Compassionate Training for Your Working Companion

In 2018 I was faced with a debilitating medical situation that left me facing the possibility of being unable to walk in the near future. I struggled to get in and out of bed each day, was unable to pick up dropped items, and began to have a resurgence of PTSD symptoms brought on by the stress and fear of the unknown. For the first time in my life the concepts of service dogs were not just something that other trainers handled, it was potentially something I was going to need myself. I knew that my current financial situation would not allow me to purchase a $20,000 trained dog, so I began reviewing the ADA requirements for owner training your service dog. I had over 15 years experience as a trainer and had placed numerous service dogs with other handlers, certainly I should be able to handle it, right? Unfortunately, I soon realized that there was a black hole of information and community for owner trainers looking for a humane framework to guide them through the process. This is why I actively chose to create this program.

This is not an option that will place a fully trained service dog directly into your hands ready to head to work. If you are interested in a fully trained dog, please review the trained dogs page to see if any are currently awaiting placement or contact me to set up arrangements. This program is designed to guide you forward as you owner train your own service dog and provide another set of experienced eyes to look over any issues you may be experiencing along the way.

Because this program allows the owner to do most of the daily training the cost is substantially reduced to a total of ONLY $3,000. I realize that this is still a substantial amount for many people with disabilities to come up with at once, so I have broken my program into 4 units that allow the owners to pay the $750 for the next portion of training only when they are ready.  This means that if you are stuck in one area and need longer to practice, such as with a young dog that needs more maturity, you can feel comfortable knowing you will not be rushed along to complete the training in a prescribed time period.

If a dog is developmentally ready and actively working through each level back to back, they could plan to complete the program in as little as 6 months, but please keep in mind the average age of a dog to be fully mentally and physically suitable for service work is 2 years. Dogs must also be 2 years of age to receive the necessary health clearances for mobility work.

The ability to test out of levels of the program may be available if the dog and handler can prove that they have both mastered the skills and done so using humane methods.

Participation in this program is not a guarantee of working success for every dog. Service work has a high rate of failure as the dog truly must have the perfect temperament to succeed and enjoy their working life. We reserve the right to remove any dog from the service program at any time due to unsuitability for the career. If this happens the handlers remaining lessons will be transitioned to behavioral modification sessions to address the current behavioral issues the dog is facing.

Service Dog One

Service Dog 1 is a 6 week private in home course that focuses on the foundation obedience behaviors found in our basic obedience training, but from a service dog approach. We will cover legal and ethical issues pertaining to training your own service dog along with general hands on training. Handlers will be shown the appropriate way to utilize tethering to promote bonding, introduced to positive reinforcement training, and coached through training foundation behaviors such as sit, down, stay, come, and beginning loose leash walking.

These behaviors, taught through positive reinforcement, are the basic foundations for any good family dog, but they are not all that is required for a service dog. During this 6 weeks we will assess the dogs ability to work for the owner and any obvious behavioral challenges that may make them unsuitable for service.

Service Dog Two

Service Dog 2 is the second 6 week course which includes more advanced obedience skills and preparation for passing the AKC Canine Good Citizen test.  This test measures a dogs ability to behave appropriately around other humans and dogs and is thus required before beginning public access training in non dog-friendly areas. This course will also introduce the concept of mat work and advanced stays/recalls. 

Service Dog Three

Service Dog 3 includes the beginning of individual task training and preparation for the next level of the Canine Good Citizen test, the CGCA or Community Canine, which includes testing the dog in real world locations and social situations. The dog will learn how to appropriately navigate crowded areas, maintain a solid stay, and build a quick recall.  Upon passing their community canine test the dog receives their service dog in training vest. 

Service Dog Four

Service Dog 4 involves working on more tasks to assist the handler and continued working in public. During this portion the dog will be tested in such public locations as restaurants, the mall, grocery stores, and any other location that the handler will regularly visit.

To complete this level, the dog must pass it’s full public access test showing the team can work together in a stressful public environment while remaining safe and in control. The handler must also pass a verbal quiz proving knowledge of service dog handling law and what to do in stressful situations involving the public. Upon passing this level the handler will receive the dogs official “service dog” patches for it’s vest as well as a certificate of completion and ADA information cards to provide education if there are any issues.