SUNY Cobleskill is breeding a new generation of dog trainers with a new bachelor of technology major.
While the school has offered animal science and canine-centric courses for several years, the major in canine training and management is geared toward those seeking careers training working dogs and working with pets and animal rescues. The program is the first in the SUNY system and one of only a few such higher education programs in the country.
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. Stephen A. Mackenzie, who is leading the program. “Since 9/11 we’ve seen a sharp increase in the demand to train and handle working dogs … those same skills are important when you work with pet dogs and rescue dogs.”
The BT program is beneath the umbrella of animal science and includes a 600-hour berth demand. At school, students will interact with and train dogs in a day kennel, which can house up to 50 animals. Most belong to faculty and staff, and students are allowed to bring in their own pets when they have passed prerequisite courses, Mackenzie said.
Internship opportunities might include businesses like Shallow Creek Kennels, a premier police service dog importing and training facility in western Pennsylvania.
Course offerings include competition obedience and showing, tracking, canine aggression, and therapy dog training, which culminates in a test for certification. Mackenzie said several professionals in the field have been hired as adjunct professors.
The major is building upon a growing interest in dogs, and the campus already included dedicated canine training facilities. There are about 70 students in the animal science major with a concentration in canines, and a student-run canine club. Many are expected to switch to the new major.
“Maybe 10 years ago there were three or four students interested in canines on campus,” Mackenzie said, adding that there is a need in the country for the skill set. “It’s really difficult to find the working people and dogs to meet the needs of our countrymen,” he said.
The United States Department of Labor ranks New York as a top-five state for the employment of animal trainers. The Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan space, including nearby Dutchess and Putnam counties, is among the nation’s top-10 metropolitan areas for employed animal trainers.