A certified dog trainer just emailed us and asked how she could become a certified Service Dog trainer. We sent her a short response and thought it would make an interesting blog post.
Service Dog Trainer Schools
There are a few dozen schools around the country that train Service Dog trainers. Most are small and began with experienced dog trainers (some began with training Military Working Dogs, Police Dogs or other working dogs) who moved into training Service Dogs for disabled individuals and then decided to help train trainers too. One of the best places to learn how to become a Service Dog trainer in the country (and possibly the world) is Bergin University. If you’re really looking for the finest Service Dog training education possible, Bergin is the hands-down go-to school. Two more great resources are the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).
There is no state or federally recognized certification for any type of dog trainer or Service Dog trainer. Many service dog schools and trainers offer apprenticeships so they can train new trainers. Those training programs may “certify” that they have passed their training course once they graduate.
The Service Dog community has come up with minimum training standards for Service Dogs that we and most other professional trainers follow. Our standards are some of the strictest
Are there standards for training Service Dogs?
The Service Dog community has come up with minimum training standards for Service Dogs that we and most other trainers follow. Assistance Dogs International is
an internationally-recognized private organization and the small handful of organizations who have earned their prestigious accreditation are the gold standard of Service Dog training. Unfortunately, those programs aren’t capable of supplying Service Dogs for every disabled individual. Without other private organizations and trainers many disabled individuals would be denied Service Dogs.About Service Dogs and the ADA
The ADA is written to allow disabled individuals to use their Service Dogs in public with as few barriers as possible. If access were not as open, every building, restaurant and dry cleaner in the country could stop disabled individuals with their Service Dogs and demand proof of training. The ADA specifically states that if someone says their dog is a Service Dog they are to be taken at their word, regardless if it has been certified by a state or other authority. See below:
The ADA states in section § 35.136 Service animals part (f) “A public entity shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.”
You can view the full ADA law here: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/titleII_2010/titleII_2010_withbold.htm
The ADA is also designed so that disabled individuals may train their own Service Dogs. Program-trained Service Dogs can be very expensive and out of many disabled individual’s budget. Some Service Dogs may cost upwards of $10,000. The U.S. Department of Justice recently held open voting to revise the ADA and the updated version was just released last year. It eliminated animals other than dogs and miniature horses and officially included Psychiatric Service Dogs which can help with severe depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
About the Registry
Registering with us voluntary and is not required by law, nor do we provide any legal protection. Please note that we do not certify or authorize anyone to use a Service Animal. The privilege to use a Service or Assistance Animal is granted, under the law, by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and local governments.
Our focus is to help encourage education, training and exemplary behavior. Since the ADA was written in 1990, some disabled and non-disabled individuals have chosen to either knowingly or unknowingly claim their insufficiently-trained pet is a Service Animal, either by just saying it is, since no documentation is required, and/or by purchasing patches, vests, ID tags or other equipment at local pet stores or online.
Because the federal law states that there is no paperwork required, we were designed with input from the Service Dog community as an attempt to help reduce the number of people abusing the ADA by requiring our Registrants to understand that misrepresenting an animal as Service or Assistance Animal for any reason is not only unethical, it is also illegal. All of our Registrants are required to read and accept the following:
– What is involved with training and using a Service or Assistance Animal
– How important their behavior, and that of their Service or Assistance Dog, is to the general public and other Service and Assistance Animal teams
– The definition of a Service or Assistance Animal
– The Minimum Training Standards for a Service or Assistance Animal
– What is involved with a Public Access Test
– Our Terms and Conditions
Missy May 12, 2011
Thanks for this. I've heard of the Animal Behavior College before but I don't know anyone who's gone there.
Leslie March 24, 2015
I attended Animal Behavior College and found the dog training program to be very thorough. The program has two parts: the class work, and the “externship”. The classroom portion (all online) can take as little or as much time as you want, although they like you to complete a chapter every two weeks. The externship is where you put your book knowledge into practice. You are paired with an established dog training facility, and attend 3 full courses. The first set is observed, the second set you take a dog through the program, and the third you actually help train. By the end of the externship you know what you are doing.
Now it should be stated that the initial ABC trainer course only covers Basic Obedience. They offer continuing education courses for more advanced training.
