, programs and clients, as well as behavioral expectations of trainers and dogs in training and in public. Trainers are expected to adhere to all minimum standards concerning client confidentiality and education, selection, training and placement of dogs, and remaining up-to-date on the latest information about dog behavior, training and care.
Trainers must produce human and assistance dog partnerships that are successful long-term. Not only must trainers be able to train dogs to ADI public access standards, those dogs and their human partners must retain their obedience training, task training and public access skills at the same level when reviewed at a 1-year follow-up evaluation.
Trainers must keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date and current in a variety of dog-related fields. Through continuing education and self-study, an assistance dog trainer should know the current best practices in learning theory, canine behavior, and proper canine care, safety and first aid. Additionally, a trainer should be familiar with multiple training styles and techniques, as well as a variety of training equipment and how to use it properly and safely.
Because assistance dog trainers train not only dogs, but also people, trainers must demonstrate effective communication and leadership skills. Trainers ought to be able to instruct individuals and groups, and be able to listen well and converse clearly. They must be able to guide and direct a fledgling working dog team through problems, and help troubleshoot and assist the human and canine halves of the team. Finally, trainers must possess the ability to assess their performance accurately and set goals to improve it.
Pairing an assistance dog with his or her partner is a very complex process requiring intimate understanding of the nature of disabilities, the arenas in which an assistance dog team will function and the ability to match a dog to a person. As such, trainers must understand thoroughly the process of determining proper fit for a dog with a partner as well as the ability to decide if training, certification or placement must stop for the benefit of the dog or human partner. Finally, trainers must have a very clear understanding of where, when and how a team will function together in a variety of environments, situations and places, and how that will affect their performance together.
As a member of the assistance dog community, trainers have a responsibility to the public. They must be willing to educate members of the public about assistance dogs and their public access rights, and should be familiar with pertinent laws concerning dogs and canines, such as leash laws, vaccination requirements, licensing and access rights for working dogs. They must be polite and use behavior that is acceptable in public at all times when working or training a dog, client or team. For example, a trainer should work only with one dog at a time, appear professional and ensure their dog is identifiable easily by the public as a working or assistance dog, or assistance dog in training.
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