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Service Dog Training Institute

Frequently Asked Questions

Anyone over the age of 18 years can take the classes. You can live anywhere in the world as long as you can read and speak English and have access to high speed internet and a functioning webcam. If you are a minor, you must have a parent or guardian actively overseeing the training. They sign up on your behalf.

Your medical condition or disability must be stable. If you are newly diagnosed, we discourage you from starting the training process until you understand your disability and are able to manage it well. Caring for and training a service dog takes much focus, energy and time on top of your medical condition. Taking on a puppy is like having a new baby for the first two years.

If you do better with listening than reading, then using a screen reader might work for you.

If you are hard of hearing, the short video clips do not have closed captioning as most videos only have the sound of the marker. There is rarely any ‘talking head’ type videos in the class videos.

 Each month, you get 2 modules reelased that contain text, videos, photos, diagrams, and discussion questions to get you thinking after you have tried the training etc. 
The text takes you step by step though the process. There are tips for success and problem-solving ideas for common training challenges for teaching each behavior.
Short video clips (most 10-30 seconds long) demonstrate the steps with real dogs learning the process and text description is before each video. Here is a sample lecture to give you an idea of how the content is presented.
Each behavior is broken into as many objectives as needed and each objective is on its own page so you can focus on just that one. 

The questions in the discussion sections get you to reflect on the class content. Your answers may be recorded in your journal via text, voice or video so you can review them at any time to refresh your memory. 

There is a progress bar so you know how far you are in each module.

We love our new format as it breaks the learning into tiny pieces and you can see your progress at a glance! The program is mobile-friendly and the design is simple.

If you subscribe to the library, you get instant access to everything in the library.

If you buy the program, you get the library plus the class. 2 modules are released each month. That keeps you on track but also give you some flexibility in what you are learning. Once a module has been released you can continue to see if for the rest of the program so you can refer to it.

No, everything we use are objects found in and around a home and garage or can be found in thrift stores, garage sales or borrowed from friends and family for short periods. Larger objects may be resold when you are done with them.

Each person needs to think long and hard if they are able to train a dog through the process. Do you have the right dog? The right support system? There is nothing worse than not going into this process without understanding the huge endeavor you are undertaking. There’s a series of FREE blog posts to get you started in the right direction.

Do you have the financial resources to maintain a dog? Here’s a blog post on Estimated costs involved.

Do your physical abilities, medical conditions, or anxiety levels limit how well you will train your dog? Can you create the environment that a dog can thrive in? Do you have access to transportation and can you train in public?

Check out characteristics of a good service dog trainer-YOU!

Yes. We want students who are serious about training their service dog candidate and want to learn how to teach their dog. We have found  that handlers who are committed to the process have more success.  By starting with the right dog, creating a support system and taking a long-term service dog training program, students improve their chances of having a successful service dog down the road. 

Yes! It is imperative that you have at least started building your support system. Program dogs have not only professional dog trainers but also dog walkers, veterinarians, occupational therapists, psychologists and other staff to support the handler and dog in the process. They also have access to resources that you will have to source out in your region. As an owner-trainer, you need to create that community that you can depend on. Our “Train the Dog” Program is just one part of a much larger support system you need to have in place.

We offer a subscription style of payment of CAD $54.99 (approx. US$41) per month for our programs. You are automatically billed each month for 9 months for the “Train the Dog” & “Service Dog” programs. The programs include a subscription to our library as long as you are taking the program. You continue to get access to the whole program for a year after the last module is released to you.  The Service Puppy Program is a one time charge of CAD $54.99 that allows you access to the material for 1 year.

Our Library is available as it’s own monthly subscription and includes over 100 blog posts, over 300 videos, audio files, related research papers, fun quizzes etc. New material is added regularly. 

For the Library and Classes, we are only set up to receive Canadian dollars. The Paypal platform automatically converts the Canadian fees into your currency on your credit card or Paypal account. You do not need to have a Paypal account to use your credit card. 

For web cam and in-person sessions we can accept e-transfer from Canadian banks and credit unions.   

We hope in the future to offer more currency choices for payment.

You don’t need a Paypal account to make a payment but you need to select “Pay with Paypal”. Paypal is the platform we use that processes credit cards. In the payment box, look for “Guest account” or “Pay by Credit Card” near the bottom of the page. Click on that and fill in your credit card information. If you live in Canada, we can also accept Interac payment via this email.

Yes, if you are in the Nanaimo area, you can purchase a one hour web cam and sets of 6 one hour in-person sessions with the instructor. See detailed information about that. 

Yes, you can purchase sets of 3 x 30 min private web cam sessions. There are to be used only as support for our self-study programs (Service Puppy and Train the Dog). The web cam sessions are scheduled at a time convenient for you and the instructor.

