Frequently Asked Questions about Service Dog Consultations
What is a service dog consultation?
A service dog consultation is a chance to get your questions answered about service dog training, raising, partnership, or any other issues related to service dogs. A consult takes two hours, and we pack a lot in! Depending on what is most relevant to you, we may cover any of these topics: legal definitions and community standards for service dogs, the road to training a successful service dog, behavior and training issues to address in your dog, solving existing behavior problems, how to start a puppy off on the right paw to become a future SDiT, the next steps to take to achieve your goals, or many other topics.
What happens at a consult?
Before the consult, we’ll pick a mutually agreeable time and location, you’ll fill out a questionnaire about your dog’s behavior, health, habits, training, and your disability needs and service dog training goals. This helps us make the most of our time together.
At the consult, our head trainer will come to your home (or for those outside our area, you may travel meet with us at a training space in Northampton, MA) to meet you and your dog. Once we have a sense of your dog’s temperament, health, personality, and behavioral history, we’ll tailor a plan that fits your dog’s needs as well as your own. We’ll also discuss the type of tasks you’d like your dog to perform, where to train, how to train, and management solutions.
What is included in a consult?
- Written recommendations for your dog
- A folder of handouts about service dog training
- Lifelong access to our library of over 100 handouts and videos
- A month of email follow-up for any questions
Will we start training my dog during the consult?
Sometimes, but often there’s too much else to cover. However, during the consult we’ll create a plan for how to get your dog to the next level with training, enrichment, and management. You will have more tools in your training tool box!
What if I don’t have a dog yet? Should I wait to do a consult till after I get my dog?
Don’t wait. Fewer than 15 percent of the dogs we evaluate are likely to work out as service dogs. Your dog’s chances of success are much higher if you contact us as early in the process as possible. In fact, the best time to do a consult is before you have acquired your dog. There is a tremendous amount you can do when deciding where and how to get your dog to increase the chances that your dog will succeed. We are available to do behavioral assessments on puppies or dogs you are considering adopting. We can also help you choose the best breed, age, or type of dog for your situation. Getting the right dog is the most important step of the process. Learn more about Pre-Adoption Consulting with Dog Search Support and about Temperament Testing & Suitability Assessments.
My dog doesn’t have task training yet. Should I wait to do a consult till we are further along?
Don’t wait. Too often training or behavior issues have already arisen by the time we’re consulted, and retraining your dog will take a lot of time (and expense) that might have been avoided by working with a service dog trainer at the beginning. It is always easier, more successful, and far less expensive to prevent behavioral issues and training problems than to try to fix them once they are entrenched habits.
Cassie says that Sharon arriving for Bodhi’s service dog consult was “like Mary Poppins for dogs.” See what else Cassie says about her At Your Service consult.
What is the best way to prepare for a consult?
Write down your questions and have them ready so we can cover what matters to you. This can be anything: something you read about service dog training that you’re not sure is accurate, a behavior problem you’re struggling with, or any issues about living with, training, and working with your dog.
Also, try to relax and to take care of yourself so that you can focus at the consult. Depending on your situation, this might mean checking blood sugar, taking medication, having a friend attend to help take notes or remember questions, or anything else that feels supportive. We will be going over a lot of information, so do what you need to be able to get the most out of it.
Why do a service dog consult with At Your Service?
We have been in the service dog field since 1998 and have trained multiple service dogs to a high level of proficiency and professionalism. As a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer — Knowledge Assessed, Sharon also has professional certification and qualifications as a positive dog trainer and a network of other training professionals to consult with.
Most importantly, we have helped people like you to successfully turn SDiT candidates into working service dogs. Simply put, we are the most qualified trainers in our region to answer your questions about service dog training. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer or a service dog trainer. We have the experience, skills, contacts, and credentials to back it up.
I’ve been researching service dog topics on the internet forever! What’s the benefit of a private consult?
Two important differences are
- Information on the internet (or in a book or article or blog post) is general. It cannot relate specifically to your dog. Our private consultation will be focused completely on you and your dog. We will be able to get a very thorough impression of your dog from both the written history and our discussion, and we will also get a clearer sense of the handler’s disability and training needs and challenges. We can address how to modify any training or behavior issues you’re already having and set up a more specific training plan.
