The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is clear in defining what constitutes a service animal. One of the basic requirements is for the dogs to be individually trained, so they can perform various tasks that will help people with physical, psychological, and mental disabilities.
Are you looking for service dog training programs to help meet the ADA’s requirement? Then you will be overwhelmed by the number of institutions that all promise remarkable service. To help you determine which programs are reliable and which are fly-by-night operations, consider the following dos and don’ts.
Do Assess the Credibility of the Program.
Instead of being swayed by professional-looking websites or engaging marketing campaigns, you should evaluate the service dog training programs yourself. Find out what methods of training they use. Make sure that the organization only employs science-based and humane practices to ensure the safety of your dogs.
You can also ask for client feedback to get a more accurate picture of the training program. You can search the internet for independent reviews and testimonials. You can also ask the institution to refer you to past clients, so you can personally meet them. If you sense some hesitation or if the organization fails to provide you with contacts, consider this as a red flag and walk away.
Do Not Forget to Check the Credentials of the Trainers.
Apart from the type of training, you should also learn more about the qualifications of the trainers. Check how long they have been training service dogs and what certifications they have. You can also ask for training videos, so you have a better idea of what they do.
As you watch, inspect if the dogs on the videos have prong collars or choke chains. If they do, then you can readily tell that the trainers use punitive strategies to discipline the dogs.
Do Take the Time to Visit the Facility.
Take the time to visit the facility so you can personally see how dogs undergo training, the state of the living area, and the disposition of the animals. Check if the kennel is well-maintained and if the dogs are happy and relaxed.
Do not Be Intimidated to Ask Relevant Questions.
While you may feel uncomfortable asking too many questions to the owner of the facility or the trainer, you should still do so. Keep in mind that you should have all the relevant information so you can choose the best program. Note that an experienced and highly-qualified service dog trainer will be open to scrutiny.
Do Examine the Contract.
Ask for a sample contract so that you can review the terms and conditions of the program. You can also verify the claims of the owner or trainer by checking if what they said is part of the program.
Do not Fail to Notice If the Trainer Asked You Questions.
Highly-skilled and educated trainers know that your disability, lifestyle, and personality are important factors to consider in determining a suitable service dog program. Find out if the institution will customize their plan depending on your needs. Avoid facilities that guarantee a foolproof approach to training.
The tips mentioned above will help you determine if the training program will benefit your potential service dog. Given the value of this animal in your everyday life, you should do everything that you can to ensure that your dog will receive the best training possible. Last but not least, besides finding the best trainer for your dog, be sure to take note of how to write an ESA letter if you happen to travel and need your service dog by your side!