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Service Dog Training FAQs & Guide – Where to get a service dog trained

More and more folks are beginning to train their own dog or puppy to begin the service dog training process. How exciting! But also, it can be very daunting. In this guide, we will go through some common questions people have about service dog training . Let’s jump right into it. Check out our other article on the absolute basics for training any dog, before getting into the more complex training tasks.

Or jump to a section:

  1. What is service dog training?
  2. Can I train my own service dog?
  3. Service dog training requirements ADA
  4. What can a service dog be trained for?
  5. Service dog training basics
  6. Is service dog training covered by insurance?
  7. When does service dog training start?
  8. Can you take a service dog in training anywhere?
  9. How to find a service dog trainer
  10. Service dog training at Petco
  11. Service dog training at Petsmart
  12. Service dog training books
  13. Service dog training equipment
  14. Service dog training videos

1. What is service dog training?

service dog training
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Border Collie Service Dog @celestialbordercollies

Service dog training basically refers to when someone is training a dog that is working towards being a fully trained service dog for either themselves or someone who is living with a disability.

The training goes beyond basic obedience and other kinds of basic dog training. Service dogs in training are learning certain “tasks” or work, and these are directly related to the needs of a person’s disability.

In addition, service dogs in training must learn how to properly behave and not get distracted when out in public, around children, around other dogs and all types of people and environments. Service dogs must remain focused on their handler.

One example of a service dog task would be waking someone up from a nightmare. This task could help someone who lives with PTSD. There are a lot of different service dog tasks. It all depends on what the person needs.

Read more: Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks

2. Can I train my own service dog?

In the U.S., you are certainly allowed to train your own service dog. There are no laws saying that you need a professional trainer. In reality, many people will need at least a little bit of help from some kind of trainer.

Training a service dog isn’t easy. It will all depend on what kinds of task or tasks you need, and now easy or difficult it may be to train that particular task. It may depend on your specific disability, and what are you are able to do with your dog to train him or her.

But you basically have a few options for training your service dog.

  • You could train the dog yourself
  • You could train the dog with help from a trainer or trainers
  • Or you may be able to obtain a fully trained service dog from an organization. These programs often have long waiting lists
  • Use a combination of any of these options

Unfortunately, not all dogs would be a good candidate for becoming a service dog. Like people, dogs are individuals, and have individual personalities, characteristics, and genetic makeup.

Therefore, some dogs are a naturally good choice. Firstly, what you can do is start at the beginning, and keep it simple. Secondly, if your dog can begin to learn some basic things, and it’s going well, then he or she can move on to more advanced things.

A service dog candidate should be: 

  • Calm, even when in unfamiliar settings
  • Alert but not reactive
  • Willing to please
  • Able to learn and retain information
  • Capable of being socialized to many different situations and environments
  • Reliable in performing repetitive tasks 

3. Service dog training requirements ADA

This is all the ADA really says about service dog training requirements:

People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

4. What can a service dog be trained for?

Service dogs can be trained for so many different needs, it’s crazy. If you have any kind of disability, it’s possible that a service dog may be beneficial. They can be trained to help people living with:

  • Physical Disabilities
  • Psychiatric Disabilities
  • Sensory Conditions
  • Intellectual Disabilities
  • Developmental Disabilities

Just a few examples of service dog tasks:

  • Alerting a person who is deaf or hard of hearing to certain sounds, such as the person’s name, a smoke alarm, a knock at the door, or another sound
  • Pulling wheelchairs, providing balance, support and stability, opening and closing doors, drawers, cupboards
  • Carrying or retrieving items
  • Calling 911 on a dog-friendly phone
  • Finding an elevator and pressing the button
  • Turn lights on and off
  • Delivering money or a credit card to a cashier
  • DPTDeep Pressure Therapy
  • Interrupting panic attacks or repetitive behaviour
  • Guiding someone home or to a safe place
  • So many more…

5. Service dog training basics

All dogs will need basic obedience and socialization training. Check out the Canine Good Citizen Test for the basic foundation before you begin task-training your dog.

If you have a puppy, you could get help training your puppy from classes, a trainer, or just do it on your own if that is an option to you. Not all dogs are cut out for service dog work. Make sure your dog is a good candidate.

If you haven’t heard about clicker training, maybe do some reading on it. You don’t have to use this method, but a lot of people training their own dogs find it to be a wonderful and efficient method to ensure your dog understands what you’d like.

A clicker is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an inexpensive tool to mark an exact moment in your dog’s training.

Other than that, begin with the very basics:

  • Make sure your dog knows their name
  • Housebreaking – potty training (many people train their dog to potty on command)
  • Work on tether training to have your dog settle into one area and “stay”
  • Teach your dog to sit
  • Work on leash walking

Practice socialization with your dog with the goal of having him or her remain on task. This is important, for example even when in the presence of new and unfamiliar people, places, sights, sounds, scents, and even other animals and small children.  

Teach your dog to focus on you and ignore other distractions.

6. Is service dog training covered by insurance?

Unfortunately, service dog training, and service dogs in general are not covered by any form of insurance that I have found. Service dogs are not cheap, and you may need to get creative when fundraising. Some people have discovered grants, others have had a good experience with GoFundMe.

7. When does service dog training start?

Organizations that train service dogs often indicate that it takes two years from the time the dog is a puppy to a fully trained service dog. If you are owner-training, start as soon as possible, but not until the basic obedience, bonding, socialization, and house training are there.

8. Can you take a service dog in training anywhere?

No, you can’t automatically take a service dog in training just anywhere. Under the U.S. ADA laws, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places. It’s good to note, though, that some State or local laws cover animals that are still in training. So the real answer is, it depends on where you are.