Carl Lewis October 8, 2017
This seems like a commercial for ABC .IT’s the least through school that spends most of its time selling classes and marketing products.Yes, I went there, I was offered a job there, I know of at least 2 externships run by people that don’t use most of the techniques or limited scope they use at ABC. It’s an ad and I wish they taught and used more information from other sources and tested in person. The best thing about the school was learning how much trainers need to learn after going through a high priced correspondence school. I love trying humans to train their dogs but I love science and nondagmatic science-based training from real trainers and not sales staff. The reputation of this school has suffered greatly over the years and i’m never supporting a company that misrepresents such an extensive and important connection to canines and humans. SERVICE DOGS are very specific and valuable asset and family member to people with specific needs. The training is either bulletproof and through or its made up and unethical to pass off as a federally protected member of the community.
Michele Schneck June 9, 2016
Look on YouTube or for books on the subject of training. You can even look up videos on teaching specific actions.
I do recommend a good dog behavior book to start though.
Pet Boarding May 16, 2011
Very innovative! thanks for sharing the tips which will prove to be very helpful in future as well! Check Out : Doggie Daycare
Elizabeth A. Bliss September 12, 2011
I wish the public in Phoenix would be more respectful of service dogs. I have been harrassed for the past 10 years with my service dog. And the Phoenix Police asked for paperwork, Fry’s Food Stores (Kroger) asked for paperwork, the Public Library asked for paperwork, Circle K asked for paperwork.
I have had to call district managers, corporate district managers, mall owners in Chicago, the Phoenix mayor’s office. So, I have become extremely knowledgeable in the laws.
I was recently told by a Regional District Manager of Greyhound that the paperwork is required to carry with the disabled person at all times and that the driver can ask what the disability is?
I read in the ADA that no person can ask what the disability is? Greyhound said that the ADA law changed recently and that a company can ask the disability? Is this correct?
Service Dog September 12, 2011
It is illegal to ask about anyone’s disability, and paperwork for Service Dogs is absolutely not required. The ADA clarifies this issue quite simply:
Source: Part 35 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services (as amended by the final rule published on September 15, 2010)
Authority: 5 U.S.C. 301; 28 U.S.C. 509, 510; 42 U.S.C. 12134. Subpart A—General § 35.104 Definitions
View the full ADA legislation here >
Since federal law supersedes local law, the above ruling is the final word.
Kea Grace March 14, 2016
That is not correct. You are never required to disclose your disability.
Cindy Morgan November 16, 2013
Hi, I am a Bergin University of Canine Studies Graduate ant the article is correct in stating that Bergin is the place to go. The founder of Bergin founded the very concept of the service dog. We only use positive training, and learn how the dog learns, as well as how a dog can help many disabilities, but the most important thing we learn is how to train a dog to be in public and become an unobtrusive help mate. I am now the CEO and head trainer of my own assistance dog organization.
John May 7, 2014
I am seriously considering changing careers. I have always had an interest in training service dogs. I have started researching schools for dog training. My ultimate goal is to work with service dogs that can aid children with disabilities. I would also like to have my own dog training/ boarding business. Since live in Ohio, Bergin is not a realistic option. How can I become more involved with the service dog industry in Ohio?
Service Dog May 16, 2014
Hi John, there are a number of schools in Ohio for those who wish to become dog trainers. Do a search for “dog trainer school ohio” and you’ll be able to find one close to you.
Cindy Morgan May 16, 2014
John there is a Service Dog trainer in Ohio that MAY be able to help you, can you go to my web site and send me a comment card for more information. http://www.triplemassistancedogs.com please state your reason for contacting me, thanks.
Jeanete Lemcool June 19, 2015
cindy….do you classes for trainers? I am looking for classes to learn to become a dog trainer. I have an opportunity, where I work, to branch into this. I would very much like to do this, but I don’t know where to go to get the training. I live in Northern Michigan.
Cindy Morgan June 25, 2015
Jeanete can you pm me on Facebook…..triple m assistance dogs
alexia May 21, 2017
Hi Cindy! Do you know of an institute, college or university, such as Bergin, but in Canada? I’m loocking for a degree as a service dog trainer.
