Assistance Dog Trainer & Assessor
Interview with Monique Juniper from AWARE Dogs Australia
Monique Juniper is the Secretary of AWARE Dogs Australia (Assisting, Well-being, Ability, Recovery and Empowerment). Dogs are incredible creatures and AWARE is a not-for-profit registered charity whose mission is to facilitate the use of all types of assistance and therapy dogs, for the education, rehabilitation, healing and aid of distressed, ill or disabled individuals.
Monique is also an Assessor and Trainer of assistance dogs, who are specifically trained to mitigate an individual’s disability and are permitted access with their handler to anywhere the public is typically allowed.
AWARE also trains a number of facility dogs, who work for multiple individuals (with and without disabilities), in places like schools, nursing homes and rehab facilities.
Monique took some time out of her busy training schedule to chat with Open Colleges about working with such intelligent and versatile animals, to improve the quality of life for so many Australians.
“The rewards of helping people are tremendous.”
My role at AWARE Dogs is to act as Secretary and also as an Assessor and Trainer. This involves working directly with individuals to assist them through the process of selecting, training and getting their dogs accredited.
The process of training an assistance dog is a detailed and lengthy one. Firstly, the individual dog must have a suitable temperament to be able to be used. Once a dog with the correct temperament is selected, then the handler and the dog begin the process of training. The handler and the dog must learn to work as a cohesive team. They need to master all aspects of public access work, which means being well-behaved and unobtrusive in public places where dogs are not normally allowed. These environments are foreign to most dogs. They must learn to work under all sorts of distractions and in all sorts of environments, with novel stimuli, such as slick floors, elevators, shopping trolleys, etc. The dog must also learn to mitigate its handler’s specific disability.
Assistance Dogs help mitigate their handlers’ disability. At AWARE, many of our dogs are psychiatric assistance dogs too, who help handlers with various mental health related disabilities to overcome their challenges, and become more independent and active in their local communities. In many instances, the valuable help that assistance dogs provide, allows people to safely reduce their reliance on medications, without an exacerbation in symptoms.
I am a National Dog Trainers Federation Certified Dog Trainer. Prior to gaining my certificate I had already accumulated 15 years of dog training experience. I now train not only pet dogs, but I also specialise in the training and assessment of assistance dogs for people with disabilities. I have also trained and been handling my own assistance dog for the last seven years.
Make sure it is a labour of love. Training assistance dogs for people with disabilities has modest pay, however the rewards of helping people are tremendous.