Read more: Service Animal in Training Laws by State

9. How to find a service dog trainer

Finding the perfect service dog trainer may not be easy, but here are a few resources that may be able to help you to find a dog trainer in your area:

10. Service dog training at Petco

Petco doesn’t offer official service dog training per se, but they do offer some training that you may find beneficial if you’re working on some of the basics. And, they do have dog trainers that can work with you online.

They offer:

  • Virtual Training – puppy basics, adult basics, and custom needs
  • Puppy Classes – to deal with puppy things – potty training, chewing, teething, digging, etc.
  • Adult Classes – There are options for various experience levels from learning cues like “leave it” or “wait” to more advanced, complex behaviors

Read more: Dog Training at Petco

11. Service dog training at Petsmart

Petsmart has several dog training programs and classes available. Again, they may not be service dog specific, but working with a dog trainer may be the perfect fit for you somewhere along your service dog training journey.

They offer the following programs and classes, as well as virtual dog training options.

  • StartSmart™ Training Workshop: An introduction to learn more about training in general. This is a one-hour, hands-on experience will give you a head start on potty training, crate training, socialization & tips on visiting the vet or groomer
  • Puppy: Start your puppy off right with foundational skills for good behavior that will last a lifetime
  • Beginner: Learn foundational skills and address problem behaviors for a well-mannered family member
  • Intermediate: Reinforce and build on foundational behaviors while enhancing skills for real-world application
  • Brain Games™: Learn how clever your dog can be! This 6-week course is a fun, yet challenging class for dogs of all ages
  • Advanced: A 6-week course for Intermediate graduates that strengthens your dog’s reliability and teaches complex skills
  • Stress Less™: A 3-week program for dogs with anxious behaviors related to separation anxiety. Recommended for dogs 10 weeks & up
  • Therapy: Provide comfort and joy to people in your community. This 6-week course for Advanced class graduates prepares both the dog and pet parent for Therapy Dog work
  • Trick Training: A 6-week course for dogs who have passed a Puppy or Beginner class
  • Private Training: In a setting with just you, your dog and an Accredited Trainer, they’ll work with you to address your dog’s unique needs
  • Potty Training Seminar: This results-focused one-hour seminar covers effective potty-training tips and techniques for puppies or dogs of any age
  • Boot Camp: A one-on-one session for PetsHotel dogs visiting us at PetsHotel or Doggie Day Camp

Read more: Dog Training at PetSmart

12. Service dog training books

Service dog training books are becoming more popular as more and more people are beginning to train their own dog. Check out these resources:

  1. Service Dog Training Guide: A Step-by-Step Training Program for You and Your Dog
  2. Training Your Own Service Dog AND Training Your Own Psychiatric Service Dog 2021: (2 Books IN 1)
  3. Training Your Own Psychiatric Service Dog: Step-by-Step Guide to an Obedient Psychiatric Service Dog (Audio Book)
  4. The Art of Raising a Puppy (Revised Edition)
  5. Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution: The Complete Guide to Raising the Perfect Pet with Love 
  6. Selecting and Training Your Service Dog: How to Succeed in Public Access Work
  7. Training Your Own Service Dog: The Complete Guide: everything you need to know about your owner trained service dog
  8. Training Your Diabetic Alert Dog

13. Service dog training equipment

Some service dog gear and equipment will be necessary when training your service dog-to-be. Check out these popular items for service dogs in training:

  1. Puppy Service Dog in Training Vest Harness with 2 Reflective Patches
  2. Reflective Service Dog In Training Patches with Hook Backing for Service Animal Vests
  3. Doggie Stylz Service Dog in Training Vest with Hook and Loop Straps and Handle
  4. Short Dog Leash for Large Dogs with Padded Handle
  5. 12 Pieces Service Dog Vest Patches with Adhesive Strap. These help to let people in the general public know that you are training, and to be patient and to try to keep distractions at a minimum
  6. Tactical Dog Harness for Large Dogs, Military Dog Harness with Handle
  7. Dog Training Clicker with Wrist Strap
  8. Paw Lifestyles – Dog Treat Training Pouch – You will need a lot of dog treats while training, especially when using your clicker training technique. Positive reinforcement is a popular dog training method
  9. 2 Pack Dog Doorbells Premium Quality Training Potty
  10. Dog Training Starter Kit – Dogs Clicker, Treat Pouch Bag, Housetraining Door Bells, Ultrasonic Whistle. Puppy Supplies Starter Kit 

Almost all vets agree that positive reinforcement training is the most effective method of dog training. Positive reinforcement training essentially focuses on rewarding your pet for good behavior, rather than punishing bad behavior.

Small Door Veterinary

14. Service dog training videos

Check out these YouTube Channels for free service dog training videos.

  1. Nate Schoemer – First 10 Steps When Training a Service Dog Episode 1
  2. DoggyU – Train Your Dog for Deep Pressure Therapy
  3. DoggyU – Training and Socializing Your Service Puppy
  4. Felicia Mikaela – Psychiatric Service Dog Training AT HOME – PTSD, Anxiety, SelfHarm Alert
  5. AKC – American Kennel Club

The American Kennel Club provides many resources for training your dog, including videos.

Founded in 1884, the AKC is the recognized and trusted expert in breed, health, and training information for dogs. AKC actively advocates for responsible dog ownership and is dedicated to advancing dog sports.

Just do a search on YouTube, there are lots!

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Sam is an experienced writer, advocate for people with disabilities and mental health, dog lover, artist, philosopher, and generally complicated human being.

Service Dog Training Basics, Quick FAQs

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