Seeking the Right Service Dog Trainer

What to know when you're on the hunt for a service dog trainer.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Training dogs to guide the blind, help the deaf and provide assistance to people with other physical and mental disabilities is a long process that requires knowledge of animal behavior and complex medical conditions. Unfortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not specify requirements for assistance-dog trainers. Nor do states license such trainers.

As a result, unqualified and often unscrupulous trainers have proliferated, some claiming they can train an assistance dog in just a few sessions. Some people without disabilities seek such training, so they can claim that their dogs are assistance animals and bring them into airline cabins, restaurants and other places where animals are commonly banned.

Two groups­—the U.K.-based International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International in Maumee, Ohio—have worked since the 1980s to develop standards for bona fide training. Both groups have developed detailed accreditation processes that applicants must complete every five years. Globally, the organizations have certified more than 125 programs.

Morristown-based The Seeing Eye is the only New Jersey-based organization on both accreditation lists. Canine Companions for Independence and 28 other organizations, which are based in other states and provide assistance dogs for people in New Jersey, meet the standards of Assistance Dogs International. Many of the organizations have training facilities in New York, Pennsylvania and other nearby states.

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