4 Paws Internships

Over the past several years 4 Paws has offered internships to dog trainers from other countries to come to the United States and learn how to train some of the dogs unique to our agency. It has been a wonderful experience to meet with and train several interns from Asian and Slavic Countries and we look forward to working with several trainers from Australia in the months ahead this year.

The time has come for more agencies to deal with children without regard to age and to add some of the unique services we provide to a wider clientele.

Of these children, it is those with Autism and the dogs we train for them that seems to draw not only the most families to our agency but is also the main reason we are contacted by agencies outside the United States about internships.

The 4 Paws Autism Assistance Dog with behavior disruption and tracking skills is our “child” and a program that means a lot to our agency. Being the first agency to ever train and place a dog who can actually help locate the child within minutes of the child’s disappearance is both a source of comfort and a life-saving wonder for the parents who come to 4 Paws for dogs.

Never a week goes by that we do not hear from families in Europe and Canada who inquire about the availability of services like ours in their country. While families from Canada may be readily able to travel to 4 Paws considering their closer proximity, most families from countries across the Atlantic or Pacific find that the reality of travel to the USA is just not an option for them.

Early socialization is key in the successful placement of an Autism Assistance Dog. Read more about our Autism Assistance Dog Program.

Though the training of Autism Assistance Dogs and Multipurpose Service Dogs (dogs trained in more than one area of service dog work or for more than one child within the same family) are the programs outside agencies inquire about the most, 4 Paws offers internships to any agencies outside the United States who wish to learn more about any of our work with children of all ages and a wide variety of disabilities.

  • Agencies may send a trainer or several trainers together or over time.Each internship is tailored to the Agency’s need and interest.
  • While in the future we hope to include private individuals with no dog training experience, at this time we are only set up to work with trainers from already established agencies/organizations who have been actively training and placing one or more types of service dogs in their country.
  • We are proud of our work with children of all ages with a wide variety of disabilities and a happy to share our knowledge, written materials (training and administrative), training techniques, administrative policies and procedures, screening of both the dog and the child, and information on how to make a successful placement. In addition, if working within the prison system is an option in your country, interns may also learn about all aspects of the prison program, where inmates train the dogs in obedience and advanced service dog skills within the prison system.
  • The internship is geared towards working directly with a trainer through all stages of the training rather than a classroom setting. In addition, we are happy to provide this training at no cost to your agency. Knowing that 4 Paws can reach children across the world is all the compensation we need. Agencies are required to pay their own expenses in travel to the United States and while they complete their internships. Many times housing may be available and/or a stipend can be provided to trainers who are willing to work in dog care during their off time. (Interns will follow a 4 Paws trainer for 4 — 6 hours a day Monday through Friday). Agnieszka Nojszewska aka Agnes from Warsaw, Poland with her young charge, Jack.
  • During the internship each intern will have a young dog with limited training to work with during his or her stay. Upon successful completion of any internship (minimum 4 months to maximum 6 months)* the intern will receive official certification of their ability to train and place the type(s) of service dog studied during their stay.


If you are interested in our internship program feel free to contact us for further details or to plan your stay. We will work actively with you as you pursue funding for your trip with in your country and as you work with the American Embassy to obtain a visa for your travel.
*Longer internships may be considered for trainers who are working for a well established service dog organization within their country and whose desire is to return to this agency and work with them to train and place service dogs with children in their desired field of study.

Patricia McAlister

Intern and director of Smart Pups in Australia

January 2011. Patricia (Trish) McAlister did an internship with us and is now back in Australia and placing service dogs using our model of training. Here’s a bit of background, the rest of which can be found at her website, SmartPups.

“I have been training dogs for more than 40 years. I started obedience trials with my first dog when I was 10 years old and won my first Obedience competition when I was 11 years old with a Dalmatian called Lady. I was asked by a client to help train a dog for a child in a wheelchair with various disabilities.

“After an extended search I realized there were very few organizations that trained these special service dogs in Queensland. Seeing a need for trainers for these special dogs, I found 4PawsforAbility in Xenia, Ohio, USA.

“4PawsforAbility was the first and largest organization in the USA to place Service Dogs for Children with Autism as well as training Multipurpose Service Dogs. 4Paws for Ability have successfully placed over 500 service dogs in many categories throughout the USA and other countries. I contacted the founder of 4Paws Karen Shirk and she invited me to do a five-month internship to learn the specialized training of Service Dogs for Multipurpose Assistance, Seizure Assistance and Autism Assistance.

“Seeing for myself the amazing success of dogs helping children with disabilities, has convinced me the internship was well worth it to have this knowledge and train these dogs back in Australia. Since completing my training with 4Paws and returning to Australia I am now actively training “task specific” Assistant Service Dogs.”

Here is Trish’s Facebook page.

Righteous Pups Bendigo-Australia

Training Director: Kelly Stevens

We were very happy to have the Director of Training for Righteous Pups Bendigo with us for four months in an effort to bring Autism Assistance Dogs with Tracking, as founded by 4 Paws, to Australia!

Righteous Pups was founded and is run by Joanne Baker and had already made placements in Therapy Dog work and also traditional service dog placements. When Joanne learned of 4 Paw’s work in the field of Autism and our desire to the dogs we place available in other Countries, she contacted us.

Kelly Stevens has finished her internship and is back in Australia getting their first litter of pups ready to start training. We look forward to seeing their dogs graduate and the 4 Paws dream to see Autism Dogs available Internationally, realized.