Answers to your questions about our training services and whether we are the right training service for you and your dog.
QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR TRAINING SERVICES
Q: What kind of training do you offer?
Service dog training: We provide assistance dog consulting and training — for individuals with disabilities and their families, as well as consulting for trainers and presentations for community groups — about all aspects of private service dog training. We can also address questions about emotional support animals (ESAs) and what training might be needed for an ESA, and how to adapt training techniques or equipment for handlers with disabilities. For people who have not yet acquired their dog, we strongly recommend pre-adoption consulting and dog search support (helping you make decisions before acquiring a dog or finding the right dog).
Training services for service dogs include private, in-home training — coaching you to train your dog — as well as day school where we train your dog at your home, and Service Dog Academy (board-and-train). We also offer group classes for future service dogs, as well as presentations, workshops, and speaking engagements on service dog training to other trainers, disability organizations, health care professionals, the general public, etc.
Q: With private training, do I have to be present for dog training lessons, or will you come to my house and train my dog for me?
A: We offer both types of training services:
- Owner training lessons with owners focus on giving you the skills to best train your dog.
- Day school sessions allow us to train your dog for you several days a week. However, we will still meet with you periodically (usually once a week), to transfer those skills to you so that you can maintain your dog’s training.
Q: Do you offer board-and-train?
A: We offer board-and-train for service dogs only. We only take carefully screened service dog candidates into the SDA program. Please see our Service Dog Academy page for more information.
Q: Why are we meeting in my home instead of at your training facility? What if my home is really messy?
A: While most of the training I offer is private in-home training, we don’t necessarily have to meet in your home. If you would much rather meet at one of the training rooms I use, let me know. However, there are several advantages to meeting in your home:
- Dogs are the most “themselves” at home. A dog’s behavior at home is different from how it is in a training space. This can help me get a truer sense of their personality, behavior, and temperament.
- Most dogs — and people — learn the best in the environment where they are familiar and comfortable. Training usually goes faster and skills build more quickly at home.
- Most naughty dog behavior occurs in the home — jumping on people who walk through the door, counter surfing, barking out the window, etc. While it is possible to address these away from home, the advantage of meeting in home (especially for a consult) is that I can suggest specific prevention and training tips based specifically on what is occurring, e.g., where to put the gate or move the crate or train the greeting, etc.
- For service dogs, many assistance tasks must be trained in-home, such as getting a parent for help or pressing a call button or open the refrigerator, etc.
- Scheduling flexibility and cost are also sometimes advantages, as when I rent training space, we pay rental charges and we have to schedule around the regular class schedule.
- I could not care less if your house is messy. I am meeting with you to assess or train your dog. Believe me, I am the least likely person to judge. If you saw my home, you wouldn’t worry about it. The only thing I pay attention to in the home is how to make the best use of the space for training your dog.
Q: Am I in your service area?
A: It depends on the service. We have a larger service area for assistance dog training than for pet dog training:
For ongoing service dog training (lessons and day school), we travel up to about one hour from Wendell, MA. This includes the Pioneer Valley (Northampton, Amherst, and surrounding towns), the Greenfield and surrounding area, the North Quabbin, etc. If you’re not sure, please ask.
For puppy and pet dog training, we have two service areas. Our head trainer offers in-home training for towns within 30 minutes of Wendell, MA. This usually includes Wendell, New Salem, Orange, Athol, Greenfield, Northfield, Turners Falls, Montague, Leverett, Shutesbury, Erving, Petersham, Deerfield, South Deerfield, Warwick, Sunderland, and parts of Pelham, Belchertown, and north Amherst.
Our assistant trainer offers training within 30 minutes of Northampton, MA, including Northampton, Holyoke, Easthampton, Westfield, Springfield, Amherst, Hadley, etc.
If your town is next to one of these towns and you don’t see it listed, please contact us and ask if we cover your town.
Q: When do you schedule consultations and lessons?
A: Currently, I am booking private consults and lessons at the times below. This sometimes changes depending on my group class schedule:
- Tuesday mornings, afternoons, and evenings
- Wednesday mornings, afternoons, and evenings
- Thursday mornings and afternoons
- Friday afternoons and evenings
Q: Do you have a wait list for private lessons?
Sometimes. It depends on the time of year and your location. Sometimes we can set up a consult within a week or two, and sometimes there is a wait of a few weeks. We can add you to our waitlist in case something comes up earlier. If you were referred — by a veterinarian, another trainer, or a client — we will give you priority. If you need to work with someone sooner, we can refer you to a good trainer in your area. Get in touch to schedule, for a referral, and/or to be added to our wait list to be notified of earlier openings. Thank you!
Note: Group classes are open for registration right now.
Q: Do you have group classes?
A: Yes, we offer group pet dog classes in Orange, MA and Wendell, MA. We also occasionally run specialty service dog classes in Northampton, MA. Most of our classes are manners and obedience training, but if you’re looking for shaping, tricks, service tasks, etc., just ask. We are always adding new classes. Learn more about group classes.
Q: Which is better for my dog and my situation — group classes or private training?
