How To Choose The Right Service Dog Training Program For Your Needs

If you’re considering getting a service dog, you might have lots of questions about how to find the right training program. Some organizations are more selective than others, meaning they have fewer dogs in training at any given time. 

This can make it harder to get an exact idea of what your dog might be like when it graduates from training school but it also means that these programs tend to produce higher-quality service dogs. 

In other cases, there may be so many dogs in training that it’s difficult to tell which ones will turn out well as working companions because there aren’t enough trainers or volunteers overseeing them all at once!

First Ten Steps When Training A Service Dog! – YouTube
Key Takeaways
Choosing the right service dog training program is crucial
Consider your specific needs and lifestyle before deciding
Service dog training involves a combination of obedience and task-specific training
Not all dogs have the temperament or physical ability to become service dogs
Service dogs offer a wide range of benefits to both their owner and furry companion

Researching Your Options

Before you can decide on a service dog training program, you need to do some research. Start by finding out what the different organizations do and how they go about doing it.

Look at their websites, brochures and marketing materials, results and accomplishments, training methods and philosophies. Find out about the trainers’ credentials too.

This way you will be able to find out what kind of training programs are available for your needs before contacting any organization or talking with any trainer.

Service dog training can be time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. At Unified Paws, we have compiled expert tips and tricks to help you train your service dog in record time.

Know Your Needs

You’ll have to do some research. You should take the time to learn about service dog training programs and their requirements, what they offer, and how they can help you achieve your goals.

You need to know:

  • What are your needs? Why do you want a dog? Are there laws or regulations that apply to your situation?
  • What are your goals? How can a trained service dog help you meet these goals?
  • What are your expectations of the program and its staff members? Will they be able to meet those expectations based on their experience level, reputation within the industry, location (some states might have more stringent laws than others), etc.?

Look for Specialization

When looking for a service dog training program, you should look for specialization. You want to find a program that has experience and expertise in the area where you need help.

For instance, if your goal is to teach your dog how to pick up items such as keys or dropped coins from the floor, then it would be best to choose a specialist in this area.

When choosing a service dog training program, make sure that it is well-known and reputable. Also make sure that they have been around for quite some time and have an excellent track record of success stories among their graduates. 

Lastly, when choosing which course provider fits all of these requirements best, also factor in cost considerations into the equation because they can vary considerably depending on which school or organization offers them

SpecializationTraining Facility
Mobility assistanceGuide Dogs of America
Hearing assistanceCanine Companions for Independence
Autism service dogsPawsitivity Service Dogs
Diabetes alert dogsDiabetic Alert Dogs of America
PTSD service dogsK9s for Warriors

Find Out About the Trainers

Once you have a good understanding of what the service dog training process involves, it’s time to find a school that will be right for your needs. 

As with any other type of education, it’s important to do your research and find out as much as possible about the program and its trainers.

Ask yourself: Does this trainer have any experience working with my breed?

Does this trainer understand my specific needs? For example, if I have multiple dogs in my home (such as one who’s aggressive toward strangers), is there room for all of them at this training school? Are they flexible enough to accommodate those needs by allowing me to bring along additional staff members or volunteers who can help take care of them while I’m gone?

Choosing the right service dog training program is crucial for both you and your furry friend. At Unified Paws, we have put together a comprehensive guide on how to choose the right service dog training program to meet your specific needs.

Look at Different Training Styles

As with the amount of training required, you’ll want to consider the type of training style. There are two main types: traditional and positive reinforcement. The traditional method involves corrections, such as leash pops, that can be painful for your dog. 

The goal is for them to understand what behavior is not acceptable and how they can modify their behavior to avoid being corrected again in the future by improving on their obedience skills (e.g., sit). In contrast, positive reinforcement encourages your pet to do something right by offering praise or treats after doing so (and ignoring mistakes). 

