Who can take our classes?
Anyone over the age of 16 years can take the classes. Minors must have permission and supervision of their parent/guardian. You can live anywhere in the world as long as you can speak English and have access to high speed internet and a functioning webcam.
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.
Note: New format! Web cam sessions with an instructor are now offered.
How much do your classes cost?
Single self-paced class is CDN$35.
Two-level class bundles CDN$65.
Three-level class bundle CDN$90.
Each single level class includes self-guided materials for about 4 weeks of training.
All students can access our school-wide discussion forum on the website. A few classes offer a class discussion forum.
Optional 3 x 30 minute weekly web cam sessions with an instructor available.
Check the current dollar exchange for your currency. It may be less. Paypal automatically converts the money into your currency even though we charge Canadian dollars. This may means a savings for you since the Canadian dollar tends to be lower than some currencies (such as US dollars).
When is registration?
During Covid19 restrictions, registration is available anytime!
During normal periods, registration is open the first wednesday of each month to the second wednesday. You have access to classes as soon as you register. Only specific classes are offered each month. Click here for other registration information.
What Do Your Classes Include?
Classes are like books:
There is text that takes you step by step though the process. There are problem-solving tips for common training challenges with each behavior.
There are photos and diagrams.
There are videos to demonstrate the steps with real dogs learning the process and text commentary that accompanies each video. Here is a sample lecture to give you an idea of how the content is presented.
Each class has a checklist spreadsheet that changes color when you complete each objective at reach location.
What Order Should I Take the Classes?
Service Puppy: The First 8 Weeks at Home (8-16 weeks old)
Foundation Skills Level 1, 2, 3 (12 weeks and up)
Settle Levels 1, 2 (12 weeks and up)
Loose Leash Walking Levels 1, 2, 3 (12 weeks and up)
Service Dog Retrieve Levels 1, 2 (6 mos and up)
If you are starting with a dog older than 16 weeks, then Foundation Skills is the starting point. If you have a dog that already has some good skills, then you can choose the classes you need to fill in your holes. The Foundation Skills class is for you as much as your dog as it teaches you the theory and skills of training. Your dog learns as you do.
Other classes as they are offered.
Generally, specific task classes are best started once your pup is 18 months and older, especially tasks that require the dog to be physically or emotionally mature such as anxiety tasks or mobility tasks.
Can I Take the Classes Simultaneously?
Yes, if you have the time, energy and resources, you can take 2 classes at the same time. You will need to make sure you have time, energy and focus/organization skills to do that.
Taking more than one class at a time will keep you and your dog very busy. Please don't overwhelm yourself or your dog. Training burnout is real! Slow is Fast in training a service dog.
What if I Don't have a Paypal Account?
You don't need one to make payment. Paypal accepts credit cards. In the payment box, look for "I don't have a Paypal Account" near the bottom of the box. Click on that and fill in your credit card information. If you live in Canada, we can accept Interac payment.
Do I Have to Sign up For all of the Classes?
We recommend that you have the Foundations Skills needed to build on the other behaviors or you and your dog have the skills taught in the class. For the most part, you can pick and choose which ones you take. Look at the schedule though and make sure that you can take all levels of the classes in a row.
We offer a school class bundle which contains the core classes every service dog needs. It is offered at a discount to save you money.
Will I get face to face time with an Instructor by WebCam?
Yes, for an extra fee, we offer 3 x 30 min weekly private sessions with an instructor. Students can use Zoom, Skype, or Facebook web chat. These sessions helps 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 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. This time is be used to ask class-related questions and clarify class materials.
You will need to book these with the instructor ahead of time and each session must be used up before the end of the month they were purchased in. Unused webcam sessions do not carry over to the next month. We want you to train now, rather than put it off.
Can I purchase extra web cam sessions?
Yes! For questions that do not fall under specific class content, such as asking about the overall process of training your own assistance dog, developing an overall training plan, problem solving challenging behaviors, dealing with fear periods etc, figuring out which tasks to train etc. check out our one hour "anything goes" web cam sessions.
Fast Track Program is one or twice daily for 5 days in a row!
Please note we cannot discuss topics that are outside of the realm of service dog training such as dog or human-aggressive dogs, dogs that resource guard their handler, fearful dogs, dogs with moderate to severe separation anxiety etc.
There is no refund once you have purchased each online class. Please choose what classes you need carefully. 48 hours notice must be given to reschedule web cam sessions with the instructor. New date and time must work for the instructor. If 48 hours notice is not given, the session will be forfeited. 30 min web cam sessions that are not completed by the end of week 3 of the month the class was purchased are forfeited. Refunds can be given for webcam session but a $10 handling fee applies.
Fast Track web cam sessions must be used in the time period they are purchased for. For example, if you purchase 5 days of once a day sessions, you must use all of them within a 10 day period (10 days from purchase date). This is to keep you moving forward in training.
Why Are the Costs of Your Classes so Low?
We recognize that many people who have disabilities are on income assistance. This means that without fundraising many people cannot afford to pay up front for a large package of classes. By keeping the cost of the classes low and keeping them short term, students can pay for them. That makes it possible for them to participate. Watch for changes to our websites as prices will be going up soon!
Why do you suggest weekly private sessions some classes?
We want our students to succeed. By including weekly private sessions, especially in the beginning, instructors can help students to develop good training habits. This will speed the training process.
My Class Doesn't show up under "My Courses" after I register and I have received a confirmation page.
