From November 14th through the 20th, we are celebrating National Apprenticeship Week! At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, our apprentices learn to play a vital role with our organization by helping to train our amazing service dogs to assist disabled recipients.

Importance of Apprentices at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs

The goal of our apprentice program is to build a team of trainers who can engage our dogs using proper tone of voice, body language and redirection that clearly communicates their intentions to the dog while simultaneously listening to and observing each dog’s responses and body language without the use of artificial tools or training gimmicks.

Our founder and CEO, Carol Borden, wrote training curriculums in response to the lack of experienced dog trainers needed at this level. We only employ people who practice techniques based on positive reinforcement and strong communication skills between themselves and the canine learner. Since there were so few individuals that had this caliber of skills, we created comprehensive educational programs. Both Mrs. Borden and our COO, Mary Jo Brandt, then developed the apprentice program to the next level. Today the program is closely overseen by Ms. Brandt and Dr. Neuhoff, our educational expert and designer.

What Is the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Apprenticeship Program?

In this two-and-a-half-year, State of Florida college-accredited and VA-approved (under the GI Bill) program, the apprentices start out learning how to take care of all dogs, from puppies to adults. They learn about their health, nutrition, grooming, behaviors at various ages, and the differences between individual dogs. They then move on to learn how to train the dogs from puppies to adults, from basics to advanced skill work – until they are ready to be paired with a veteran or other recipient. Through our specialized training program, the apprentices and dogs are given a strong foundation that allows them to do amazing things for our recipients.

Additionally, we have expanded and framed the curriculum not only around the comprehensive knowledge of understanding the behaviors and training of dogs, but to include bigger ideas such as human and dog safety, employability skills, workplace wellness, and self-growth and development, as well as application of the Borden Method of Comprehensive Dog Training and the Borden Method of Medical Service Dog Training. While most of this is acquired through on-the-job training, apprentices also engage in class work that explores each concept academically, and through hands-on training from our licensed veterinary care staff, experienced trainers that practice our advanced methods, trained dog care specialists, our Ph.D. of Education, Curriculum, and Educational Policy, and our Founder and CEO – all of whom act as mentors.

Everyone at Guardian Angels has a high level of appreciation for the apprentices and are highly motivated to teach them. Each of them serves as a wealth of knowledge to the apprentices throughout the program.

Guardian Angels is highly invested in the success of our apprentices, providing them with the best training to ensure they become successful members of the organization. Because of our constant growth, the goal at the end of the apprenticeship is to hire the apprentice.

What We Look for in an Apprentice at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs looks for individuals who, first and foremost, love dogs and genuinely care about tending to their needs. Quality applicants do not shy away from hard work or getting dirty. This is essential as apprentices work outdoors to feed, clean yards, groom, train, and care for dogs which may be in all types of weather. Shaping future service dogs takes commitment and is both labor- intensive and rewarding. And you get to play with dogs!

We look for applicants who are proven, aspiring, leaders, and team players. For Guardian Angels, teamwork involves the capacity to support and share the organization’s goals, and function interdependently with others, while being responsible and accountable for their actions. Being eager to learn, compassionate, friendly, and self-starting human beings are essential qualities. Strong applicants can describe and explain their abilities of cooperation, collaboration, communication, open-mindedness, and capacity to accept diverse world views. Desired applicants exhibit a drive to be a productive member of their community as they work at shaping future service dogs that may ultimately save lives. Supporting the mission and purpose of the organization is critical to our work.

Advice for Potential Apprenticeship Applicants

Individuals considering being part of our apprentice program need to self-assess their overall intention for applying. Serving as a member of the apprentice program takes grit, determination, and flexibility. To succeed in our program, an applicant must have a strong commitment of hard work and be committed to tending to and developing future service dogs who eventually improve and often save the lives of our veterans, first responders, and civilians.

Interested in Becoming an Apprentice? Contact Us Today!

Our apprentice program is rewarding. When our apprentices participate and observe a pairing –the point at which a recipient receives his or her medical service dog, they experience the overwhelming, emotional true joy that comes from doing purposeful work. The process of apprentices becoming medical service dog trainers is physically and mentally challenging, but there is no better fulfillment than to see the difference a service dog can make.

We welcome anyone who is interested in applying to check out our application here. Contact us today with any questions!

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