Expert Service Dog Training for Life-Changing Results

FAQ on Dog Characteristics

First, ask yourself these questions: “Is my dog…”

  • Physically healthy and structurally sound? 
  • Relaxed and friendly with everyone, including strangers and unknown dogs?
  • Confident and cheerful around new experiences – new sights, things that move, and unexpected sounds? 
  • Easy to train? (Do you and your dog both enjoy training together every day?)
  • An adult dog that has been in my home for at least three months? 

If the answer to all of these questions is “yes,” watch our video, and score your dog honestly. The score your dog gets will help you assess your dog’s likelihood as a candidate. After we get your initial intake form, we’ll get in touch to let you know if we think we’re a good match for you and your dog. 

Note: If your dog is a puppy or is a recently adopted adult dog, see below for additional information. 

A puppy cannot truly be assessed as a service dog candidate. Dogs’ temperaments often change as they mature. The best clues to a puppy’s suitability are

  • the puppy’s behavior, temperament, and personality now
  • the puppy’s health and structure now
  • what we know about both parents’ temperaments
  • the breeder’s temperament testing procedures

Some puppies can be ruled out based on these factors, such as if the puppy is timid or if its parents were aggressive. However, in most cases, it’s a waiting game. The absence of obvious issues now is a good sign, but it does not guarantee a suitable temperament at maturity.

Beware any breeder or trainer who tells you that they guarantee a particular puppy will turn out to be an ideal service dog. This would be like saying about a human toddler, “I guarantee she will be a nuclear physicist” or “He definitely has what it takes to be an Olympic skier.”

The age at which a dog completes social maturation varies with the individual and the breed. Generally, the larger the dog, the slower it matures. We typically have a good sense of a dog’s personality by one year old, but personality changes may occur up to two years (especially for large breeds).

Right now, ask yourself this question: “Is my priority…”

1. To get the dog that is most likely to work out as my future service dog?
2. To get this particular puppy that I’ve chosen (and be happy with it as a pet, whether it works out as a service dog or not)?

These are both equally valid goals, but they are not the same goal. The overwhelming majority of puppies will not work out as future service dogs. Even people who are sure they’ve chosen the right breed (or breeder or puppy) are usually sadly mistaken.

If your number one goal is to get a service dog prospect, and you’re willing to lose your deposit on this puppy and start over with your search process, please contact us for a pre-adoption and dog-search support package.

If you definitely plan to get this puppy – and you know there’s a good chance it will not become a service dog, but you’d still like to try – follow the steps below for new puppy owners.

Because we often have a waitlist, the answer depends on your location, your puppy’s age, and whether one of our trainers can start with your puppy right away.

Puppies have a critical developmental period that begins to close at 16 weeks of age. During this period when your puppy easily makes new associations, the number one priority is for you to work with a knowledgeable, rewards-based trainer who will help your puppy make positive emotional associations with new people, places, and things.

Take these steps:

  1. Set up rewards-based puppy training. If you’re in the Pioneer Valley, contact us about our classes and private training options, as well as referrals to recommended trainers in our area. For puppy kindergarten, we recommend Puppy Starter Kit at Animal Alliances in Northampton. If you’re elsewhere, use our referral links to find the best possible rewards-based puppy kindergarten or day training for your puppy.
  2. Very important: Tell your local trainer to get our free handbook for pet trainers on how to train manners in a future service dog puppy so that they’ll do the best possible job preparing your puppy for his future career.
  3. If you will be training your service dog to do any form of alerting (such as to sounds, symptoms, medical conditions, psychological states) or if you have a mobility impairment, set up a service dog consultation with us as soon as possible. We can help you lay the groundwork for future tasks and manners. (Since we often have a waitlist, it’s best to contact us several weeks before your puppy is due home.)

Training with At Your Service from the start will allow us to keep your pup on track with manners, public access, and task training. However, if you’ve been working with another trainer or training on your own, that’s fine, too. Once your pup has completed basic and intermediate manners classes and is at least eight months old, get back in touch with us.

Dogs need time to settle into their new homes. During the first three weeks in a new home, dogs may not display their normal behavior. A dog that seems quiet and calm may become energetic or reactive once he’s over the shock of transition. Older dogs may take longer to truly settle into their new home.