Hope you can help me.
cindy morgan May 16, 2014
There are a lot of “PET” dog trainers and pet dog training schools that “Claim” that they can teach one how to train a Service Dog and some even go as far as stating that they can train you to be a service dog trainer. From my experience as a self taught service dog user to a professional assistance dog trainer and educator, this is a buyer beware market. Most Pet dog trainers no nothing about training a Service/Assistance Dog. Service dogs skills can be taught easy enough but most pet dog trainers do not know how to pair an assistance/service dog with a disabled candidate and only spend a short time with public access training which in my opinion these are the most important part of the training process. If a dog does not have the right personality for the client, nor what it takes to work long hours in public without bringing attention to its self, or stressing its self out, it has no business being a service dog and all the “skills training” in the world will be moot. Also Pet dog trainers don’t always know how to teach a disabled individual how to train their own dog. Most think that training should be left up to the “able-bodied” individual. That is so far from true that it makes me mad to even think about it. Who better to train a dog to assist someone than the one that needs assistance. Granted just like everything else in the world of the disabled there must be modifications so that a disabled individual CAN train their own dog. There is also the thought that one may not have the time to learn the how too’s of training an assistance/service dog and that is where a professional Assistance/Service Dog trainer comes in unfortunately there are only a hand full of training organizations in America that will train the “owner/self trained assistance/service dog. However that is a different topic and I must return to the one at hand, “How does someone become a Service Dog trainer?” out side of attending an official “assistance/service dog” school or college (as the article stated there are only a hand full, more like one maybe two) one can intern with an agreeable organization, or learn everything they can through a pet dog training school and take some college courses on disabilities in order to understand how best to serve the individual. One last thing to think on and probably the most important is that Assistance/Service dog work is NOT about the dog it is about the client, the one with the disability which the dog is being trained to assist.
What does a dog need to know to help someone that cannot hear? What does a dog need to know to assist someone with Parkinson’s? What does a dog need to know to assist someone with autism? What does a dog need to know to assist someone with?????and the list goes on and on. Do your homework learn about disabilities and how a dog can assist. Remember its NOT about the dog!
Wendy February 2, 2016
Hi Cindy and other service animal proponents, trainers and partners,
I live in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, home of the University of Guelph Vet College. The irony is, there are NO trainers or training courses, that are WILLING or ABLE, to even test the suitability and or ability of a service partner for people with disabilities, unless they have been bred and trained wholly by them. We have the Lions club nearby, whom are the only organization I know of here that train diabetic alert dogs AND multiple disabilities assistance animals. Although I qualify, have spent hundreds of hours, not to mention dollars, to train my own dog, they refuse to assist.
For people receiving disability benefits, this means, that the service dog allowance benefit cannot be claimed/ received
This places yet another barrier to those of us who need our Canine partners to stay safe. I am wondering if A) anyone is aware of an organization that can “certify” privately trained dogs or B) what can I do to put such a person/ organization in place to alleviate this barrier and more importantly, ensuring that the service animal is adequately trained and behaved.
Julie Short March 25, 2017
I have a business (Canines of Mind Caledon, Ont.)I am wanting to start an organization that would assist people with disabilities either train their own dogs or obtain a rescue or shelter dog to train. I am in early stages of finding out how exactly to put this into place, any information you have in regards to this would be helpful!
Thanks so much!
alexia May 21, 2017
Hi Wendy! Do you know of an institute, college or university, such as Bergin, but in Canada? I’m loocking for a degree as a service dog trainer.
Hope you can help me.
Eric BEASLEY March 31, 2016
wow, what is so hard about dog training? one can go to a school to learn to box, but that doesn’t mean they will be a good boxer. one can go to dog training school to learn to train dogs, but the school can’t train everyone to be a good dog trainer. It’s all about behavior modification or shaping, it is hard to learn to read an animal if you don’t already have the ability. I hear what you are trying to say, but just because it is a school it doesn’t mean much, who taught the owners of the school to train? I have been training for over 35 years and I am and will always be learning. 🙂
Carlos Leapheart February 11, 2015
Hello all! I’m interested in training service dogs as well but don’t want to make the mistake of doing it the wrong way. john mentioned he needs to find schools in ohio, well I have to find one in Michigan. at present I train obedience and attack dogs but will appreciate any information leading me in the right direction.
Anything Pawsable Staff February 12, 2015
Hi Carlos, please see our article titled How does someone become a Service Dog trainer?
ADL June 12, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott just signed the service animal bill into law – this law will make it a criminal offense to harass a service dog owner or falsely claim that a pet is a service dog.
Andrea Burger July 21, 2015
I am currently getting my Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology but, want to incorporate service dogs into my practice. I don’t really want to get a specialized degree in service dogs but, want to be able to train and understand the dogs. Any suggestions….
Anything Pawsable Staff July 28, 2015
That’s wonderful! Your best options are Bergin University, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).
Richard Stone December 16, 2016
Your needs don’t require a Service Dog, it sounds more like a Therapy Dog would be more than sufficient in your case
Bob November 11, 2015
I live in central florida and have grown up helping out training at Kurt’s k-9, I’m currently disabled and training my own dog. She is working perfect with me, I have vest and ID badge is this legal?
