Army spouse pursues dog training career through DOD education program
Lynn Smith, an Army spouse, poses with her dogs at Fort Shafter. Using her MyCAA benefits, Smith is completing a certified dog training program. Eventually, she would like to combine her love of animals with her business degree and open a a pet supply store that offers dog obedience training.

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- A military spouse, here, used the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program to achieve her dream.

Lynn Smith enrolled in the Certified Dog Training Program at the Animal Behavior College, an online vocational college, using her MyCAA.

Sponsored by the Department of Defense, MyCAA provides up to $4,000 of free tuition to military spouses for associate degrees, career certificates and licensing programs.

When Smith’s spouse, Robert, retires from the Army, she wants to have a business established that she feels passionate about. A dog lover and experienced horse trainer, Smith searched for a career path where she could combine her love of animals and balance the challenges of being a stay-at-home mom for her 5-year-old son, Kaelan.

An estimated 17,000 active duty military spouses live in Hawaii, 17 of which are currently enrolled in the MyCAA program with Animal Behavior College. Since the school offers distance learning combined with a hands-on externship program, military spouses can receive instruction anywhere in the U.S., even if they are relocated during their education.

Smith just finished the externship, or the practical experience in her field of study, portion of her program, where she worked with a professional mentor for dog training.

“I loved that section of the program, because it was so great to interact with different breeds of dogs and problem pups, as well,” she said. “And I’m learning better ways to train my own dogs.”

Smith adopted Boomer, a 3-year-old lab mix, and Miss Trixie, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois mix at the Hawaiian Humane Society.

“I’m hoping to work with Boomer, so that I can take him into hospitals for wounded Soldiers and have him help other people. It was my husband who mentioned that, because he noticed how calm that dog is,” she said.

Smith also plans to incorporate her business management degree with her dog trainer certification.

“I am hoping to open a small shop for natural pet supplies and offer obedience training with it,” she said. “I love watching animals learn and be happy … and (watching) their owners become excited when their pup does tricks or basic obedience.”

- MyCAA

MyCAA accounts are limited to a $4,000 maximum benefit, with a $2,000 fiscal year cap to pursue associate degrees, certifications and licensure programs. Spouses must finish their program of study within three years from the start date of the first course. For details, visit www.militaryonesource.com, click on “Career & Education,” then “Spouse Career Center.”

Page last updated Thu July 7th, 2011 at 19:08