I am often asked about books or other resources for people who are training their own service dog (SD). There is no single book or resource I know of that tells everything you need to know about training a SD, but there is a wealth of information available on many aspects of SD training, partnership, and handling. New books and websites are appearing all the time, too. Below are some of my favorite SD resources. Use them to support your efforts to train a service dog for yourself or a family member or to decide if a service dog is right for you.
Books, eBooks, DVDs
Training Levels: Steps to Success by Sue Ailsby (two spiral-bounds books or multiple digital formats) is a comprehensive, novice-friendly step-by-step approach to a fantastically well-trained dog. Not specifically designed for service dog (SD) training, a Levels foundation is needed for any highly trained dog, and Sue has used this approach to train her own SDs and performance dogs. Highly recommended for people training SDs, especially if you cannot work with a local trainer. Also great for supplementing the work you do with an in-person trainer.
Teamwork and Teamwork II by Stewart Nordensson and Lydia Kelley (two spiral-bound books) are the classic manuals for physically disabled people to learn to train their own dogs in obedience and service skills. While SD training methods have advanced since these books were written, they can give you an idea of the general process for training your own SD.
Training Your Diabetic Alert Dog by Rita Martinez and Susan M. Barns (paperback, Kindle) is an excellent guide for an owner and a trainer to work together to train a DAD. It provides clear, easy-to-use info on training a dog to alert to high or low blood glucose levels and to generalizing the behavior.
Clicker Train Your Own Assistance Dog by Barbara Handelman (four DVDs) shows training sessions of multiple foundation behaviors for assistance dogs. Neither a complete guide for foundation behaviors, nor for service behaviors, it’s a helpful guide for how to train a variety of useful skills, especially if you’re a visual learner or if you cannot work with an in-person trainer.
Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives by Jane Miller (paperback, Kindle) is a book on psychiatric service dogs. It tells stories of people with mental health disabilities who partner with dogs to improve their functioning and quality of life. Useful mainly to offer inspiration, ideas, and resources to people seeking to train a PSD.
Websites, Organizations, and Online Resources
Service Dog Central is a terrific website. If you’re not sure where to start on your service dog training journey, it’s a good bet that Service Dog Central will have resources you can use. Includes such crucial information on SD laws, how to assess a service dog organization you’re thinking of working with, how to spot fake SD registration companies, training information, etc.
Service Dog Training Institute, owned by Donna Hill in Canada offers online service dog training classes and Skype training sessions. She also has a fantastic lecture series on choosing a service dog candidate on Service Dog Training College and many instructive youtube videos.
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) is a cross-disability nonprofit organization that represents people with guide, hearing, and service dogs. IAADP focuses most of its energy on advocacy and information efforts – both within the assistance dog world and in advocating for the interests of assistance dog partners with the government, corporations, and the public. If you have a SD, SDiT, or are considering training one – or if you work in the field – I encourage you to join IAADP. (There are different types of memberships depending on whether you are partnered with a working SD, are a trainer or other professional, or are a friend to the community.) The IAADP newsletter, Partners Forum, is terrific, and there are also discounts and other benefits available to Partner Members.
At Your Service Dog Training – that’s us! Owned by trainer and former service dog partner Sharon Wachsler, At Your Service provides training services to people who want to train their own service dog, including pre-adoption consulting, help assessing potential candidate dogs for training/adoption, lessons for owners, and day training (professional training one-on-one with your dog). We offer these services in-home for people in New England and by telephone for people in other parts of the US and Canada. We also offer service dog training seminars, workshops, and one-on-one consulting to professionals – including pet dog trainers, and families, health professionals, and others who want to learn more about service dog training.
The Raspberry Field sells SD vests, patches, tags, and other equipment, such as leashes and accessories.
Wolf Packs sells packs, vests, patches, booties, and other gear for service dogs.
Ears and Tail sells custom leashes (including double-ended and hands free), retrieve tabs, door pulls, capes, and other specialized SD gear.
Bold Lead Designs specializes in leather leashes, SD harnesses, and adaptive equipment such as hands-free and quad leashes. Also provide links to SD organizations, articles, and sellers of other types of SD gear.
ActiveDogs.com sells patches, vests, leads, harnesses, etc., as well as the child safety harness – a harness that goes on the child to which the dog can be attached
Know another great service dog resource? Post in the comments!