Start some gentle rewards-based manners training with your new dog a week or two after he comes home. But use these guidelines for how long to wait before you assess your dog and fill out our intake form:

  • If your dog is between four and 18 months of age, wait at least four weeks
  • If your dog is between 18 months and 3 years old, wait at least three months
  • If your dog is over 3 years old, wait at least six months

Yes. We factor in breed, but we assess dogs based primarily on their behavior, temperament, training, and health. While some breeds are much more suited to service dog training than others, we have successfully graduated some terrific atypical breeds and breed mixes.

If you do not yet have a dog, we strongly recommend you consult us for help finding the right dog.

As pet trainers, over the years we successfully modified behavior in many reactive and fearful dogs – including some SDiTs. Rewards-based behavior modification can be powerful! The dogs showed great improvement. However, when stress increased – when the team returned to public, the handler relaxed on training, or some minor life change occurred – the dog always backslid. The longer they continued to work in public, the more the dog’s behavior deteriorated.

Based on these experiences and discussions with many colleagues, we believe that dogs with fear, reactivity, anxiety, or aggression issues should not be worked as public access service dogs. We do not want to set up the handler or the dog for inevitable failure.

The great majority of dogs – sweet, loving, smart dogs – are not cut out for the life of a public access service dog. We want to give the job of public access service dogs to those unusual dogs that love and thrive on it. But for most dogs, working as a service dog in public is stressful and not something they would choose.

We are truly sorry to deliver this news. We know it can be heart-breaking. We truly wish that we could magically make every dog relaxed and comfortable around strangers, dogs, and the other aspects of our constantly changing environment.

We recommend working with a rewards-based behavior consultant or pet trainer to help your dog reach their full potential. If you and your dog love training, you can also contact us about training your dog as an in-home-only service dog.

NOTE: If you are training basic manners or raising a puppy with a pet dog trainer, please give them our free eBook on foundation training for future service dogs.

Services FAQ

Private Training

To begin private training – private lessons (online or in person), day training, or board-and-train – fill out our intake form to request a consultation. During intake, we’ll get to know you and your dog, your dog’s current level of training, and your disabilities and needs. After the consultation, we’ll create the ideal training plan for your dog, with the right combination of classes and lessons. 

Group Classes

A beginner-level group class, such as our Basic Skills for Therapy & Service Dogs course, is a terrific starting point for any of these situations:

  • We have a waitlist for private lessons, but you want to start training now
  • You’re not sure if service dog training is right for you and your dog
  • Finances are limited
  • Your dog has been doing well in private training, and we’re recommending a specific group class as a helpful next step 
  • Your dog is in training to be a therapy dog or emotional support animal (not a service dog)

Combination Training (group & private)

In many cases, combining private and group training is most effective. Your dog benefits from the higher skill level and individualized coaching of private training, along with the controlled distractions and affordability of group classes. During intake, we can advise you of which classes or lessons to start with. (Note: Group classes are not always necessary; we do have clients who succeed with private lessons alone.)

Absolutely! Some clients train with us exclusively online. Others train primarily online but travel to train with us as needed. Our regional clients (e.g., Boston, Worcester, Albany, Hartford, Brattleboro), typically have great results with this progression:

  1. Start puppy and basic training with your local rewards-based pet trainer. (Make sure they have a copy of our handbook on foundation training for future service dogs!)
  2. When your dog is a young adult and has completed basic manners — or if you want expert guidance from the start — train with us online
  3. Periodically, when you and your trainer agree that hands-on coaching would be helpful, travel to us to train in-person

Depending on which trainer you’re working with and our current case load, we offer in-home training for Amherst, Deerfield, Easthampton, Florence, Granby, Hadley, Hatfield, Holyoke, Leeds, Leverett, Northampton, South Hadley, Sunderland, and Williamsburg. 

You may also come to Hadley to train with us. 

We also occasionally meet in other locations throughout the region (e.g., dog friendly stores, etc.) for training sessions, including on public access or puppy socialization.

We primarily train psychiatric service dogs and mobility dogs for people with physical disabilities, but we have also trained dogs for people with traumatic brain injury, chronic illness, hearing loss, sleep disorders, and seizures. Since we custom-tailor each training plan, we can be very flexible about the type of training and the variety of tasks.