Canines In Balance January 2, 2016
Great information! I am pet dog trainer and I am interested in becoming a service dog trainer. Thanks
Leeann January 22, 2016
Amazing information but I can’t help but wonder to become an actual Service Dog trainer do you need to take courses online or in a public setting? Not many places In SC offer training for a Service Dog trainer.
Cinda Harbour May 24, 2016
I have grandmul seizures and some that are partial seizres. I am in the process of having my dog going through behavioral classes and she has taught herself how to deal with the partial seizures. My problem is I have people locally telling me she cannot be trained for the grand multiple seizures. My dog has leaned, on her own to turn on living light if dark outside and I need help. She knows that I take medications at certain times of the days and makes sure I take them. She knows where I keep them and sits in front of me until I have taken them all. I recently had a minor stroke and she was able to tell my case worker, by barking, that I needed medical attention. She knows that police and medic uniforms are trusted persons to help her mommy. She will sit back on wait for one to put her leash on her, wait for them to take me out on stretcher, remover her leash and close and lock the door. She has never attempted to hurt any of them. My family takes care of her until I get home. No one can believe she can do that. I would like further training for her to get certification to take her to stores, wear a metal bar on her collar so she can feel the seizure coming on and be able to get me to the floor safely until medics arrive and for everyone to know she is a certified Medical Work animal.
She is half Border Colie and half Australian Shephard, which most people should know are excellent work animals. How do I get help with the remaining training she needs to get the creditails she most definitely deserves. I am told the rest of the training is 5000.00. I am on disability and cannot afford that and Medicaid does not help with. Please help.
ADL May 26, 2016
Cinda, where are you located? There’s an organization in FL, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, that charges a LOT less to train your pet as a service dog. That said, the law does not require you to do that and it sounds like your dog is already trained. If you can answer the 2 allowable questions (1-Is your dog a service dog; 2- what tasks is it trained to do for you?), and your dog is well behaved in public, you’re good to go.
Wendy todd May 27, 2016
I currently have two service dogs myself but I would like to work with other people who train different types of service dogs how do I go about it
Michele Schneck June 9, 2016
I am a service dog trainer. I have done extensive searches, but have never found a certification for this. One of the problems is that there are many types of service dogs and each type has different training needs.
I train dogs for people with PTSD and/or Anxiety, which requires the dog to be aware of their surroundings. But also able to sense if their handlers about to have an episode.
It requires different training to wake someone up from night terrors than a dog that helps the blind.
Just a few examples.
Anyone with the patients and a dog with the right temperament can train a service dog.
Elizabeth Craig August 23, 2016
I really appreciate all this great information. I currently work in a industry that deals with unappreciative entitled humans and I don’t feel like I have a purpose. This is something I am very interested in, like others above, I am starting my search here. I have googled (as recommended) but I am getting websites claiming certificates anywhere from 1 week to a 4 year degree. Any help with reputable organizations/schooling that I can connect with in the suburbs north of Atlanta?
Samantha December 27, 2016
My 16 year daughter is interested in training and working with service dogs for the disabled. We looked into Bergin – it appears that you would need to go to another college first for the other courses and transfer there latter. We live in northern VA and was wondering if you know of other reputable schools or programs.
Kay McCurry January 2, 2017
I am interested in helping people who have emotional/mental disorders such as PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression, achieve a more balanced lifestyle by helping them obtain a properly trained Service Dog. Most of these dogs are so expensive that the people who would benefit from owning one cannot afford one. I have 4 years of experience training “bad dogs” (dog owners), but my real interest is in training Services Dog’s that are affordable for the mentally disabled. I’m willing to volunteer my time to make this a possibility. Is there anyway I can make my dream a reality?
P.S. I am a mother of an adult daughter with uncontrolled epilepsy and I have been diagnosed with PTSD since the onset of her condition.
Starfelia January 27, 2017
Most dog trainers love dogs and training dogs. This is only the beginning. If you have ever trained a novice class of individuals who have never trained a dog before you know that training dogs is the easy part. Training people to train their dog or maintain their dogs training is the hard part. Now add to this that you have to train a person who is not as able to move with, motivate, correct, and in some cases understand your instructions right away. I really appreciated this informations!