Hit the 'refresh' button on your browser (or reload the page). It will appear in the box.
Can Anyone Train Their Own Service Dog?
Each person needs to think long and hard if they are able to train a dog through the process. Do they have a support system in place? Do they have the financial resources to maintain a dog? Do their physical abilities, medical conditions, or anxiety levels limit how well they will train their dog? Can they create the environment that a dog can thrive in? Check the other FAQ for costs of having a service dog and characteristics of a good service dog trainer-YOU!
Here is a blog post as well.
Does SDTI Certify Service Dogs or Teams?
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. Check to see if your local government has a way to test owner trainers. 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 of your team skills, that certification is not valid anywhere.
What standard of training do you train to?
There is no globally-accepted standard of training for service dogs. Each organization sets their own minimum standards. Having said that, our classes help you to train your dog to meet or exceed the minimum requirements of the British Columbia Guide and Service Assessment test. This is among the highest standards of any service dog organization. All 40 parts of the test must be passed in person to qualify in BC. We offer an in-person practice of the test if you are local to see if you are ready to take the test and where the holes in your training might be.
Can I Train the Dog I Have as a Service or Assistance Dog?
That depends on your needs and the dog you have. Click on this link to see how your dog's health and temperament match up to what is needed in a service dog with public access. If you only need your dog for at home use, then if the dog is healthy and physically capable of ding the needed tasks, then yes, if the training process does not stress him out.
How Much Does it Cost to House and Train An Assistance Dog?
The cost varies. Are you starting with a puppy or adult dog?
Here is a link that looks at some basic costs of owner-training a service dog.
For actual training costs, it varies.
Starting with a puppy you will have:
online monthly classes (Cdn $35 each) for one year: Cdn $420
additional classes and web cam sessions extra
live local classes (3-4 sets) with other dogs to teach your dog to focus on you in the presence of other dogs. ~$800 (offered by other trainers local to you)
Task training classes: ~$310 (or more depending on how many tasks and what they are)
Task training classes do not need to be taken until later. Mobility and anxiety alert dogs cannot be doing these until at least 18 mos of age when they are structurally mature (though non-structural foundation training can be started earlier).
Most owner-trained dogs are not ready for public access until 3 years of age due to managing their health, life and doing their own training.
A realistic estimate varies from $3500 to $6000 for the first two years for someone who is learning how to train their own dog. The more support you need, the more it will cost you.
It costs about $1500 per year just maintain a dog (food, vet, grooming etc).
How Long Does it Typically Take to Owner Train a Service Dog?
For owner-trainers, it usually takes about 2.5 to 3 years if you get your dog as a puppy to the point of 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 familiy 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.
Will My Dog be Certified After Taking Your Classes?
No. These classes train you, the handler, to train your own dog. If your province or country requires or recommends certification, you will have to go through an authorized tester to be certified as a team. For example, in British Columbia, to be certified you go through the Ministry of Justice to be tested for certification.
What Methods of Training Do you Use?
All behaviors are taught using the principles of learning theory focussing primarily on positive reinforcement and careful use of negative punishment. Capturing and shaping are used and errorless learning help the dogs succeed. We vary the type of reinforcers we use (food toys, affection, real life reinforcers once the dog has learned and generalized behaviors). Along the way, we also teach you to read your dog's body language so communication is two-way. You are working together as a team, after all!
Do You Use Punishment At All?
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. 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. There is a greater risk of unwanted side effects such as fear, frustration or aggression when using punishment. Professional service dog programs that have switched to using positive reinforcement have improved their success rate from 50% to 80% or better.
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 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!
Can I Use Corrections at all When I am Taking Your Classes?
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 in class. 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. Life happens and we have to react to it.
How do I Figure out What My Needs are for an Assistance Dog?
Check out this link with a checklist you can print off or download.
What is Better: An Owner-Training Dog or Program Trained Dog?
That depends on your needs and the availability of the type of tasks you need.
Here's a comparison of Owner-Trained vs Program-Trained dogs.
What do you Consider to be The Three Most Important Things to Consider When Training Your Own Assistance Dog?
1. Take time to Select the Right Service Dog Candidate
2. If you choose a puppy, do Early socialization and environmental enrichment between 5 and 16 weeks to people, other animals and types of environments the pup will be working in as an adult. (This starts before a pup even comes home with you at 8.5 to 9 weeks). If you get an adult dog, determine what his early socialization and enrichment history was like.
3. Train foundation skills as a concept rather than just specific behaviors. This will allow your dog to learn new things faster later on as your medical needs change.
4. Build a strong bond with your dog: Treat them as a member of the family! Do fun things with her.
Are Your Classes Suitable to Teach me how to Train Service Dogs?
I want to Be A Service Dog Trainer.
Yes, 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 program at this time.
If you have additional questions about becoming a service dog trainer, your best bet is to make a list and book a one time web cam session with us. Our instructor can share her service dog training experience and resources at that time.
Who Can I Contact if I Want to get a Program-Trained Dog?
In Canada, contact: Canadian Association of Guide and Assistance Dog Schools http://www.cagads.com/programs.html
In the USA, contact ADI accredited members listed on the ADI site:
Who Can I Contact to Have my Own Dog Trained for me?
Look for a trainer who does day training or board and train. It's buyer beware though. This is an unregulated industry and you may not get what you thought you were getting. Use the same stringent process as if you are looking for a trainer to help you train your dog. Good luck!