Service Dog Training Institute Logo Banner


Comparison of Owner Trained vs Program Trained Service Dogs 

Owner-Trained Assistance Dog

Program-Trained Assistance Dogs

1.  Stays with original handler throughout raising and training: no adjustment to new people/environments 1.  Dog is usually handled by at least 3 different people: puppy raisers, trainers and handlers (may lack continuity)
2.  You deal with puppy adolescent issues 2.  They deal with puppy and adolescent issues
3.  You choose the breed that suits your lifestyle & needed tasks 3.  They choose the dog breed (either bred by organization or rescues)
4.  You select and test (breed, mix, puppy adolsceent or adult) 4.  They select and test potential dogs
5.  You choose the training approach you want to use 5.  They use whatever training philosophy they ascribe to
6.  Start benefiting from dog after first task is trained 6.  Waiting lists 1 year or more
7.  You learn how to train a dog and can train other tasks as your needs change 7.  Many organizations only train dogs for one or two types of disability and some don’t retrain new tasks at later date
8.  You can train your dog to be any type of assistance dog you need (including tasks for several disabilities). 8.  Some types of service dogs are not available
9.  You bear the costs of dog while raising and training puppy and adolescent (some fundraising may be needed) 9.  High cost or must be heavily involved in fundraising
10. If dog proves to be unsuitable you must either rehome or maintain costs of a pet dog 10. They take back dog and rematch, retrain or rehome
11. Steep learning curve, effort and dedication required to train  11. Shorter learning curve
12. Have to find/figure out  training structure on your own 12. Program guides you through the basics (but still have to figure relationship out on your own)
13. Reliance on others to assist training and public access (transport etc) 13. May have ongoing contact/follow-up
14. You choose/arrange for your retired service dog 14. Most organizations have rules about what happens to retired dogs (if they can be kept or must be rehomed)
15. You choose which trainer you work with, find other if doesn't work out 15. Some companies/organizations are not reputable and dogs are not trained to the standard they claim they are
16. Need to be resourceful to obtain physical resources and help to train dog 16. They supply physical training and human resources
17. Change your life while dog in training-focus on dog, not you  17. Your focus is more on your life than the dog's needs.
18. You have a choice to use dog for inhome service only or public access (certification may be required in some areas) 18. Most go through some sort of pubic testing/certification and are expected to be used in public as well as home. 
19. You may be able to deduct expenses related to keeping a service dog in Canada, but not in BC  19. You can deduct income tax expensese related to maintaining a program-trained service dog (In Canada and the US)
20. Can be hard to find moral and local support (when it comes to access issues, family taking OT SD seriously etc) 20. Can be hard to get moral and local support even with a program-trained dog.

Here is a link
to a recent study (2019) that compares owner-trained (self-trained) vs program-trained service dogs.