These web cam sessions may help to keep you accountable and motivated to train but you must still guide your own training. You can choose to submit maximum of 2 minute long video clips of you training your dog the class behaviours each week and get personal feedback about your technique and your dog’s progress or do some live training with the instructor. The time is intended to be used to ask class-related questions and clarify class materials.

Expiry, Cancellation and Rescheduling

Web cam sessions must be used within 30 days of purchase. You must also give the instructor at least 24 hours notice to reschedule otherwise you lose the session. If you are a “no-show” for a session (forget it etc), then it counts as a session. Unused webcam sessions do not carry over to the next month. We want you to train now, rather than put it off. The instructor is in Pacific Time zone so please plan accordingly. 

What 30 Minute Web Cam Sessions Cannot be Used For:

  • We cannot discuss topics that are outside of the realm of our “Service Puppy” or “Train the Dog” Program and service dog training in general.
  • These include dog or human-aggressive behavior, dogs that resource guard their handler, fearful dogs, dogs with moderate to severe separation anxiety etc. Find a local in-person trainer to help you overcome these issues.

Our one hour web cam sessions can be booked for general planning, problem solving common unwanted dog behaviors that arise during adolescence, getting help with specific shaping issues and other topics that are not related to class topics. Please email us before booking a one hour session if you are in doubt. 

Click this link to book our web cam sessions with the instructor.

We want our students to succeed. Especially in the beginning, instructors can help students to develop good training habits. This will speed the training process and keep both you and your dog motivated to keep training. 

The modules are presented in a logical order so early teachings are generally needed for later behaviors. Once the two modules have been released for the month, you can access both modules and jump around within them. When new modules are released, the old modules can still be accessed so if you need to go back through previous material, you can. 

To ensure your dog is well-rounded, we require that you take the service puppy modules at some point in training even if you have a puppy older than 16 weeks. This allows you to identify and fill in any learning gaps you or your dog may have during the behaviors for adolescence and adult dogs. The service puppy modules also help you understand that the early exposure your puppy may have or missed will affect him later in his life. This will help you to identify and fix any missed concepts and specific behaviors.

No, we require that you complete the entire program before you start teaching your dog tasks. All dogs must be a minimum of 18 months of age before they start learning the tasks so they are physically, socially and emotionally mature enough to handle doing the tasks. Let your dog learn to be a good community member before taking on the responsibility of being a working dog. 

There is no refund once you have paid for the modules.

At least 24 hours notice must be given to reschedule web cam sessions with the instructor. If 24 hours notice is not given or you don’t show up for a web cam session, the session will be forfeited. 30 min web cam sessions that are not used by 30 days after purchase are forfeited. Refunds can be given for webcam sessions if 48 hours advance notice is given but a US$10 processing fee applies.

We do not have a scholarship program at this time but we recognize that many people who have disabilities have a low income or are on income assistance. This means that without fundraising many people cannot afford to pay up front for training classes. Offering our programs as a monthly subscription allows us to keep the cost low on the short term. That makes it possible for more people to participate. 

Hit the ‘refresh’ button on your browser (or reload the page). It will appear in the box.

For owner-trainers, it usually takes about 2.5 to 3 years if you get your dog as a puppy to the point of full functioning in a public access capacity. There are several reasons for this: you are not a professional trainer with highly developed skills, you are not training your dog full-time, periodic health issues may stall the process, you are living your life and have other responsibilities like family or a job, and you may not have easy access to all the resources a program facility would have on site. For example, you may have to travel to practice on specific training equipment.
You can be using your dog at home and in pet-friendly locations before this time if the dog is able to perform the needed tasks in those environments.

There is no globally-accepted or even country-wide standard of training for service dogs. Each organization sets their own minimum standards. Having said that, our programs help you to prepare your dog for the bigger picture and challenges of real life as a service dog.

Our program far exceeds the requirements of the British Columbia Guide and Service Assessment test. This is test is a basic test equivalent to the Public Access test (PAT) done by the Assistance Dog International (ADI) and International Association of Assistance Dogs Partners (IAADP) organizations. If you live in BC, all 40 parts of the BC test must be passed in person to qualify. We offer an in-person practice of the test if you are local or willing to travel to us to see if you are ready to take the test and where the holes in your training might be.

No. Dogs themselves cannot be certified. Only teams of the handler and dog can. Only in-person programs that are accredited by bodies like Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) can certify service dog teams that are recognized by any level of government for public access or by transportation providers such as trains and some airlines. 

