Train-Ability is a "soup to nuts" program that covers the breeding, raising, and training of guide dogs for the blind. From the history of guide dogs, to the various breeds used over time, to the matching process...this course has something for everyone and is certain to test your knowledge and skills as a guide dog handler or aspiring trainer.
Whether you are new to vision loss, are a veteran VIP, have autism, were once a Trainer yourself, or are afraid of dogs...these workshops are tailored to your specific experience, needs and capabilities.
"Trainer" refers to the Guide Dog Mobility Instructor or Assistant Trainer;
"Student" refers to the Train-Ability Program candidate.
Train-Ability focuses on increasing knowledge, endurance, stamina, coordination, muscle memory, balance and mobility through the management of a working dog kennel, daily dog training, and dog handling sessions.
Train-Ability is overseen by Mary Chapell, Director of STAPELL, Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Guide Dog Mobility Specialist, Specialist Rehabilitation Teacher for Autism and prior competitive dog sport (agility) & canine behavioural rehabilitation Trainer.
Program sessions may include offsite educational sessions, such as, a visit to a breeder to have an informational session on dog selection, genetics, nutrition, time with puppies, experience of how the female dog's body changes, and puppy progress in the coming months. Training may be interrupted by opportunistic offsite lectures, seminars, or other experiences that are considered important to the educational component.
First Session - Assessment
This session offers you a chance to experience the workshop and its program outline so that you can make an informed decision about whether this workshop is right for you.
*Not all attendees will be at the same level within the program. A client will be placed in either one or more of the following categories: Management, Training, Handling, and/or Assessment.
Management Sessions -
Catching or retrieving a dog from the yard or kennel
Collaring and attaching the lead
Walking through doors/gates and heeling the dog
Tethering the dog (types/ways of tethering)
Types of grooming tools, their use and on what breeds
Parts of the dog and the use of equipment on those areas
Handling feet, grooming, blanketing, harnessing, unharnessing, washing dogs, making up feed, returning dogs to rest areas, cleaning equipment and training van, putting equipment away.
Training Sessions - In addition to the above, training sessions include general foundation training, working various dogs, use of a long line, using a treat pouch as an aid, safety equipment for the handler and dog (gloves, bell, various collars, boots, etc), the handler's position to the dog, auditory strategy for awareness of dog to handler and handler to dog, further techniques and preparing the dog for work or to be returned to the kennel.
Handling Sessions - Moving in sequential steps from foundation work, handling sessions will include the student's work from alongside the dog (working position), student safety (correct use of collar, correct fit of collar, collar placement, fit of other equipment, general equipment selection, sunsafety, handler clothing selection, including footwear). Other methodology and practice, including checking the equipment and organizing leash holds, stepping off, foot position aka footwork and tracking direction, halting, turning left, turning right, moving forward, moving backward, use of voice, body position, changing direction, and other exercises/procedures.
Assessment Sessions - Every time you work with a dog, one of you is training the other. Every time you work with STAPELL, your Trainer will be assessing you. Assessments will be negotiated with the student on the appropriate skill(s) they feel confident in demonstrating.
Train-Ability is an extension of STAPELL's Mobility Adventures.
In certain circumstances, and dependent on the Student's specific needs, Stapell may use external vendors at times.
This program is open to candidates who are either blind and/or autistic.
The assessment phase of candidates will be reviewed by the team involved in the program.
Candidates will be selected upon their ability to meet the following criteria: The physical stamina to work 2-4 dogs for 20 minutes each at an average walking pace in all types of weather at each workshop weekly for 4 hours. Mobility, spatial awareness, balance and stamina will be considered.
This role involves bending for extended periods, walking in wind, rain or sun for extended periods, and getting on the floor with the dogs repeatedly. Challenging walks may occur in unfamiliar areas, with support, when dogs are undergoing assessments and testing.
Ideal candidates will enjoy outdoor work, walking, building mental and physical stamina, and animals in general.
Self-disclosed health interview required and liability waiver of suitability to participate required.
Open to all persons qualifying on skills-based assessment.
Candidate assessments will commence in the beginning of 2022 and candidate selection will be conducted around the end of 2022. Dates may change based on the in-for-training and puppy assessment schedule.
One 1/2 day per weekday
Either 9:30AM-1:30PM or 4:00PM-8:00PM (depending on season)
Weekends by negotiation.
This program is billed from a mix of a participant's capacity or core as it is primarily based in training and assessment.
Program costs may include transportation and light refreshments.
Please contact Mary for the full breakdown of costs for the six-month program.
Must I be a guide dog user to be a student of this program?
No. All persons who qualify as suitable candidates can benefit from this program. The aim of this program is to empower an aspiring dog trainer or guide dog handler to either further professional employment or enhance guide dog handling capabilities.
Do I have to be blind or vision-impaired to be part of this program?
No, we also take students who have autism and no vision-impairment. You do, however, need to qualify as a suitable candidate under the assessment criteria noted in Terms and Conditions. This is a saftey process as dogs can pose a safety hazard to some people.
What if I want to attend more than once per week?
In negotiation with your Trainer, students may be allowed to attend workshops more than once per week. This is not guaranteed. Trainers have a duty to train guide dogs for our current client base and must dedicate the majority of their hours/schedule to our guide dogs. Rely on a once-only session per week to avoid disappointment.
What if I don't want to do the program anymore?
Program start dates align with guide dogs coming in for training. If you begin the Train-Ability program and find it is not "for you," you can discontinue the program but may not be allowed back into the same or similar program in future. Dates of entry are carefully designed to capture the right time to learn a complex process. If another candidate loses out due to a change of mind, you may be billed for the entire program, regardless of your cancellation. This is because we cannot take other students in the middle of a started program so others lose out due to indecision.
What should I bring with me?
Speak with your Trainer the day before to discuss weather on the day of your workshop. Be sure to bring a very large water bottle, cold water, any snacks you desire, sunsafe clothing, clothing suitable to wet weather, clothing suitable to the heat, hiking footwear of high quality, comfortable and protective socks (and an extra pair), a baseball cap and/or widebrimmed sun hat or fishing cap, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, face mask for public places...and other supplies deemed necessary in discussion with your Trainer. COVID vaccination status may be requested in public venues, so a full vaccination is required. Stapell can provide restroom facilities when at Stapell, hand sanitizer, hand wash facilities, sunscreen, and water.