How to Find a Reputable Service Dog Training Program

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
We’ve seen a growing crop of scammy organizations that offer “Service Dog Certification.” If you have legitimate need for a service dog, do it the right way.

A service dog is a canine that has been trained to offer some kind of assistance. Service dogs can be useful for people with physical disabilities, hearing impairments, seizure disorders, mental illness, and a wide variety of other conditions. Unfortunately, there are dog owners who want to have their dog certified in order to bring their pooch into a restaurant… and there are plenty of shady organization that are happy to help them (for a fee, of course). It’s these people who are ruining a vital service for the ones who need it most.

If you are thinking about getting a service dog for yourself or a loved one, be sure to take the time to select a reputable service dog training program or organization.

Related: Why Isn’t Service Dog Fraud Against The Law?

Tips for Finding a Service Dog

When it comes to finding a service dog or a reputable certification program, the choice can be difficult; there are so many different training programs out there. Unfortunately, there are also many fraudulent programs out there so you need to be careful about making your choice. These tips will get you started down the right path:

  1. Ask around for referrals from any friends or family members who have a service dog. You might also be able to get information from a local shelter or veterinarian.
  2. Perform an online search and check the yellow pages for training programs in your area and then compile a list of options.
  3. Check the website for each program and look for important details like registry with the Pet Partners, Assistance Dogs International, or other organizations. Make sure the website includes contact information as well as details about the organization, the training program, and the dogs or trainers themselves.

Related: Top 10 Therapy Dog Breeds

  1. Visit the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website and check for complaints against the programs on your list.
  2. Contact the rest of the programs on your list and ask what they need in order to pair you with a service dog or a trainer. Reputable organizations will have your doctor fill out forms regarding your mental or physical needs and they will ask detailed questions about how your condition affects your day-to-day living.
  3. Ask each program plenty of questions to determine their legitimacy. For dogs, ask where they get the dogs for their program, how they train the dogs, and how they pair the dogs with the right people. In regards to a trainer, get previous references, experience background and qualifications.
  4. Remove from your list any programs that seem reluctant to answer your questions or that do not answer your questions fully. You also want to avoid programs that refuse to let you review medical or training records for the dog they pair you with.
  5. Before you make a commitment, make sure that the organization offers support for their clients. You should be able to call or email if you have a problem with the dog or a trainer.
  6. Visit the training facilities for whatever program you choose before you make a commitment and meet the dog or trainer you will be paired with to make sure it is a good match. You should also make sure that the facilities are clean and sanitary and that the dogs are properly cared for.

If you have never worked with a service dog program before, there are certain things that might seem like red flags when they are actually standard procedure. For example, a good service dog training program will have a deep understanding of their dogs and they will not give you much choice regarding which dog you are paired with. If they conduct a thorough examination of your needs they will know which dog is the right choice. It is also standard procedure for dogs in service training programs to be kept in a family environment during training rather than in a kennel. The dogs should be fond of their trainers and appear to be happy and healthy.

The key to making sure that you find a service dog or a service dog trainer from a reputable organization is to take your time and do your research. Learn everything you can about the organization before you make a commitment and be sure to visit the facilities in person to be assured of its legitimacy.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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