- The information we provide is accurate, ethical, and based in many years of professional experience with service dog training. I often hear of strange, misleading, and inaccurate “information” my clients have heard online. You simply don’t know the origin or validity of much of what you read online.
A private consult also offers additional benefits:
- Printed handouts and written recommendations for the specific topics we discuss
- Lifelong access to our client portal with over 100 training handouts and videos
- A month of email follow-up with answers to your questions or other materials
What is your service area for service dog consulting and training?
Because service dog training is a specialty and it is often hard for people to find a qualified trainer in their area, we provide different options for people in different locations.
- We offer service dog consultations (including Pre-Adoption Consulting) and owner coaching lessons throughout the United States with online training and consulting by video chat (Zoom).
- We offer our full range of services (consultations, online coaching, owner lessons, day school) in Pioneer Valley towns within 30 minutes of Hadley, including Amherst, Deerfield, Easthampton, Florence, Granby, Hadley, Holyoke, Leeds, Leverett, Northampton, South Hadley, Shutesbury, South Deerfield, Sunderland, and Williamsburg.
- For those a little farther away, including Springfield, Greenfield, etc., we provide some in-home services, and you may also travel to us and/or combine with online lessons
- For those in other parts of the state, including Boston, as well as neighboring states Brattleboro, Keene, Hartford, or Albany areas, we usually recommend an online consultation to start, and then some combination of online lessons, on-site training in Hadley, and/or team training with a pet dog trainer in your area. We also can offer full-time or part-time board-and-train through our Service Dog Academy program for suitable candidates that are able to travel here to periodically pick up, drop off, and do transition lessons with their dog.
Do you have a wait-list?
Sometimes. It varies depending on location, time of year, and other factors. Please use our online scheduler to find our next available consult date and time. After you book your consult, we will add you to a cancellations list and alert you if something becomes available sooner. We do our best to get you in as soon as possible and give priority to puppies under 16 weeks and referrals from other trainers.
What is the cost for a service dog consult?
The rate is $222. If we travel to your home, depending on location, there may also be mileage charges. Mileage is round-trip. After the first 30 miles (15 miles each direction), mileage is 55 cents per mile.
I am on a very limited income. What if I can’t afford a consult?
We do our best to offer various affordable and reduced-cost options (see below). But it is also an unfortunate reality that owning and training a service dog is a big commitment in every way. It is an enormous time commitment. It is also a large financial commitment. In addition to the costs associated with any dog, there are added costs for equipment, health, grooming, training, and maintenance that are unique to service dogs.
Training (including treats, equipment, classes, and private training lessons) is often one of the biggest price tags because a service dog combines the costs of a pet, a specialized piece of medical equipment, and a highly trained sentient being. Many people do fundraisers to help pay for training.
However, because we are familiar with the financial barriers facing disabled owner-trainers and want all service dog teams to succeed, we also offer the following forms of support to make sure that cost does not hinder your success:
- Small discounts to low-income people on SSI, SSDI, and VA benefits for all private training services, including for an initial consult
- Payment plans that allow you to spread out payments for up to a year, including for an initial consult
- Access to my complete library of handouts and videos, as well as recommendations of books, videos, lists, and other resources that will help you to do a lot of your dog training on your own, if you have the motivation and skill to make it work
- Scholarships for day school, owner lessons, advanced classes, or board-and-train for appropriate teams. Scholarships are for current clients and therefore cannot be used for initial consults or lessons. Learn more about the Maimes Service Dog Scholarship Fund
Remember: The most cost-efficient way to budget for dog training is to do a consult before you even get your dog. If you already have your dog or puppy, set up a consult immediately. It is much faster, easier, and more effective – and therefore less expensive – to prevent problems than to try to solve them later.
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?
Yes. Sharon often consults with other trainers and pet professionals on service dog training. She can help you set up a training plan, figure out how to choose or train assistance tasks, give you guidance on public access training, or help you understand service dog laws, terminology, or standards in your area. Get in touch to set up a Pet Professional Service Dog Consultation.
How do I set up a service dog consult?
Use our online scheduler to choose the date and time that works best for you. We look forward to meeting you and helping your dog to become a great canine assistant!
Have additional questions about service dog consultations? Use the form below to get in touch.