We will select your dog’s tasks based on your specific needs, your dog’s tendencies, and other considerations.

We don’t train guide dogs for blind or low-vision handlers. We also do not typically train tasks that rely on scent, such as allergen detection or diabetic alert dogs.

Many of our group classes, both online and in Hadley, are geared to therapy dogs and ESAs, as well as to service dogs. (For definitions of these terms, see Laws & Terms.) Otherwise, we only offer pet training when the handler’s disability affects training. We are happy to work with disabled dog handlers or consult with their local trainers on adaptive training strategies for physically disabled dog owners. 

No, we do not provide any dogs. We help people to train their own dogs as potential service dogs. If you don’t have an appropriate dog, we can also help you with the process of finding the right dog to train.

However, when we meet with you for a pre-adoption consultation or an owned dog intake, if we think that you or your dog are not a good match for training your own service dog, we may recommend getting a trained dog from a program instead.

There are a lot of excellent programs, but there are even more mediocre, terrible, and scam programs. A good place to begin your search for a fully trained service dog is Assistance Dogs International, an accreditation and membership organization for nonprofit service dog programs. 

If you’re looking for a service dog for a child, Canines for Disabled Kids provides families with information, referral, advocacy, and scholarships.

Make sure to thoroughly research any program you’re considering. Get details about how many dogs they’ve placed, how many years they’ve been in business, and what training methods they use. Ask to tour their facilities. Ask for many references, at least ten, to ensure they do what they say. If you have a bad or uncertain feeling about a program or trainer, walk away.

No, we help owners to successfully train their own service dogs. We occasionally accept advanced adult dogs for board-and-train on public access or task training. See Board & Train for more information.

If you decide to look elsewhere for a board-and-train, please be very cautious and only use a trainer who trains entirely with rewards. Most board-and-trains use harsh punitive methods that often result in physical and behavioral damage, including death. Sadly, we have known some wonderful dogs that died in board-and-trains with other trainers. Never use a trainer that provides a guarantee of training or behavior results. This is a red flag that indicates this trainer does not understand dog behavior and may also go to extreme, possibly deadly, lengths to train your dog. Learn more about the ethics that good trainers adhere to and how to find the right trainer. Two databases that tend to have more ethical/safe trainers are KPA and IAABC.

This exclusive option is available on a limited basis. Board-and-train is a great option for dogs that need skilled, intensive training for advanced manners, public access, or task training.

B&T is only available for these select dogs:

  • Adult dogs (12 months or older)
  • Crate trained, house trained, good with other dogs
  • You’ve already trained your dog in basic and intermediate manners
  • Your dog has already done several training sessions with us, including at least some in-person training with our head trainer

B&T dogs live with our head trainer and benefit from

  • Skilled training every day
  • The care and comfort of living in a home
  • A structured environment where good behavior is maintained throughout the day. Your dog will either be training, relaxing under supervision, enjoying quality enrichment, or peacefully crated.

When your dog goes home, you’ll participate in online transition lessons to continue your dog’s training before he returns to us for his next B&T.


  • Initial 3-week stay, followed by three weeks at home with four transition lessons
  • 8-week second phase: Two cycles of two weeks on, two weeks off
  • When your dog comes home between stays, you’ll participate in twice-weekly online transition lessons to continue training


  • Your dog stays with us during the week and goes home to train on the weekends
  • Transition lesson with you every Friday

Location: Anyone who is able to transport their dog to and from Hadley, MA, several times

Cost:  (Listed costs include transition lessons between B&T stays)

  • Initial 3-week session is $5040
  • Additional B&T sessions:

o   Full-time – two sets of 2 weeks (28 days total) is $6720

o   Part-time – six weeks – with weekends at home – (24 days total) at $5280

  • The initial stay includes a five-day assessment period while the dog is settling in. This $1200 portion of the fee is nonrefundable. A 25% deposit on the second set of B&T sessions is due at the end of the assessment period.