Angela Taylor February 11, 2017
I am from a region where service dogs are a in high demand. I have worked with animals my entire life and have acquired my grooming certificate through ABC College and continue my practice and volunteering through shelters and giving my time to the elderly and veterans who cannot afford grooming prices just to help the people and animals who well deserve it but cannot necessarily afford it. It comes to my attention every day that more and more citizens of this community could utilize and greatly benefit from an honest company that provides what they desperately need and I would love to help each and every one of them without charging them for something they so greatly deserve. We owe them for our freedom and paving our way to this world we know know and take advantage of what we have and wouldn’t have if not for those before us.
Michelle Rocheleau February 23, 2017
Like to learn more
Alex March 6, 2017
Any recommendations of where to take Dog Trainer classes in NYC? I’ve found some schools through searching online, but I’m not sure if any are legit. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
Pat Hairston March 7, 2017
Coming in July 2017 is a new trainer program offered by Canines for Service. With over 20 years in the service dog industry, including running a military prisoner service dog trainers program, the curriculum will be comprehensive and hands-on. An 18 month program it is designed to take a student from the basics of service dog training to working with clients and training other trainers. This provides a hands on trainers experience working with service dogs in training in a program requiring less time than a 4-yr degree and more time than a one to three week course. For more information visit http://www.caninesforservice.org.
Annika Larson March 14, 2017
I have always loved dogs and I find it absolutely amazing that they can be trained to help others. The most interesting to me is how a dog can detect seizures before they even happen. My dream is to one day be able to help in training dogs to do this. That’s super interesting that there are minimum training standards for training dogs. I would like to learn more about those. Thanks for sharing!
dog crossing March 22, 2017
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Colleen Darrell May 3, 2017
I have been investigating service dogs for several months now; in and around Alaska. I have been through a multitude of training companies and most of them either get an attitude when you ask questions or are illegitimate or are portraying themselves as service animal trainers. Most if not all of the “trainers” in Alaska have no clue as to the differences between a service dog and a therapy/emotional support dog. I am not so impressed with what I have inquired about with Bergin either. First of all they ONLY use dogs which have been bred by them. They then ship them to their 4 locations around the country for training and are then POSSIBLY paired with a client. This can be a 2-3 year process. There is no guarantee that a dog will make it successfully through the program to be paired either, so this severely cuts down on the availability of a dog as a service dog. I realize that many clients out there need a service dog which is trained to the highest standards, BUT there are thousands of dogs out there which might be successful with being trained to a lesser level and still be successful to help a client. I do not believe that the Golden Retriever, Lab Retriever or Poodle are the only breeds which can be trained for this. I have contacted Bergin on several occasions, but keep getting stone-walled utilizing other breeds to help with the need and about offering a course to do self-training. Their certificate program is $5000, although the other expenses are out of reach for me being in Alaska. Their point is that they verify the lineage and temperament since they raise them, but can’t this also be done when you obtain a pup from a reputable breeder? My point is that there is no guarantee with any dog including their pups, but I think that utilizing a medium temperament pup of most breeds can help supply the extreme need for service dogs to help conditions such as psychiatric issues such as PTSD and other conditions where a service dog would certainly contribute successfully to the client and be adequately trained. I also think that this would assist in the overpopulation of dogs and utilize them as a positive source of service for many persons in dire need; especially to veterans who have been pushed to the wayside. BTW, when I went through Voc Rehab, the VA would not permit be to attend the Bergin seminar, since they required documented industry need and statistics. Go figure that the VA would not recognize the needs of hundreds of veterans and refused to approve my training request!
Rita Dieckmann June 14, 2017
Are there disability… such as for epilepsy training schools for the dog and its owner here in Georgia, maybe around the villa rica area?
Susan October 5, 2017
Any ideas on how to become a service dog trainer in North Dakota?
Dog Coach October 17, 2017
Very good post. I am thinking to be dog trainer but the problem is…I am not sure weather it too difficult or ease job. Ia it happened something like barking ?
Brenda Thompson March 26, 2023
As a professional service dog trainer, I have dedicated a significant amount of time researching and studying the best methods for training service dogs. However, despite my extensive research, I have yet to find a certification program specific to service dog training. One of the reasons for this is that there are various types of service dogs, and each type requires different training approaches and techniques.
For instance, as a trainer for individuals suffering from PTSD and anxiety, I need to ensure that the dog is alert to their surroundings, and can sense when their handler is about to experience an episode. This is quite different from the training required for a dog that assists the blind. Service dog training is highly specialized, and requires expertise in understanding the unique needs of each individual and their dog.
It takes a tremendous amount of patience, dedication, and knowledge to train a service dog that can effectively assist individuals with different disabilities. For example, training a dog to wake up their handler from night terrors requires a different approach than training a dog to assist the deaf.