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Training a service dog is no easy feat, but the good news is you can start doing it from the comfort of your own home. In broad terms, a service dog is trained to assist someone who has a disability. They can do a wide array of things, but service dogs are typically trained in a specific area and can alert for everything from diabetes to seizures, help guide humans with low vision or autism, and ease anxiety.
The ADA does not require that your service dog be certified, but getting them the right training will ensure that they learn exactly what to do and how to assist when needed. To get started, here are our favorite online service dog programs.
Service Dog Academy: Best Overall
Our pick for the best overall online service dog training program, Service Dog Academy, has trained medical alert dogs around the world for disabilities including diabetes, narcolepsy, hypoglycemia, and numerous other conditions.
While the Illinois-based school does provide in-person training, its online offerings are especially robust, with options for both group training classes and one-on-one appointments. In both cases, training is conducted via a video conferencing platform (such as Zoom), with most group courses lasting around five weeks. There are a number of courses to choose from, including Basic Medical Alert Dog Obedience, Service Dog Public Access, and even an option for puppies.
Group classes with Service Dog Academy are roughly $250, while individual appointments begin at about $100 for a 30-minute session. The school also offers a more extensive eight-week program covering topics like alerting to low blood sugars and (no joke) dialing 911 on a dog phone.
Compass Key: Best Personalized
While Compass Key primarily conducts its service dog training courses in-person, it also makes an effort to work with clients who may not live near one of its physical branches (it has several across the country).
You may need to work with one of the company's trainers one-on-one to begin the program, but from there the school will continue your training over Skype or Facetime—it has several international clients who have done exactly that.
Currently, the option to participate in training online applies to the school’s basic and advanced obedience courses. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to get in touch to discuss the best option and approach for you and your dog, since Compass Key is not specifically designed as an online training program.
Working with Compass Key requires a roughly two-hour evaluation session before beginning coursework, which costs about $300 and may be conducted virtually. Online lessons can be purchased individually for around $135, or as a five-lesson package for approximately $650. There is also an option for private lessons, which are one hour in length and are roughly $185 for a single appointment or about $850 for a set of five.
E-Training for Dogs: Best for Beginners
If you're new to the service dog world, try out E-Training for Dogs, which offers pre-recorded lectures specifically designed for beginner service dog owner-trainers.
These “tier three” options cover topics including dog candidate selection, socialization, public access, and task training, and don’t require any homework or training challenges.
While one-on-one time with the instructor to ask questions isn’t included at this level (although it can be added on a pay-per-hour basis), there are plenty of included articles and online resources for self-study. There are also no prerequisites for taking courses at this beginner level.
Beginner training lessons with E-Training for Dogs cost between roughly $25 and $90, depending on the class, and can be purchased on an a la carte basis. The price is determined by the number of recorded lectures included in the lesson, along with the volume of reading material that goes with it.
Doggy U: Best Consulting
If you’re looking for one-on-one help with a specific issue, Doggy U offers stellar consulting services. This online service dog training program can help you train your dog to assist with mobility, visual impairment, balance, PTSD, anxiety disorders, and hearing.
Its trainers will work closely with you to build confidence in your dog while helping you overcome any specific training challenges you may have already run into. In addition to one-on-one consulting, Doggy U also has a great Service Dog 101 training session and a more in-depth monthly training program.
Consulting appointments with Doggy U cost about $60, and you’ll work with an experienced, certified trainer to address any hurdles in your dog’s training. Outside of Doggy U's consulting service, the Service Dog 101 class is about $50 and provides a 45-minute point of entry for your training. A monthly training class costs around $400 and is ongoing, with multiple consulting sessions each month.
Animal Behavior Institute: Best for Trainers
Most of the options we’ve included here are designed for owner-trainers hoping to work with their own service dogs. But if you’re hoping to become a trainer of service dogs for others, Animal Behavior Institute is a great place to start your journey.
This online school’s Service & Therapy Dog Training program will help you create your own training plan, put canine behaviors on cue, work one-on-one with disabled clients, and select and assess dogs for use in service training (among numerous other skills). Altogether, the program consists of five individual courses, and after graduating, you may use the designation CSTDTP, or Certified Service & Therapy Dog Training Professional.