Costs & Timelines

A reputable, experienced service dog trainer cannot give an estimate (let alone charge a flat fee) without knowing a lot more about you and your dog. Some of the variables include…

  • Your dog’s age. Puppies need lots of special puppy training and socialization. An adult dog with a known, sound temperament will cost less to train than a puppy.
  • Your dog’s previous training. A dog with solid manners (trained with reward-based methods), will cost less than a dog that is untrained or poorly trained.
  • Your dog’s trainability. Some dogs take more time, effort, and skill to train than others. Dogs that are very food-motivated and relatively uninterested in their environment (dogs, people, squirrels, sounds…) are the easiest (least expensive) to train.
  • Your skill as a trainer. If you are able to learn and apply what you learn from your trainer to do more skilled training on your own, you’ll be able to take fewer lessons. (However, infrequent or poor training will slow progress and ultimately cost more.)
  • The number and complexity of tasks needed. This is a fraction of the overall cost, but it is a factor.

Given these variables, it may cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 to train your own service dog. If the handler is capable and motivated, and the dog is appropriate, it typically costs $5,000 to $7,000 to train an adult dog (including costs for training, treats, and other equipment). For those who want complex tasks (such as a retrieve) or need day training or board-and-train, it may cost much more. 

See below to download our sample service dog training package and estimate.

Training a dog to be well-behaved, quiet, and unobtrusive in public is the most time-consuming part of service dog training. In fact, simply finding a dog that is capable of being relaxed in a variety of public settings is often the most difficult part of the process. While it does cost more to train a dog to perform a complex task (such as gently retrieving a variety of objects) than a simple one (such as leaning against your legs), both of these tasks are far easier than training your dog to walk nicely by your side and lay quietly at your feet wherever you go. 

We have high standards for the service dogs we train. We offer payment plans, scholarships, and discounts to make training more affordable, but we don’t offer any low-quality training. Our finished teams wear our embroidered patches proudly. People who see our teams know, without a doubt, that that is a real, trained service dog. 

The same factors that affect cost (above) also affect time: your dog’s age, trainability, and previous training. Other than that, the biggest factor is how much time you spend training between lessons. Making mistakes will slow training. Not training enough will mean your dog will never finish.

For a highly motivated owner of a puppy with an outstanding temperament, the bulk of the training (manners, public access, and task foundations) can usually be completed in two years, with task training completed by three years old. If board-and-train or day training is used, the time may be reduced by about one-third to one-half.

Payment by debit or credit card is due when you schedule online for a consultation, class, or lesson package. If you prefer to mail cash or a personal check, that can also be arranged.

We provide the following options to people of limited financial means:

  • Discounts for private training for those on low-income benefits programs – If you’re on SSI, SSDI, VA benefits, or another disability or low-income benefit (e.g., SNAP, Section 8, etc.), please indicate WHICH programs you’re on when you fill out your intake form. Discounts range from ten to 25 percent, depending on the situation. We’ll let you know which discounts are available.
  • Payment plans – We can set up a payment plan to spread out payments (up to a year). Your debit or credit card will be charged automatically on a monthly basis. There is a five percent flat fee for setting up a payment plan.
  • Scholarships – We have three scholarship programs:
    • The Maimes Fund provides 80 percent discounts on private training for proven SDiT teams who are likely to successfully complete training if they receive additional funding
    • The Tubman Fund provides an 80 percent discount for initial intake consultations for owner-trainers who are Black, African-American or Indigenous (American Indian/Native American/Alaskan Native) or to low-income people of color
    • The Dasha Morrison Memorial Scholarship waives tuition for six months for our mentorship course for trainers/students who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color
  • Fundraising-  If finances are a concern, we recommend you begin private fundraising as soon as possible. In addition to training costs, you’ll need several thousand dollars to cover the dog’s purchase price, vet bills, food, toys, crate, leashes, etc. We may help defray training costs, but even owning a pet is surprisingly expensive. Many owner-trainers successfully raise large sums using online fundraising tools, such as GoFundMe. Spread the word to family, friends, and social networks about your need for a service dog and how much it costs to train. Ask them to reach out to their networks, too.
  • State Agencies – If you or your family member are already getting services through a state agency, such as your state’s vocational rehabilitation agency or their departments serving people with developmental disabilities, mental health, autism, crime victims, etc., the state may be able to pay for your dog’s training. This will usually involve some advocacy on your part, providing the agency with your trainer’s information and credentials, and a process for the trainer to officially become a vendor for the state program. At Your Service Dog Training has already been approved as a vendor for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC). Other Massachusetts agencies include the Department of Public Health, the Department of Developmental Services, or the Mass. Office for Victim Assistance. In other states, these agencies may go by different names. For example, in New Hampshire, the agency that oversees vocational rehabilitation for people with disabilities is called the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • Veterans – If you’re a veteran, you may also be able to get funding through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA). A new law was passed by the Biden administration in 2021, the “PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act” (Public Law No. 117-37), which provides funding for owner-training service dogs. The bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement a five-year pilot program to provide dog training to eligible veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as an element of their health program, and regardless of whether they have a mobility impairment. The bill also states that trainers working through this program must agree not to use shock collars or prong collars as training tools and to use only positive reinforcement training! We’re still looking into the details of how the law will be implemented and which trainers would be approved. If this is something you’re interested in working with us to find out more about, please let us know.

