Service Dog Information
Are you looking for a service dog for yourself or a loved one? Do you need help training your dog to become your service dog?
You’ve come to the right place. Here at Valor K9 Academy, we specialize in service dog training. And we would love to help you get your independence back.
We offer the following service dog training:
- PTSD Service Dogs
- TBI Service Dogs
- Psychiatric Support Dogs
- Mobility Support
- Medical Alert/Response
- Autism Support
- Hearing Alert
- and more!
This article is intended to help you understand the service dog acquisition and training process. We hope it helps! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out and ask.
Q: Do you have a dog already?
“Yes, I have a dog.”
If you have a dog you’d like to train as your service dog, great! The first step in the service dog process, then, is for us to meet you and evaluate your dog’s behavior. We are looking for specific traits, because it takes a very special dog to have what it takes for service work. Service dogs are one-in-a-million!
The evaluation process is called our Service Dog Consultation. It takes about 45 minutes, and it’s done in the trainer’s home. This gives us access to all the things we need to properly assess your dog, to include our demo dogs which help us to temperament test your dog.
It does not matter if your dog is a puppy or an adult dog, we will evaluate him or her in the following key categories:
- Social skills
- And Drives
Of course, we will also look at your dog’s current level of training, but more on that later!
Please understand that we will be very selective during our assessment. Any sign of fear, aggression or instability will disqualify your dog from working with us as a service dog. Maybe another trainer will work with you, but not us. We have very high standards for our service dogs and the service dogs we train!
If your dog passes with flying colors, the next step is to talk about training!
If he doesn’t, we can talk about other options.
“No, I do not have dog.”
No problem! We can help you find the right dog. Now, you can train an adult dog to be a service dog, but finding the right adult dog is like finding a needle in a haystack. Almost impossible! So we do recommend starting with a puppy. There are a lot of advantages to starting with a puppy. The only real disadvantage is that it takes longer to get to “the end” of the training process.
We offer what we call a “Puppy Selection Service.” We help you select a breed, choose a breeder and pick a puppy. While we understand that rescue puppies are wonderful, we do recommend using a tried & true breeder in order to stack the deck in your favor in terms of health, temperament and overall trainability. So for this reason, our recommendations will be for breeders we know, trust and possibly have worked with in the past. (We have a few favorite breeders who we’ve used extensively!)
Maybe you just need help with steps 2 and 3. Great! We are happy to assist in any way we can. You just let us know! Keep in mind that good breeders usually have 6-12 month waiting lists, so you’ll want to plan ahead. The sooner we get started, the better!
Q: What does the training process look like?
Great question! The first step is foundation work. That’s where we lay the ground work for training success. Foundation training includes socialization & exposure, crate training, potty training, basic obedience and manners. The next step is proofing and generalizing training to real-world distractions. And the last step is task training. This is where we teach the potentially life-saving tasks that the dog’s handler will depend on the dog to do.
Service dogs need to be:
- And focused on their handlers
There are two ways to do this training:
- Private Lessons
- Board & Train
Private lessons are 1-hour lessons done weekly in your home, the trainer’s home or a public location. In private lessons, we help you work on a few new things each week, and then you put in the work to keep training your puppy or dog at home. For more information on private lessons, go here.
The other option is the board & train. This is where your puppy or dog goes to the trainer for a set period of time (usually 4 weeks) and learns all the skills he or she needs to know for that stage of training. For more information on board & train programs, click here.
Training is not an overnight process. For this reason, the training process is a journey.
For the best results, if you are getting a puppy to be your service dog or currently have a puppy under six months of age, we recommend the following training:
- 4 week Puppy Head Start Board & Train
- 3-4 week Good Dog Board & Train or Gold Private Lessons Package
- 4-5 week Custom Service Dog Board & Train
So long as everything goes as planned, this will take you from start to finish in the training process. By doing board & train programs, we are training the dog and you are maintaining the training between board & train programs. Once the last board & train is done, you’re able to put two-and-two together and your dog is tasking in public.
(Please note, this is typically the results we get. Each dog is different, though. Some dogs may need more training if behavioral issues or training problems pop up, or you do not work with the dog enough between board & trains.)
If you’re looking to find or train an adult dog to be a service dog, here’s what we recommend:
- 3-4 week Good Dog Board & Train
- Gold Private Lessons Package
- 4-6 week Custom Board & Train
This does save you money on training, and it’s because you’re able to skip the whole first year of puppy raising and training. But again, we would need to meet & evaluate your dog to make sure that service work is a doable job for him or her.
If you want to go the private lessons route, we recommend *only* substituting the Good Dog Board & Train with a Gold Private Lessons package (10 lessons). There is just too much valuable information being taught to the puppy in a Puppy Head Start Board & Train. And there’s no substitute for experience when it comes to the Custom Board & Train. That’s where we teach tasking and do public access training (PAT).
Q: How much does it cost for service dog training?
This is one of our most frequently asked questions.
- If you’re buying a puppy or training the puppy you already have, you’re looking at an investment of $23,000-$25,000. This typically covers the cost of the puppy selection service, cost of the puppy, vet bills, equipment and, of course, training.
- If you’re using your current dog or adopting an adult dog, the investment is a little less: approximately $13,000-$20,000. This covers the adoption fee, service dog evaluation, vet bills, equipment and training.
Big picture: the cost can be as little as $13,000 or as much as $25,000. If you elect to do all the training via private lessons, which is an option, you could be looking at as little as $5,000 in training. But doing only private lessons is a much harder and more time-consuming approach, so it is not recommended. Many people do not have enough motivation to make it through the process from start to finish.
Another cost to consider is health testing and X-rays. We recommend Embark testing your dog to ensure he or she is not at-risk for any genetic diseases, and we recommend X-raying large breed dogs around a year of age, before beginning task training, to ensure the dog is orthopedically sound enough for service work, especially if the dog will be doing mobility work. Health testing costs approximately $800.
Q: How long does it take?
The duration of training depends on the age of the dog at the onset of training and how much training the dog needs.
- For puppies, typically the process takes 12-18 months.
- For adult dogs, typically the process takes 6-12 months.
For the board & train programs, if you have a puppy, we recommend the following timeline:
- Puppy Head Start: starting at 10-12 weeks of age
- Good Dog: starting at 6 months of age
- Custom: starting at a year of age
Q: Do you take out-of-state dogs?
Yes, all the time! We work with clients and service dogs from all over the world. We frequently have dogs flown in to us so we can work with them via board & train. We also offer virtual training, but do recommend at least one board & train for the training process.
Q: Do you sell fully-trained dogs?
At times, yes, we do occasionally have started or nearly finished service dogs available for sale. Last year (in 2022), we sold three such dogs via our sister company, Valor Protection Dogs. We do not currently have any started dogs for sale, but do have three finished dogs who could cross-train into service work with no problems.
Q: Do you offer discounts or financing?
No, we do not. There are a few grant organizations our clients have used in the past. These include Lester’s Feet, MK Foundation and Chelsea Hutchison Foundation. That is all we know of at this time.
Q: How can I get started?
If you’re interested in getting a service dog for yourself or a loved one, fill out the form on our contact page! We’d love to talk with you more about how we can help you in your quest to get a service dog.
Note: We currently offer service dog training at our Boise location only.
Thank you for reading. We hope this has helped explain the service dog acquisition and training process.