Service dogs touch all of our hearts with their loyalty and sense of duty. I believe a pride in their work even can be seen as they proudly provide services for their owners.
Quite simply, service dogs play an essential role in helping those with disabilities have independence and live better, and that’s a very big deal.
These remarkable dogs receive specialized training that enables them to perform specific tasks that assist their owners. This post will provide:
- 8 Things to Look for in a Service Dog Trainer
- The Most Important Thing In Choosing a Service Dog Trainer
- When a General Dog Trainer Can Train a Service Dog
Click to Open Table of Contents>>>>>
Types of Service Dog Trainers
Tasks performed by service dogs include guiding the blind, helping those with PTSD, alerting owners to seizures, assisting those with mobility issues, serving seniors, search and rescue, and giving company to autistic individuals, to name just a few services these loyal canines provide.
As you can see, the services provided vary greatly.
You’ll want to look for a qualified service dog trainer who can help with your specific needs. Start with this as your top priority.
With this in mind, be aware that the availability of service dog trainers varies greatly and with good reason. For example, many general dog trainers provide therapy dog training that act as companions. Therefore, there will be many qualified dog trainers since the services these dogs provide are much less specialized.
On the other hand, an organization training dogs with services that assist owners with sight impairment or seizure alerts will have much more demanding training and expertise. These dogs are providing services that keep their owners safe and, in many cases, alive. The training provided must be highly specialized.
Therefore, there will be far fewer dog trainers in such specialty services. Unless you live in a city, be prepared to travel, possibly out of state, to find a service dog trainer in a specialty area.
Questions to Ask Service Dog Trainers
The services dog industry is mostly unregulated. How do you know which trainer to choose?
In this article, we’ll discuss what to look for in a service dog trainer from within your specific area of need to help you find the best trainer for your needs and those of your pooch.
Verify Relevant Certifications
A good service dog trainer should have the right certifications and accreditations for your specific needs. Certifications from an accredited organization, such as the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), show that the trainer has met specific standards of knowledge and skills in service dog training.
The IAABC certification requires over 400 hours of education and 500 hours of animal behavior consulting. Participants must also pass various assessments before receiving the certificate. Knowing that the trainer has undergone further study and has tried to learn more about their industry indicates that they have higher standards than many dog trainers.
IAABC is an international organization with members from over 70 countries, although there are also country specific and service specific certifications.
Read Reviews and Testimonials
Take the time to research the reputation of any service dog trainer you’re considering. Look for reviews from other dog owners.
Keep in mind that dog trainers who have recently set up their own business might have extensive training experience but have little to no reviews.
If possible, ask for references to give you a better idea of the trainer’s approach to training and overall effectiveness within your needed area of service.
Confirm The Trainer Has the Right Experience(s)
An essential element to consider when looking for a service dog trainer is experience. Look for a trainer with experience in training service dogs specifically, not just training pet dogs. Being an experienced trainer means they have the right skills required to train dogs to become service dogs and that they understand the specific tasks service dogs need to perform within your area of needs.
Look into the trainer’s profile in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) if they have one. It will give you a more thorough understanding of the organization’s history and whether there are any complaints about the business or the trainers.
The BBB also gives you a clear look into the training organization’s overall reputation and how much experience they have in the industry. A well-established training company that has already been operating for several years is a good sign.
Cost of Service Dog Training
Consider the cost of training your service dog. Prices for service dog training can differ significantly from pet training and be influenced by factors such as the area of focus and the trainer’s credentials.
A one-on-one training session can cost a minimum of $100/hour. However, rates differ depending on the trainer’s experience, location, and the type of training they provide. One-on-one sessions are more expensive yet practical since your dog gets undivided attention from an experienced professional. On the other hand, group training programs cost considerably less.
Fortunately, many service dog organizations are non-profits, and some have low to no cost programs.
Meet Your Trainer and Visit the Training Facilities
After your initial research, schedule a personal visit with the potential trainers to meet them and check out the training facilities. Visiting will allow you to get a firsthand look at the training environment and ask questions that will help determine if the trainer is a good fit for your needs, such as:
- What’s your specialty in training service dogs to assist with specific disabilities?
- Do you offer continued training support?
- What’s the estimated time frame for training a dog to become a service dog?
- Are you a non-profit organization?
- Can you share your story on how you got involved with service dog training?
- What percentage of your business is dedicated to service dog training vs. other types of dog training?
- What’s the entire training process to take my dog to service dog level?
Learn About the Training Process
A service dog trainer’s approach to training is also crucial since the training can be long and rigorous.
Find out if the trainer uses reward-based techniques or punishment-based techniques.
Also, how long do the training sessions last? One thing I learned in my dog training programs with Blanco is that training tends to tire dogs given the mental fatigue. For dogs that are boarding during the training process, this is especially imporant.
You might enjoy this video to help you better understand the training process so you know what to look for in a service dog trainer. Be forewarned; you’re sure to fall in love with the German Shepherd puppy being trained.
Generally, dogs with calm temperaments tend to make for the best service dogs. If you have a specific breed of dog, ask your trainer if he has experience with that breed.
Service Dog Breeds
You may want to look for a service dog trainer that specializes in your dog’s breed. There tend to be a lot of trainers that specialize in German Shepherd and Labrador training although most trainers work with any breed or mix.
Many service dog organizations also breed dogs to be used as service dogs. Some will only train the dog’s that come from their breeding.
Look Into the Trainer’s Availability
Service dog training can be very time-consuming, so choosing a trainer available to work with you and your dog ongoing if needed is important.
Find out how often the trainer is available for training sessions and whether they can accommodate your schedule. Dog trainers can get very busy running their dog training business, depending on their business structure and size.
Dog Training Structure
Many dog trainers board dogs initially at their own facility to allow for more extensive training. Other trainers perform all the training, then train both the dog and her owner during the transition from the trainer’s kennel to their new home.
Some trainers have only private programs, while others have only group programs.
Many service dog training programs also utilize foster homes for service dogs during their younger years. In this case, the foster dog owner begins the training.
As previously addressed, the specific type of service dog training that’s being done will heavily influence the program structure.
Now you have 8 things to look for in a service dog trainer. By taking the time to research and choose the right trainer, you’ll increase the likelihood your service dog is trained to meet your specific needs and provide you with the support you require.