Scholarships are only available to people who are training a service dog with At Your Service Dog Training. We do not provide funding for dogs to be trained by other trainers or organizations.

Tubman Scholarship

The Tubman Scholarship offers an 80 percent discount on an intake consultation for both owned dogs and pre-adoption. It is available to people anywhere in the US who are African-American, Black, or Indigenous, OR any other low-income person of color. To apply, please watch our video and fill out our intake form. In the section where it asks if you have other questions or information, indicate that you qualify for the Tubman Scholarship. (You determine your own racial identity. We believe you.) We’ll provide you with a coupon code you can use when you schedule. 

Low-Income Discounts

We provide discounts on private training for people who are low-income and on SSI, SSDI, or VA benefits. To request the discount, please watch our video and fill out our intake form. In the section where it asks if you have other questions or information, please tell us which low-income benefit programs you’re on. We’ll provide you with a coupon code you can use when you schedule. 

Maimes Fund

The Natan Maimes & Travel Service Dog Scholarship Fund provides as-needed funding to service dog teams to complete their training. The amount of funding we have available varies based on donations. (Donate to the Maimes Fund.) 

To apply for the Maimes Fund, you must meet all of these criteria:

  • You and your dog have already completed our intake process 
  • You and your dog have taken a class or several private lessons with us, at least some of which have been in-person with our head trainer
  • You have limited financial means and income to pay for training
  • You have exhausted other fundraising options 

If you’re in this situation, tell your trainer. We ask you to complete our scholarship application which asks about your dog’s current and future training. It also includes instructions on how to show proof of financial need. After your application is submitted, we’ll meet to set up a plan to complete your dog’s training.

Below is an example of a training package for a dog that is easy to train, with a handler who is dedicated and able to follow all training instructions. You will see how many lessons would likely be needed in each phase of training and how much it would cost. Remember, however, that since each dog and handler are unique, your individual training plan and estimate will look different.

Sample Training Cost Estimate

Laws & Terms

For more information on these topics, please also watch our video.

A service dog is paired with a disabled handler. As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a service animal is a dog that is trained to do work or perform tasks that directly relate to the handler’s disability. A disability under the ADA is a permanent or chronic mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (e.g., walking, learning, hearing, breathing, standing, working, talking, etc.). Under the ADA, to accompany its disabled handler in public, a service dog must be tethered, leashed or harnessed; under the handler’s control at all times; and house trained. The ADA specifies that the presence of the dog (including the dog’s behavior or grooming) must not fundamentally alter the nature of the service the business is providing. In other words, a service dog should be quiet, unobtrusively, and mannerly, allowing normal functions of the business to take place around the dog. A business may ask that a service dog be removed if it is out of control, soils, shows aggression or reactivity (barks, growls, etc.), or otherwise significantly interferes with the business or service.

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a pet of any species whose presence makes its disabled owner feel better. ESAs are classified as “assistance animals” under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHA) and are allowed as a reasonable accommodation in “no pets” housing. Although the pet must have a therapeutic effect on the owner, an ESA is not required to have the impeccable manners of a service dog nor to be trained to perform tasks relating to the handler’s disability. (Commercial airlines are no longer required to fly ESAs. Please see the section on flying with your dog.)

A letter to your landlord from your doctor or therapist stating that your pets presence relieves your symptoms or otherwise mitigates the impact of your disability is usually required for housing accommodation. For more information, please see HUD’s very useful document, “Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act.” 

