We can help you get your owner-trained service dog ready. Under our professional guidance, you will be able to successfully tackle this complex task. We guide you through the training process step-by-step. We offer this service locally through weekly, in-person sessions, and worldwide through Zoom. Contact us through the link below or the contact link above when you are ready to take the next step.
Is An Owner-Trained Service Dog Right for You?
Training your own service dog is not as easy as teaching a dog some basic obedience commands. A lot goes into doing this successfully. If you are able to work with your dog every day to make it happen, we are happy to be your coach. First, let’s look at a few key points to consider:
1. Do You Have The Time?
Owner-training your own service dog is time-consuming. Be honest with yourself and consider if you can realistically do this. Successful training consists of active and passive training components. You must be able to devote at least one hour every day for 9-18 months. If you have the time, we are happy to help.
2. Does Your Health Allow It?
Assess together with your partner and/or family if your health allows you to train your own service dog. Owner-trained service dogs are physically demanding work and your disability may prevent you from doing it yourself. There is no shame in being realistic about your own limitations. Owner training is not right for everyone. Again, just be honest with yourself about what you can realistically commit to.
3. Do You Enjoy Learning?
Watching a few YouTube videos or following simplistic dog TV show advice does not accomplish owner-training a service dog. You will have to learn a few things about HOW to train dogs correctly to create reliable behaviors. This involves understanding some actual learning science. We can teach you what you need to know as long as you are up for the task.
4. There Are Legal Requirements
Legally, you can train your own service dog. However, an owner-trained service dog must still be trained to perform at least one task to assist with a diagnosed, ADA-qualifying disability, according to the ADA Regulations for Service Dogs by the DOJ. The dog must be able to perform that task whenever it is needed and not just in your own living room when no one else is around. Reliability matters and that is where many people (and sadly even too many dog trainers) struggle the most.
5. You Need The Right Dog
The service dog industry has a washout rate of over 50%. That means over 50% of dogs that start service dog training fail during the first year or two. That includes dogs specifically bred by service dog breeders. Please understand that the wonderful dog you rescued from a local shelter is likely not cut out for the job. Genetics matter. You will be best served with a purpose-bred dog. There are no guarantees either way but this way your chances of long-term success are highest. With owner-trained service dogs, the washout rate is even higher than mentioned before, so you want to stack the deck in your favor as much as possible. Please read our article What Is The Best Service Dog Breed, for more details on this.
6. Public Access Must Be Solid
Your owner-trained service dog must behave in public. Besides stellar obedience, your owner-trained service dog can’t be sitting in shopping carts, bark at other dogs or people, be fearful, or show any kind of aggression. If your dog comes with baggage like that, service dog work is not in his future. It would be unfair to your dog to force something that is simply not going to happen.
Evaluating Your Owner-Trained Service Dog
To be your service dog training coach we have to be on the same page. If we don’t think your training goals can be achieved by you training your own service dog, we will not take you on as a client. It doesn’t serve either one of us to start something we believe will be unsuccessful. This first and foremost starts with evaluating your dog. This will be done for a one-time fee prior to signing up for a training package. We want to make sure your owner-trained service dog can be successful.
You need The Right Motivation In Your Dog
Assuming we move forward, we will spend a significant amount of time, in the beginning, to help you create the right motivation in your dog. You need motivation for building trust, focus, resilience, and reliability. This is where too many take shortcuts. Once you have the right motivation, everything else is A LOT easier. Without motivation you have nothing.
Public Access For Your Owner-Trained Service Dog
Before we tackle tasking, we will help you get the obedience right. We will help you train the following signals and commands reliably for in-public use. Signals: Okay (release to liberty), Good (keep going), Yes (release), No (don’t do that). Commands: Out (drop it), Off (get off that), Go on (move forward), Place (go over there, lie down and stay there), Come (get over here), Kennel (go into your crate), Down (lie down and stay there), Leave It (don’t touch that), Heel (walk by your side, loose or off-leash), Empty (pee), Sit (sit down and stay there), Load Up (into the car, etc.), Wait (hold on a moment), Exit (leave the area).
Task Training For Your Owner-Trained Service Dog
At some point during the public access obedience, we add the foundations for your specific service tasks. This varies by person. An almost universal foundation command is ‘touch’ as it can be used for a myriad of tasks. For example, alerts, responses, rolling a person over, dialing a dog phone, etc. Once the foundational component is solid, the task itself is added. This process repeats for every task.
This high-level overview gives you an idea of how the owner-trained service dog coaching process is structured. There are other components around living with a service dog, basic husbandry, and long-term planning. As each program is individual and custom, things will vary from person to person.
Our Zoom meetings are usually recorded and shared with you after each session so you can keep them as references.