Each individual service dog training course with the Animal Behavior Institute costs about $1,260, and the full program is roughly $6,300 (textbooks are not included.) While it’s a steeper investment than most classes designed for owner-trainers, the difference is that this is a true certification program intended for future training professionals.
WAGS 4 Kids: Best for Kids
As the name implies, WAGS 4 Kids (Working Animals Giving Service for Kids) is focused on providing mobility and autism service dogs for children. It’s mainly focused on placing kids with their future canine companion, but it also has a great online training program that you and your child can work through with your pup.
WAGS currently offers online versions of its puppy and basic training classes, both of which run for six weeks and cover fundamental skills for service dogs. You’ll learn the same methods WAGS uses to train its own service dogs and receive a copy of its textbook, “Step By Step: The W.A.G.S. Service Dog Training Academy.”
Both the puppy and basic courses are currently being offered at a discounted rate of about $90 (they are usually priced at roughly $140), and each session runs for one hour. Each class is led by one of WAGS’ experienced trainers.
My Service Dog and Me: Best Monthly Membership
My Service Dog and Me is run by Kate Olson, KPA CTP, a licensed dog trainer with over eight years of experience training dogs. Based in Sparta, Wisconsin, it specializes in diabetic alert and psychiatric dogs.
Its online academy is a monthly membership program that holds live web classes every month and allows you access to previous lessons on demand. There are also live Q&A chats and training journals you can use to help kickstart your dog’s training. Additionally, there are many ongoing courses such as a six-week puppy training course that you can join based on your needs.
Memberships give you access to a Facebook group where you can ask questions and seek advice from fellow trainers. Olson hosts monthly Facebook Live sessions with one-off topics such as “how to control your dog on a leash.” Many of them are free to the general public.
If you’re local to Wisconsin, you can also opt for in-person training or even purchase a fully trained service dog from the agency.
USA Service Dogs: Best Registration Program
Although you are not legally required to register your service dog in order for him or her to accompany you on daily tasks, it can be helpful in many situations such as renting an apartment if you have proof of your dog’s training.
While most certification and assessments are done in person (and we highly recommend this eventually so you can ensure your dog is properly trained), the USA Service Dogs program allows you to register your pup online. This registration works for both service dogs and emotional support dogs. When you register with USA Service Dogs, you will receive an ID card as well as a vest, leash, and tag for your dog that identify him or her as a registered service dog.
A standard registration kit starts at about $59, while the ultimate ID kit will run you roughly $199. Registration takes only a few minutes and USA Service Dog does not require proof of training or coursework to process your application. You will never need to re-register, and the registration is good for the life of your dog.
How We Chose the Best Online Service Dog Training Programs
When picking the best online service dog training programs, we focused on companies that offered affordable online classes that offered a wide array of topics. Companies such as E-Training for Dogs offered courses for both disabled individuals training their own dogs, as well as for trainers working with someone else’s dog. This allows customers to find the right fit for their needs.
Additionally, access to advice and one-on-one help was a big factor in making decisions for our list. We love how Doggy U and Service Dog Academy offered the option to speak with a certified trainer individually to answer any questions or help through roadblocks. Service Dog Academy, however, earned our best overall title for its pedigree, as it trains medical alert dogs throughout the world across a wide variety of conditions.
How Long Does It Take to Train a Service Dog?
The time it takes depends on what your dog is being trained for. A seeing-eye dog, for example, can take up to two years to fully train. On the other hand, an emotional support dog or a diabetic alert dog may take closer to six months. While online training courses are great for starting out or helping you on your dog training journey, in-person training can be a very beneficial accompaniment.
Do You Need Proof of a Service Dog?
The ADA does not require proof that your dog has been through training or is a certified service dog. That said, sometimes documentation can be helpful in cases of renting an apartment or boarding a plane.
What Can a Service Dog Do?
A service dog is a highly skilled dog that is trained in a certain area to protect and aid his or her owner. Service dogs can help with everything from mobility and hearing impairments to diabetes and seizure alerts to emotional support. They are allowed access to public places in order to assist and help their owners.