How Do I Become a Leader Dog Instructor?

A woman wearing a blue Leader Dog polo and khaki pants shows a yellow lab a waist-high obstacle in a hallway

At Leader Dog, this is one of most commonly asked questions we hear. Qualified candidates are hired in as apprentice instructors when we have openings, unless you have already been certified as a guide dog mobility instructor (GDMI). Generally, the apprentice program is a three-year, on-the-job program that also includes successfully completing a variety of online modules, required readings and hands-on experience. Apprentices are evaluated at the end of each year through a test of your learning before you are able to move to the next level of the apprentice program. Once you have successfully completed three years of the program and passed the final exam, you are certified as a GDMI. Our apprentices are paid during this apprentice program, but it is very intense and similar to working toward a bachelor’s degree. It is important to realize that this role is not all about training dogs; an equally important aspect is working with and training our clients who are blind or visually impaired to work with a guide dog.

Is there a degree program to become an instructor?

There is no degree that completely pertains to training Leader Dogs. Our instructors come from various walks of life. There are degree programs or classes that may be beneficial to you if you are interested in this line of work. Animal behavior classes, dog obedience and training classes would help a lot. The more time and experience you can get working around and with dogs the better. Classes are often held at humane societies, which are also good places to volunteer. Any training or experience working with people who have disabilities is also helpful. Previous experience or classes in orientation and mobility are particularly helpful when working with people who are blind or visually impaired.

Here are some other good websites for more information on guide dogs organizations:

Can I apply for a job as an apprentice instructor?

If we have any opening(s) for an apprentice GDMI or certified GDMI, they will be posted on our website. If you feel you meet the qualifications as outlined in the job description, we encourage you to apply. Visit our careers page to check for current openings.

RECOMMENDED BLOGS & VIDEOS

Anu stands outside in a dark colored t-shirt. She is smiling and holding a young German shepherd in her arms.

Voice of the Leader Dog Community: Anu Joshi

Hey Everyone! My name is Anu, I’m from Southeast Michigan ...
Ashley is taking out a selfie with Uni, whose head is resting over her shoulder. Uni's face is white and his nose is close to the camera. Ashley is smiling.

The Discomfort of Learning

By Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Ashley Nunnelly We all want ...
Blue background with text on top in light green reading Voices of the Leader Dog Community.

Voices of the Leader Dog Community: the LDB Team

For this month’s installment of Voices of the Leader Dog ...
Cerr is seated next to black lab Iris. She is smiling at the camera and wearing a floral yellow top. Iris is in her Leader Dog harness. Behind them is a light gray photo backdrop.

Voice of the Leader Dog Community: Cerr

Hello Everyone! My name is Cerr and I am from ...
Audrey sits in front of a light gray photo backdrop. She is smiling at the camera and wearing a pink button up shirt. Next to her is a golden retriever in Leader Dog harness.

A Life on Hold

By Client Audrey Demmitt This pandemic lifestyle takes me back ...
Ashley kneels on a log in front of a large body of water in the background. Her hands are on a dog in an orange body harness next to her.

Ask Ashley: Jumping, Crate Training, “Leave It” and More

By Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Ashley Nunnelly Ashley here! Thank ...
Never miss a post

We've got cool stories from clients and volunteers, dog training tips, news about Leader Dog and much more coming out on our blog all the time. Stay in the loop!