The ADA excludes ESAs from its definition of a service animal, stating, “The provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.” A person accompanied by an ESA has no public access rights in stores, restaurants, hotels, transportation, etc. 

A therapy dog provides comfort, affection, or support to people in a specific setting (e.g., hospital, school, nursing home, court room). Therapy dog handlers may be volunteers or professionals (teachers, therapists, police officers) who have trained their own dog to work in these settings. Although therapy dogs undergo training, they are not trained to mitigate the effects of one person’s disability. Therefore, therapy dog handlers have no public access rights and must obtain permission from the facility or workplace to bring their dog.

When your dog has completed training, we will provide you with 

  • a letter, on our letterhead, attesting to your dog’s task and public access training
  • our embroidered logo patch to put on your dog’s vest
  • cards with applicable disability rights laws and your dog’s name and task training

However, please be aware that in the United States, there is no legal “certification” of service dogs. A couple of states offer voluntary registries, but commercial websites that offer service dog “registries” or “certifications” are misleading at best, scams at worst. While service dog organization may offer ID cards or graduation certificates certifying that their dog meets their particular standards, they do not confer any legal rights or privileges.

Your dog is legally a service dog when it fulfills these criteria:

  • reliably trained in excellent manners and obedience
  • reliably trained in tasks that relate to your disabilities
  • under your complete control
  • quiet and unobtrusive
  • tethered, leashed, or harnessed
  • house trained

However, we understand that it can be useful to have “official” paperwork and gear. We are happy to provide that to our clients whose dogs complete training that meets and exceeds the legal standard for a service animal.

Under the revised rules of the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are no longer required to fly emotional support animals (ESAs). The ACAA now more closely adheres to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which grants access to disabled handlers who are accompanied by a trained service dog. (Read DOT’s Frequently Asked Questions on service animal rules and the Federal Register document which includes the training attestation forms).

While the legal requirements for flying with ESAs have changed, the training, behavior, and handling requirements are the same. If your dog is small, well-behaved, and comfortable with flying, check which airlines allow you to fly small pets in a carrier that fits under their seats.

If you would like to fully train your dog as a service dog, we are happy to help just as we would for anyone else who wants to train their dog to become a service dog. This requires that

  • your dog is very well-behaved and comfortable with flying, including with being surrounded in close quarters by many strangers for several hours
  • you have a disabling condition as defined by the ADA (and can provide the requested documentation)
  • you are motivated to train your dog to have excellent manners in a variety of public spaces 
  • you are motivated to train your dog to reliably perform one or more tasks that directly relate to your disability

In this case, watch our free video on service dog training and then fill out the initial intake form. After we receive the form, we will get in touch with more information.

Once your dog is accepted for intake, if you’re on SSI, SSDI, or VA benefits, you may email us a copy of your award letter or another document from the SSA or VA (such as a check stub) that shows that you receive that benefit. This will also let us know you’re eligible for discounted private training services.

If you’re not on disability, we’ll provide you with a letter that outlines what we need to know from your treating healthcare provider (who has met with you several times and has known you at least 6 months). In addition to giving a diagnosis, the letter must also affirm that your condition is disabling as defined by the ADA, meaning that it substantially limits your major life activities.

Finding a potential Service Dog

Should I train my own service dog or get a trained service dog from a program? I don’t know how to find the right program. What are the characteristics of an appropriate dog? Can you help?

Yes, we detail the pros and cons of owner training versus programs in our webinar, “How to Find Your Future Service Dog.” The webinar explains which option tends to fit better for different situations, including the handler’s disability, the age of the handler, household composition, lifestyle, etc. We also provide guidance on how to select a program – what to look for and what to avoid, as well as recommending some programs to start with – and helpful information about costs and timelines. After watching the webinar, you’ll be empowered to make the best choice for you and your family (and avoid unscrupulous or poor quality programs).

If owner-training is a better match for your needs, the webinar provides a treasure trove of necessary information for the search process – and you’ll get the information for free! When you set up a private pre-adoption consultation after watching the webinar, we’ll send you a coupon code to deduct the cost of the webinar from your consultation fee. The webinar and all the follow-up materials is only $75.