While both approaches have been shown effective in improving obedience levels among dogs, it’s important to note that some breeds respond better with one over another—for instance retrievers may need more guidance while herding dogs may fare better with positive reinforcement methods due to their independent nature

Whether you’re a first-time owner or an experienced dog owner, the benefits of professional service dog training are undeniable. Learn more about the advantages and costs of professional training in our article, The Benefits of Professional Service Dog Training — Is it Worth It?

Decide on a Price Range

When deciding on a price range, you should consider the location, type of service dog and number of hours needed to train your dog. 

The cost will differ depending on what kind of location you choose (cities are more expensive than small towns), what kind of training you need for your dog (obedience training is cheaper than off-leash training), and how long it takes to train your service dog.

If there are multiple dogs being trained at once by one instructor, costs may also vary depending on whether or not the instructor has worked with multiple dogs before.

Service Dog Training Budget

Price RangeService Dog Training Programs
Under $1,000DIY training programs, such as online courses, books, and videos
$1,000 – $3,000Group training classes at pet stores like Petco and PetSmart
$3,000 – $5,000Private training sessions with certified trainers, like those from the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP)
$5,000 – $10,000Service dog training programs offered by organizations like Paws With A Cause or Canine Companions for Independence
Over $10,000Individualized service dog training programs, such as those offered by programs like Guiding Eyes for the Blind or The Seeing Eye

The table above offers a range of service dog training programs based on their price points. Depending on your budget, you can opt for a DIY program, group training classes at Petco and PetSmart, or private training sessions with certified trainers. If you are willing to pay over $5,000, you can opt for service dog training programs offered by organizations such as Paws With A Cause or Canine Companions for Independence.

If you are willing to spend significantly more money, you may be able to get an individualized training program from programs such as Guiding Eyes for the Blind or The Seeing Eye. Knowing the range of programs available at different price points can help you make decisions on the best course of action for you and your service dog.

Check Out Reviews

There are a lot of ways to find out about the quality of a service dog training program. One way is by reading reviews from other people who have gone through the program. 

You can do this by looking for reviews online and on social media, or you could ask people who have used the program in person for their opinion.

If you have access to the internet, there are many websites that allow users to leave reviews about businesses and organizations including Google, Yelp and Facebook. 

You can also look for information about service dog training programs on message boards and forums where people often post their experiences with different organizations as well as share advice with one another regarding these types of companies.

If you have questions about service dog training, you’re not alone. At Unified Paws, we’ve compiled a list of the most common questions about service dog training and their answers to help you along your journey.

Watch Some Dogs in Action

One of the best ways to learn about service dogs is by watching them in action. There are several ways you can do this. Most training programs have a website that shows their dogs and handlers doing their work, so check out those sites. 

Some larger organizations like Canine Companions for Independence or Guide Dogs for the Blind also have videos on YouTube showing some of their students working with clients in real-world situations. 

To get an even better idea of what to look for when evaluating a dog’s performance, take a class where you’re able to observe dogs working with handlers and other people who don’t need assistance from them (such as being petted). As you watch how these animals interact with others, keep an eye on three things:

  • The dog’s body language
  • The handler’s body language
  • How well the two mesh together
Observations to ConsiderDog Trainer to Observe
Basic commands and obedience trainingWatch the dogs who have completed obedience training provided by PetSmart or similar stores
Complex task trainingObserve service dogs in action to witness the complex tasks they can perform
Interaction with their ownerObserve the interaction between a service dog and their handler
General behavior in publicWatch dogs trained by organizations such as Canine Companions for Independence to observe their general behavior in public
Assistance with disabling conditionsObserve dogs trained to assist individuals with specific disabling conditions, such as guide dogs for the visually impaired

Find Out About Support After Graduation Day

A good service dog training program will offer support after graduation day. This is a sign of a good trainer, who cares about the well-being of their graduates and doesn’t want them to feel like they’re on their own once they complete the program.

You can ask about this during the interview process with any service dog training program, or when you are talking to them directly. You should also ask other people that have gone through that specific program if they received support after graduation day.

