A Day in the Life of a NEADS Trainer

Head Trainer Erin Wylie describes a “typical” day as a NEADS trainer.

My days vary depending on whether there are clients in training, dogs in for evaluations or I’m teaching classes at prison. A typical day starts and ends with answering emails between NEADS staff, prison staff, and clients. I may read through Weekend Communication Sheets and provide the Puppy Program Assistants with some training suggestions for the raisers. When there are clients in training, I teach them how to work with their dogs. The dogs are fully trained thanks to all the hard work from the inmate handlers and the puppy raisers! The clients are taught all commands the dog knows as well as how to deal with unfamiliar dogs. We also take several public trips.

Their training ends with ADI certification, which every client must pass before leaving NEADS with their dog. It’s an ADI requirement that shows that the client/dog/public are safe by having to complete certain tasks/behaviors with their dog. If they choose, I also accompany clients to the prison where their dog was trained to meet the inmate handlers.

When there are no clients in training, I am on campus working dogs that are in for their routine 1 year old evaluations or the dogs that are in the kennel waiting for the next client class to begin. When evaluating a dog, I am looking at the dog’s socialization- how they react to people, other dogs, loud noises, unusual sights, etc. -and their obedience/task work both around NEADS and in public. The weekend raisers have their dogs out in public all the time and the Puppy Program Assistants get to see them at class, but that’s a component that I don’t get to see much except here and there at NEADS events. So a big part of their routine evaluations is for me to see the dog in certain public settings so I can see the dog as a whole now, not just what I see in class at prison.

I am also on the road 3 days a week teaching at two different prison facilities. At those classes, I do a combination of group work and individual work. I check on socialization and often bring in approved props to help the dogs become familiar with these objects prior to the weekends – kid’s bumble ball lawnmower, dust buster, masks, wigs, kid’s animated toys, bicycle horns, etc. I also check on each dog’s individual progress on obedience and task work, and provide advancement for those handlers/dogs when necessary. I often follow up on issues that the raisers have reported and try to come up with ways for the handlers to recreate those issues in the prison environment so the dog will be better prepared for the following weekend.

Some of my other job responsibilities are training new apprentice trainers, testing puppies at private breeders, pre-testing puppies at the puppy house prior to prison placement, doing demonstrations for visitors at NEADS or NEADS events and much more!