Service dog student training

Assistance Dog Training

A student trains a dog to push a buttonUNCW's Assistance Dog Training Program is the first-of-its-kind, university assistance dog training program focusing on integrating assistance dogs into clinical and educational practice in mitigating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and behavior disorders primarily in children, veterans, and wounded warriors; as well as individuals with physical disabilities.

The program provides students with experience in training Assistance and Therapy dogs, as well as utilizing Therapy dogs, which will inform their future professional practice as recreation therapists, social workers, mental health practitioners, health care providers, and teachers.

The Assistance Dog Training program is a sequence of four courses.

  • The first course is designed to be an overview of the history and roles of assistance dogs in society.
  • In the second course, students gain experience in the principles and theories of dog training and psychology.
  • The third and fourth courses expose students to advanced assistance dog training and application to individuals with disabilities and professional practice contexts. In these courses two students are responsible for the 24/7 care and training of an assistance dog in-training provided by paws4people™.

Students must complete the courses in sequential order. In order to enroll in courses three and four, students will be selected based on their academic performance in the previous courses (the third and fourth courses limit the number of students in each course to 12). Students successfully completing the four course sequence will be certified as Assistance Dog Trainer through paws4people™.

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Assistance Dog Training Minor

The School of Health and Applied Human Sciences offers an interdisciplinary minor in assistance dog training. The minor is designed to prepare students to be assistance dog trainers and to use animal assisted interventions in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, and long-term facilities. Course work requires field experience working with assistance dogs in-training and individuals with disabilities. 

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