To access our webinar, “How to Find Your Future Service Dog,” please contact us and request the pre-adoption webinar. We will send you an invoice to pay online with your debit or credit card using Square. If you decide to move ahead with the search for a service dog, you may contact us in December to set up a pre-adoption consultation and dog search support. At that time, let us know that you watched the webinar and we will deduct $75 from your consultation and search support package!

Pre-Adoption & Dog Search FAQ

Yes, we detail the pros and cons of owner training versus programs in our webinar, How to Find Your Future Service Dog.” The webinar explains which option tends to fit better for different situations, including the handler’s disability, the age of the handler, household composition, lifestyle, etc. We also provide guidance on how to select a program – what to look for and what to avoid, as well as recommending some programs to start with – and helpful information about costs and timelines. After watching the webinar, you’ll be empowered to make the best choice for you and your family (and avoid unscrupulous or poor quality programs). 

If owner-training is a better match for your needs, the webinar provides a treasure trove of necessary information for the search process – and you’ll get the information for free! When you set up a private pre-adoption consultation after watching the webinar, we’ll send you a coupon code to deduct the cost of the webinar from your consultation fee. Email us to learn more about our webinar, “How to Find Your Future Service Dog.” 

We understand that it may feel strange to consult with a trainer before you have your dog. For a pet dog, getting the dog and then finding a trainer typically works fine. 

However, for a potential service dog, preparation and selection are key. We have seen a huge difference in results with clients who work with us to find the right dog versus those who contact us after they already have a dog.

Our process is individualized and comprehensive.

  • We provide detailed, objective information on the types of dogs – in terms of specific behavioral and health criteria – that are most likely to succeed as public-access service dogs
  • We get to know you and identify the best dog for you based on a number of factors, including your 
    • disabilities and symptoms
    • activity level
    • locale (climate, household, and neighborhood type)
    • dog handling and cohabitation style 
    • and more
  • After identifying the right type of dog, we help you search for and find a dog that meets these essential criteria

This sets up you and your dog for success.

Over the years, we have seen a consistent pattern of good results when we work with a client from the beginning to identify a dog that will truly meet their needs, and then help them find that dog. 

While we could theoretically offer the services you’re asking about, in practice they tend not to work out. It generally is not possible to assess a particular shelter dog because they are usually adopted too quickly, the shelter may not be able to allow a stranger to assess one of their charges, and because dogs in a shelter are under stress, we also know they are may not be exhibiting their typical behavior. 

Similarly, for a litter of puppies, the breeder may not be comfortable with an unknown person handling her puppies; it may be impossible to schedule the several hours needed to test an entire litter within the timeframe needed; and there’s a good chance that the particular litter you’re interested in does not contain the right candidate for you. It’s a sort of “backwards” approach to finding the right puppy. It would be like setting up your course schedule at a college before you had even selected or applied to the college.

We will create a specialized training plan for your dog. Please see our Service Dog Training page.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of information about service dogs, dog behavior, and how to select a candidate is woefully inadequate to help most people locate a likely service dog candidate. Sadly, this is equally true whether the information comes from the news media, social media, friends, family, healthcare providers, and even from most dog professionals (veterinarians, breeders, and even trainers). There are a number of reasons for this:

  • There is a lot of “traditional wisdom” and myth that many dog professionals (and dog owners) have handed down over the years, much of it inaccurate
  • The landscape for dog owning, breeding, and adoption has changed a lot over the last 10 to 20 years
  • Assessing and selecting canine candidates is extremely difficult. Further, the approach and understanding to dog temperament testing and selection is evolving. It is part art and part science. Those of us who are dedicated to improving our skill are constantly refining and improving our methods
  • Service dog training is a specialized field, and within this specialized field, the number of trainers who specialize in working with owner-trainers and also have experience and expertise in selecting candidate dogs is very small. The overwhelming majority of pet professionals don’t have the time or motivation to dedicate themselves to this narrow area of inquiry.

Yes, the most affordable option is our webinar, “How to Find Your Future Service Dog.” This webinar provides detailed information on temperament, breed, age, and other factors. This will help you select a dog that is more likely to succeed as a future service dog.

We hope this information is helpful. Please learn about service dog training with our free video, get started training by registering for online or on-site group classes this fall or winter, or check back in December for private training intake.

All the best on your service dog training journey.


Owner and Head Trainer of At Your Service Dog Training LLC