Become a Mentor
Inspire growth and professionalism in new trainers
Students enrolled in the premium add-on In-Person Track of Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior’s Dog Trainer Course gain hands-on learning and experience while shadowing a professional VSA Mentor. VSA Mentors play an important role in the DTC’s In-Person Track, complementing the full program of instruction as they provide local opportunities to students through two extensive field study and training units.
Mentors are paid per field module, and the majority of a Mentor’s time investment overlaps or corresponds with his or her regular teaching and training hours. A detailed VSA Mentor Program Handbook is provided to all Mentors and regular online Mentor meetings are held to ensure compatibility and consistency throughout the learning experience.
Mentors are covered under VSA’s liability insurance policy when working with students on behalf of and under contract with VSA. Mentors must still carry liability insurance for their professional dog training business, but it is not necessary to add VSA students to their own policy.
VSA Mentors have an extraordinary opportunity to facilitate a new trainer’s personal and professional growth by sharing skills and knowledge gained through years of experience.
I am honored to be a mentor trainer for one of the students in the very first academy class. Victoria, you’re doing it right. In the past, I’ve been a mentor trainer for another organization – you’re “positively” ahead of the game. Thank you for all you do.
WANT TO BECOME A MENTOR?
We are always looking for a select group of Mentors who:
Are currently practicing professional dog trainers with at least two years’ experience.
Employ only science-based, force-free, positive reinforcement-based dog training philosophies in all practices (no aversive or dominance-based alpha-hierarchy methodologies).
Teach via both private lessons and group classes (or have access to audit/participate in other local positive group classes with their assigned VSA students).
Can commit to positively and proactively mentor each assigned student Mentor VSA students following the guidelines in the VSA Mentor Program Handbook.
Will work with VSA staff to resolve any questions or issues.
Request a Mentor Application
Interested in joining the team?
To begin the VSA Mentor application process, please complete and submit the form below and we will email you information and an application. For more details about the VSA Mentor Program, check out the VSA Mentor Program FAQs at the bottom of this page.
Mentor Program FAQs
What’s the difference between a VSA Mentor and a VSA Faculty Advisor?
Faculty Advisors are provided to every Dog Trainer Course student and are not local to the student. Mentors are assigned to students enrolled in the DTC In-Person Track only and are local to the student. Mentors provide shadowing and learning opportunities by sharing their time and workload with In-Person Track students, while Faculty Advisors meet weekly with Dog Trainer Course students (including IPT students) for weekly 60-minute Office Hours to discuss course curriculum and concepts, answer questions, and conduct skills assessments via videoconference. Learn more about the VSA Faculty Advisor Program here.
How many students can I mentor at once?
You can mentor up to two students from the same class at a time. There is no maximum number of students in a calendar year.
Will I be able to review the Dog Trainer Course curriculum so that I know what the student is learning in the program?
To provide mentors with an overview of the entire Dog Trainer Course, all VSA Mentors are provided with a detailed outline so that you know the format, topics, and activities students complete during the program.
What is the application process?
We will process your VSA mentor applications in two phases: preliminary approval and final approval. The first phase begins when we receive your application. We will review all of the information and files you’ve submitted and upon acceptance, your application will receive Preliminary Approval status. This means that your application is now ready to move into the final approval phase if/when we have a student near you. When we have a student near you, we will contact you and confirm you would like to move to the final approval phase, during which we will reconfirm the information you submitted in your application is current and conduct a phone consultation with you. Then upon acceptance, you will receive Final Approval and be assigned a student.
How long will it take for me to receive final approval and begin working with a student?
It depends. Your application might remain in the preliminary approval phase for an indefinite period of time. VSA matches students with mentors in their city/surrounding area, so unfortunately we are unable to guarantee if or when we may have a student for you to mentor. We will keep your application active in the Preliminary Approval status until either we have a student near you or you ask us to close your application file.
Do I have to sign a new VSA Mentor Contract for each new student I take on to mentor?
No, the Mentor Contract remains in effect until you or VSA terminates it, so you can continue to mentor students as long as your contract is active. If VSA makes changes to the contract you will be asked to sign a new contract.
Do I have to add VSA students as additional insured on my company’s liability insurance policy?
No. Mentors are covered under VSA’s liability insurance policy when working with students on behalf of and under contract with VSA. VSA Mentors are required to carry liability insurance for their own professional dog training business, but it is not necessary to add VSA students to their own policy.
How often do I have to provide VSA with a report on my student?
Mentors are only required to report to VSA one time per Field Unit (twice total per student) notifying us that all shadowing opportunities have been completed by each student. Please see the Mentor Handbook for specific details.
How and when am I paid for my mentoring services?
You will be paid within 30 days after you notify VSA that each field unit has been completed. You can elect to be paid via PayPal, check or bank transfer.
Are there referral fees for students I bring to VSA?
Yes. VSA mentors are eligible to participate in the VSA Referral Program, earning up to $150 for every student that enrolls and begins study with VSA as a direct result of the VSA mentor’s recommendation.
How many hours are expected of me during mentoring?
The majority of hours you’ll spend mentoring VSA students correspond and overlap with your regular teaching and training with clients – your students observe and assist you or work alongside you during your normal business activities. The exact number of hours spent per field unit will depend on the format and scheduling of which pre-existing group classes or private training sessions your student shadows you.
What happens is a student leaves the program during a field unit?
If this occurs we will compensate you for the work that you have completed with the student. You will be paid at a prorated rate based on the percentage of shadowing opportunities completed at the time the student withdraws from the program.
What if a student has to repeat a field unit because they didn’t successfully complete it the first time? Does the mentor get paid twice?
Yes, if a student must repeat a field unit for any reason, you will be compensated for the unit being repeated. Note: This applies only to situations relating to the student’s inability to complete the unit.
What if I feel like my student is struggling with their course work?
VSA’s goal is to be proactive in helping students succeed. If you believe a student is struggling with course work, please contact VSA right away.
How will I know that the student will be prepared enough to teach/train with my clients during the Field Training Unit?
By the time VSA students begin the Field Training Unit, they will have already completed two in-person Intensives during which they will have completed numerous skills assessments with their Faculty Advisors, learned in the classroom, through hands-on experience, via field trips, etc. Additionally, they will have completed online lessons and real-time cyber classes, completed the first Field Study Unit with you, and taught mock classes. If called upon to do so, we believe that VSA students will be well-prepared to teach and train under your supervision by the time they start the Field Training Unit.
Are Dog Trainer Course graduates required to sign a non-compete clause so that they cannot open a business near their mentor’s service area?
Because VSA is an educational institution, we cannot and do not require graduates to sign a non-compete agreement. We believe that if a student is motivated enough to invest in an education with VSA, they will be serious about opening a positive, force-free dog training business regardless of a mentor’s location. While a graduate might eventually offer services near you, you will know that they share your same philosophies, and you will have a personal and business relationship. If you are a mentor who is also a VSPDT, we make it clear on our website that VSA graduates and VSPDTs have different experience levels.
When a student graduates, how do you know they will train with force-free methods?
We believe strongly that after learning about and experiencing the benefits of positive methods, graduates will continue to practice positive force-free training methods. The curriculum is designed to strongly emphasize and leave no doubt that force-free training is the only option that should ever be used in practice. Graduates sign a pledge upon enrollment and graduation from the program to use and promote only “positive training” tools, methods and ideologies in all cases (note: ‘Positive Training’ as defined here.)