Service dog training is becoming more and more popular, likely due to an increased awareness about the incredible assistance these dogs can provide. But with that increased interest has not come increased regulation, and there have been a multitude of incidents that have occurred involving fake or improperly trained service dogs.
So what makes a quality service dog training program? Here are a few tips to help you determine if a service dog training program is right for you.
Dog selection is critically important.
If a program says they can train your dog, sight unseen, as a service animal, that's a major red flag. Service dogs must be selected for sound health and temperament.
With the wrong dog, you're looking at a potentially disruptive animal in public, a dog that can't perform the necessary tasks under pressure or high distractions, or worst of all, the potential for someone to be injured or frightened by your dog.
We have trained dogs of all shapes and sizes for service work, but they all have these things in common: a desire to do the job, and an incredibly stable temperament in all situations.
Ensure you find a trainer that's willing to say "no" to the wrong dog, and is committed to finding the right dog for the job you need.
Not all service dog training methods are created equal.
I encourage you to find a trainer that's married to the science, and not the method. And science is consistently showing us that there is a clear path to effective training, and there is a hierarchy from the least ethical to the most ethical methods. Read more on this here.
We believe firmly that service dogs should be trained without the use of electronic collars or prong collars, and that the safest, most reliable service animals are trained without the use of physical force.
Science-based training molds a dog that is bold and unafraid to problem-solve, think on its feet, and work without fear of a painful consequence.
Standardized Testing Requirements
Lastly, we believe that service dogs should be held to a rigorous standard, and anything not meeting those standards should be deemed unfit to enter the community.
We're talking about dogs that will be around the general public, in potentially stressful situations, all with a job to do on top of it.
Our service animals are required to pass a standardized public access test, and show that they can do the necessary tasks and remain non-disruptive in public.
It's possible that someday there will be a national certification and testing process for all service dogs, but until now, it's up to you as the consumer to ensure that you find a trainer who makes your service dog a positive, safe addition to the community.
For information on Atlanta service dog training and the surrounding areas, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.