Meet the Trainer In Person

You should meet the trainer in person before you sign up for a program. The trainer’s personality, style and approach will impact your dog’s training. You need to be able to ask questions and get answers that are tailored to your needs.

You can also get a feel for the trainer’s personality, style and approach — this will help you decide if they are going to be a good fit for both you and your dog.

Service dogs do more than provide assistance; they also offer a variety of benefits to both you and your furry companion. Check out our article, 15 Surprising Benefits of Service Dog Training for Both You and Your Dog, to learn more about the advantages of service dog training.

Talk to the Trainer about your Needs and Goals

As you’re searching for a service dog training program, one of the first things to do is talk with the trainer. This is a great way to get an idea of how they will work with you and your dog. You can ask them questions like:

  • What are my goals?
  • How long has this program been running? Has it been successful so far?
  • What kind of experience do you have working with people with disabilities or PTSD? Do any clients currently have dogs trained in this program (and if so, how long did it take them)?
  • Do I need any special equipment or items such as harnesses or leashes that will be provided by the school/classroom? (Make sure they are not charging extra!)

The answers should help you make an informed decision about enrolling in that particular course so don’t hesitate!

Considerations to Discuss with TrainerSuggestions
Your needs and goalsDiscuss with the trainer your specific needs and goals for your dog’s training program
Your dog’s breed, age, and temperamentTrainer will customize a program based on your dog’s breed, age, and temperament
Your dog’s prior training and behavioral historyTrainer will assess your dog’s prior training and behavioral history to develop a program tailored to their needs
Your timeline for trainingDiscuss your timeline with the trainer to ensure the program meets your needs and fits within your schedule
Your budgetTrainer can recommend programs that fit within your budget constraints

The above table provides a breakdown of important considerations to discuss with your service dog trainer before starting your training program. By providing the trainer with information on your needs and goals, as well as your dog’s breed, age, and temperament, the trainer can customize the program to meet your specific needs.

Additionally, being upfront about your timeline and budget will ensure that the trainer can develop a program that is feasible and meets your financial constraints.


Hopefully, this article has helped you find the right service dog training program for your needs. We know it can be tough to make decisions and there are a lot of options out there, but don’t worry we have resources for you!

If you want more information about specific training programs or want some tips on how to choose one that fits your lifestyle best, check out our blog. 

And if all else fails? Contact us! We’d love to help guide you through this process and make sure your furry friend is with you every step of the way.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to help you learn more about service dog training and choosing the right service dog:

Service Dog Training 101: Everything You Need to Know: This article from the American Kennel Club provides an overview of service dog training and tips for successful training.

How to Choose a Service Dog Prospect: This comprehensive guide offers advice on finding and selecting a service dog prospect that is right for you.


What are some common tasks that service dogs are trained to perform?

Service dogs can be trained to perform a wide range of tasks depending on their owner’s specific needs. Some common tasks include guiding the visually impaired, alerting their owner to sounds such as doorbells or alarms, retrieving dropped items, opening doors, and providing balance and mobility support.

Can any dog be trained as a service dog?

While any breed or mix of breeds can potentially be trained as a service dog, not all dogs have the temperament or physical ability to perform the required tasks. Service dogs must have a calm and obedient temperament, good health, and the ability to learn and execute complex commands.

How are service dogs trained?

Service dog training typically involves a combination of obedience training and task-specific training. The process can take up to two years and involves training the dog to perform tasks that are directly related to their owner’s disability or condition.

What is the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal?

Service dogs are individually trained to perform specific tasks that directly help their owner manage their disability or condition. Emotional support animals provide comfort and support to their owner but are not trained to perform specific tasks.

How do I know if a service dog is right for me?

Deciding whether a service dog is right for you can be a complex and personal decision. It is important to consider your specific needs and lifestyle, as well as the financial and time commitments involved in training and caring for a service dog. Consulting with a healthcare provider or organization that specializes in service dog training can also be helpful in making this decision.