Here are some considerations:
Private in-home training means we will train your dog in your home — or for socialization or public access training — we will train your dog in your community. Private training gives your dog (and you!) one-on-one focused attention. Often, the difference comes down to time and money…
Private training is best… If you have limited time. Private training offers more training support and individualized support, covering just the issues that matter to you. Private training is best for
- Those who want a trainer to spend more time training your dog so you spend less time on training
- Initial service dog training
- Dogs with behavior issues that prevent working closely around strange people and dogs
- Dogs or people who don’t learn well in the noise and controlled chaos of a group class environment
Group classes are best… If you have more time to train and limited financial resources AND if your dog is able to work around strange dogs and people. It is also usually best for puppies under 16 weeks of age who need socialization.
Here are additional pros and cons of private training versus group classes.
We recommend private, in-home training for these situations:
- Service dog consultations, especially for getting a service-dog partnership off on the right foot
- Puppy consultations — especially for new or first-time puppy owners
- Behavior modification, consultations, or training for dogs with behavior disorders (fearfulness, anxiety, handling issues, sound sensitivity, etc.) or for training problems that occur primarily or exclusively at home, such as hyper-greetings at the door, barking in the yard, etc. This starts with a behavior and training consult.
We recommend group classes for these situations:
- For new puppies, ages 8-16 weeks, we recommend Puppy Kindergarten as a terrific way to support socialization for your puppy
- For dogs that are comfortable around dogs and people and need basic manners and obedience training, we recommend Family Dog Manners & Obedience.
- For service-dogs-in-training that already have had an in-home service dog consultation and/or a solid foundation in manners and obedience, group classes can be a useful adjunct to private training by offering situations where dog and handler are working around distractions and in more public situations.
Q: Do you provide trained service dogs?
A: No, we work with individuals and families to help you train your own service dog. In some cases, we recommend to clients to get a trained dog through a service dog program. It depends on the situation. We can also help you decide whether a service dog is right for you, whether to go through a program or train your own, what type of dog to get, and provide other information and support on service dog training and related issues. For clients who are looking for the highest likelihood of success and the most skilled training, we recommend working with us to find the right dog for you to train and then using our Service Dog Academy board-and-train option.
Q: I want to train my own service dog. How should I start?
A: Absolutely the best way to start is with a pre-adoption consult with dog search support. The overwhelming majority of people who want to train their own service dog start with a dog who is ill-suited to the career. Only 15% of our clients start with a dog that has the characteristics that make it likely to succeed. Another huge hurdle for most people is the massive commitment of time, energy, and money required to train your own service dog. Starting with the right dog and with reasonable expectations will set you up for success. We hear frequently from clients about things they’ve read or been told about service dog training that is not true. Much of the information on the internet (and even advice from family, friends, veterinarians, doctors/therapists, and other dog trainers) is inaccurate. Get accurate information and real answers before you start.
Q: I am a teacher/scout leader/work with people with disabilities. Do you offer presentations or workshops for kids or adults about service dogs, dog training, dog body language, staying safe around dogs, or related topics?
A: Yes, I am an experienced public speaker and happy to offer presentations on these topics. Please get in touch to discuss specifics and set up a workshop.
Q: I am a pet dog trainer. I’ve been getting inquiries about service dog training. Do you consult with other trainers on service dog issues?
A: Yes. I am happy to work with you. I offer service dog consulting for pet professionals. There are several ways we can help you or your client.
- Team training with local trainers — if you are in Western or Central MA, I often take a team approach with pet dog trainers in my area. I consult and work with the client on service-dog related issues and may refer them back to you to work on manners and obedience, etc. I am happy to “share” clients with the pet dog trainers who are closer to them. This often works out well for everyone: it’s less driving for me, lower mileage costs for the client, and local trainers can continue to work with the dogs and clients in their community
The following services are available to trainers around the United States (more details here):
- Tandem consults — a consultation with you, your client, and me, including access to my library of materials and preparation and follow-up support for you
- On-tap consulting for professional trainers — consulting by phone or online with trainers to provide guidance and answer questions about working with service dog clients as questions arise
- Public speaking, webinars, or workshops on service dog training issues — get in touch about topics and scheduling
SPECIALTY AREAS — What We Offer and What We Don’t
Q: Do you work with all breeds of dog?
A: Yes. We work with all sizes, breeds, and types of dogs.
Q: We have children or are expecting a baby. What should we do to increase safety, harmony, and good manners between our dog and the kids?
A: That’s a terrific question. We recommend different programs for babies and toddlers than for older kids:
- If you have school-age kids or grandchildren (5 years or older) who live with you or visit frequently, At Your Service offers the Doggone Safe “Be A Tree” program, which is a fun and effective way for kids to learn to be safe and respectful around dogs. This supports safety and well-being for kids and dogs, increases understanding, and supports your dog’s good behavior and training. Please contact us to set up a Be A Tree lesson for the kids in your family or at your child’s school.
- If you are expecting a baby, the best resource for you is the Dogs & Storks program. In Western Mass., Jill Rose at Paws of Nature offers this program at group presentations or can do private consults.
Q: Do you work with aggression and reactivity?