Our “Train the Dog” program teaches you, the handler, to train your own dog. If you need or want certification, cCeck to see if your local government has a way to test owner trained teams. If an online program says it can certify anywhere the world, they are mistaken. If you apply for service dog certification online by filling out some forms, and they do not do an in-person test, that certification is not legally valid anywhere. 

If your province or country requires or recommends certification, you will have to go through an authorized third-party tester to be certified as an owner-trained team. For example, in British Columbia, Ministry of Justice  administers the assessments for service dog certification. 

Even if you do not legally need it, taking an assessment test such as a public access test voluntarily is a helpful way to determine where your service dog team’s strengths and weakness are. You can then focus on retraining the weaknesses to make you a better service dog team in public. 

If you do the “self-study” option, then no. But if you apply what you learned, you can teach pet dogs new behaviors and modify some common behavior issues. This would be ideal for kennel, shelter and rescue staff and volunteers, dog daycare, and therapy dog handlers. It is a good start for anyone wanting to do positive reinforcement day training or board and train situations. 

No. This program only covers the theory and practical skills for teaching dogs. Teaching people to teach dogs takes higher level skills and people who really enjoy working with other people. It also takes a higher level of mental coordination to manage both dog and person at the same time. The “Train the Dog” program also does not cover the business side of a people training business. 

All behaviors are taught using the most current training approaches as demonstrated by ethical research.  Principles of learning theory focus primarily on positive reinforcement and careful use of negative punishment and rarely mild negative reinforcement). Modeling, luring, targeting, capturing and shaping are used and errorless learning help the dogs succeed. We vary the type of reinforcers we use (food, play, affection, real life reinforcers once the dog has learned and generalized behaviors). In the process, we also teach you to read your dog’s body language so communication is two-way and you learn how to respond appropriately. You are working together as a team, after all and will need to learn to trust your dog once he is working as well as he needs to learn to trust you!

We believe that there is enough punishment in everyday living and that people with disabilities already suffer enough of it from society that they don’t need to use it in training their dogs. In the case of PTSD dogs, the use of punishment just continues the cycle of learned helplessness in the handler.

We want to empower our students both dog and handler. The use of punishment and aversives (things the dog tries to avoid and does not like) breaks down the bond that we are trying to build with the dogs. The use of punishment also inhibits behavior and often results in passive or dogs that are shut down, especially if the person is not skilled at delivering the punishment or the dog has a sensitive temperament or is physically sensitive.

That makes if difficult down the road when we want to teach the dog new behaviors. The dogs don’t try as they have leaned that not doing anything is usually what is wanted. There is also a greater risk of unwanted side effects when using coersion and punishment. These may appear as fear, frustration or aggression. Professional guide dog and service dog programs that have switched to using positive reinforcement have improved their success service dog rate from 50% to 80% or better or are able to career change the dog into something he is more suited for rather than just removing the dog to pet status.

When using positive reinforcement, you do not need to have strength or speed. The dog figures out what is needed on his own and is marked and rewarded for his choices. This builds dogs that are willing to take risks in a learning setting and can learn to do almost anything! A service dog needs to be able to problem solve for the handler. This makes it the ideal approach for owner-trained service dogs. Plus, using positive reinforcement will change handler’s lives for the better!

While we recognize that it takes people time to change habits, we ask that as much as possible that you focus on using positive reinforcement when training with us. The use of corrections and aversive sounds and body pressure can inadvertently poison a wanted behavior as well as unwanted ones. In real life when emergencies require it, you can certainly pull your dog off the street when a car is coming or to prevent him from eating something he shouldn’t but for every day interactions, use management to prevent things from happening while you teach  your dog the behaviors you would rather him do. Life happens and we have to react to it but we can be prepared!

Yes, training a few dogs dog to the point of being able to work in public and do medical tasks for a handler is a great starting point! We teach you both the theory and practical aspects of training a service dog. You need to understand and apply the theory if you want to be able to train more than one service dog. We do not issue any sort of certificate for competing the self-study program at this time.

If you have additional questions about becoming a service dog trainer, your best bet is to make a list of questions and book a one time web cam session with us. Our instructor can share her service dog training experience and resources at that time.

In Canada, contact: Canadian Association of Guide and Assistance Dog Schools

In the USA, contact ADI accredited members listed on the ADI site:

Look for a trainer who uses positive approaches during day training or board and train. Ideally, look for one that has your dog live in their home rather than in a kennel situation.

Make sure they use tools that are no-coercive like a Y-chest walking harness rather than a prong or electronic collar.

Using such services is buyer beware. Dog training is an unregulated industry and you may not get what you thought you were getting. You do not know what goes on behind closed doors and your dog could be scarred for life. Use higher criterion when looking for a trainer to help you train your dog since you won’t be present to see what is being done to your dog. Good luck!


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