A: Usually, yes. Whether we take your dog’s case depends on our current case load and schedule and various other factors. Here are some of the considerations:
- If your dog’s primary training issue is aggression and reactivity, we may take the case, or we may refer you to a reputable, science-based humane dog trainer or behaviorist in the area who specializes in aggression and reactivity.
- If we are already working with you and your dog or puppy, and mild-to-moderate aggression or other behavior disorders arise, we will incorporate behavior modification for those issues into your training plan to address these issues in your dog. If your dog’s behavior is beyond our area of expertise, we may refer you to a veterinary behaviorist or a certified behavior consultant who specializes in aggression.
- If you are a service dog handler, and new issues with mild-to-moderate reactivity or other significant behavior issues have arisen that are disrupting the partnership, we are happy to work on that with you.
Q: Can you administer the Assistance Dog International (ADI) Public Access Test? Can you conduct the annual recertification of my dog and me for the assistance dog program we graduated from?
A: Only nonprofit programs that provides trained service dogs are eligible to join and be accredited with ADI. Only ADI-member organizations administer their PAT as it is specific to their own graduation standards. I have created a Public Access Evaluation which is a useful tool to help you get a sense of where your dog is doing well with public access, and where improvement might be needed. I can help draw up a training plan to address those issues or work on the training with you. If your service dog program requires you to work with a certified professional dog trainer, I am happy to work with you and your dog’s school to conduct your recertification, depending on how it’s administered. Get in touch to discuss your needs and how I can help.
Q: Do you offer agility, competition obedience, schutzhund, or other dog sports, competition, or title training?
A: Not at this time. We focus on excellent manners and obedience for pet dogs, raising and training puppies to be great dogs, and the manners, obedience, public access, and assistance skills tasks for service dogs. As part of this training, we can advise you on tricks, therapy dog training, scenting, games, etc. As we expand our group class offerings, we may offer dog sports and competition training in the future.
Q: How can I find a reputable, humane, science-based trainer in my area who specializes in areas you don’t offer?
A: There are a lot of variables in finding the right match. Whether you like and trust the trainer and feel listened to is important, as is whether the trainer offers the services you need, and whether their approach is both ethical and effective.
I recommend starting with a search for a trainer in your area who has a certification from an independent certifying body such as the CCPDT or IAABC. Another good option is to find a trainer who has graduated from a reputable, science-based professional trainer vocational program such as Karen Pryor Academy or Academy for Dog Trainers.
If you’re not sure where to start, for serious issues (such as aggression, separation anxiety, etc.), I recommend searching by your zip code at International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).
For other types of training, try searching by zip code through Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) or Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).
Q: How long will it take for my dog to be trained?
A: We are better able to offer an estimate when we have more information — usually best done with a consultation. We have standard packages for some of the typical issues — day school for new puppies, ongoing training for service dog candidates, basic training for owners of newly adopted dogs, etc., and we tailor these to each client and dog. What we recommend depends on what your training goals are, what behavior issues are already occurring, how well you believe you can maintain management and training between lessons, and many other variables. After a consult, we do our best to suggest a training plan or package that is most likely to meet your training goals. However, since every dog’s rate of learning is different, and each set of goals are unique, we can never guarantee what level of training your dog will achieve within a set period.
Q: Will we be going for a walk at our consult? I would like you to see my dog’s bad behavior.
A: It is unlikely we will need to go for a walk or that I will need to see your dog’s bad behavior. I usually get the best information by getting a very thorough history from you before and during the consultation, and by observing the dog’s body language and behavior when I arrive. If I need to assess the dog’s behavior, I may elicit it, but more likely I will ask you to get a short video clip when it occurs and email it to me.
Q: How much do you charge?
A: The rate for each service is listed on the page that describes that service. The basic hourly rate for private training is $97 and for a five-week group class is $135, but for many services, we offer packages at discounted rates. For service dog packages, we offer additional discounts for “bulk” pricing. If you are interested in a specific service, and you don’t see the rate listed, we can send you our rate sheet or a quote based on your training needs and location.
Q: Do you offer any discounts?
A: We offer discounts to low-income, disabled people on disability benefits who are training service dogs. We offer these discounts because We don’t want financial constraints to prevent you from training your service dog. While we do not otherwise offer discounts for pet dog training, we try to do whatever we can to make services affordable, including offering payment by credit card or setting up a payment plan to allow you to spread payments out over time.
Q: I am pet dog trainer and I have just started working with a client who wants me to help train a service dog. Can you help me learn the ropes?
A: Yes, I often consult with other trainers and pet professionals on service dog training. I’d be happy to help you set up a training plan, figure out how to choose or train assistance tasks, give you guidance on public access training, guide you on applicable service dog laws, terminology, or standards in your area, or answer any other questions you have about private service dog training. Get in touch to set up a Pet Professional Service Dog Consultation.
Q: I would like to be a dog trainer or service dog trainer. Can I assist you or intern with you?
A: Yes, we have a mentorship program that is equivalent to taking a year-long college course. It includes a written curriculum and opportunities for weekly observation and discussion. It is a great opportunity for motivated people to learn about dog training from the inside. Learn about internship opportunities with At Your Service.