The Best Service Dog Training in Missouri

woman with service dogIf you’re living with a disability in Missouri, it might be worth training your pooch (or a new puppy) to become a service dog. Not only do these lovable creatures provide invaluable assistance with everyday tasks, but they also receive legal protections under federal and state laws.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) affords anyone with an eligible disability the civil right to bring a service dog into any “public accommodations” (restaurants, entertainment venues, retail stores, educational institutions, etc.). Businesses, including landlords and airlines, cannot charge for a service dog or treat the owner differently, providing the animal is housebroken and well-behaved.

In addition, Missouri’s disability law provides similar protections to any dog that has been specially trained to assist its handler with a physical or mental disability. Public accommodations are obliged to abide by both federal and state laws.

Although there are no formal certification or registration requirements, a canine must be adequately trained to qualify as a service dog. In this article, we’ll cover what to consider when searching for a service dog trainer and then review the top five providers in Missouri.

What to Look for When Choosing Service Dog Training

Choosing an appropriate service dog training center is the first step towards turning a canine companion into a bonafide service animal.

Regardless of whether you choose an online or in-person trainer, it’s best to stick with an established operator with years (or decades) of industry experience. Look for a provider with a proven track record with your specific disability.

Not all trainers work with every dog. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing—it could mean they excel at training a specific breed. Some insist on working with a custom-bred puppy, while others accept existing pets (after a rigorous evaluation) or source animals from a local shelter. In any case, check whether these conditions align with your needs.

For a brick-and-mortar establishment, it’s worth assessing the facilities in person before committing. Are the kennels in good shape? Do the dogs have plenty of open space? A low-quality trainer will cut corners and deliver subpar results.

While a sizable waiting list is indicative of a successful business (or a popular non-profit), you should consider your own timeline, as well. If you need an animal trained in a hurry, there’s no point joining a five year waiting list.

Finally, cost is a crucial consideration. While the law requires a service dog to be capable of supporting its owner, there’s no legal requirement to enlist a professional trainer. An online training course gives you the necessary tools to train your animal at home and saves you thousands compared to an in-person program.

Online vs. In-Person Service Dog Training

So, what’s the best option for training a service dog: in-person or online? Both methods have their advantages, which we’ll discuss below.

While an in-person course requires you to attend scheduled classes, an online program lets you train your animal at your convenience—you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home. The most significant benefit, however, is cost. Online programs give you all the support and guidance you need at a fraction of the price of an in-person course.

Although rigid and expensive, in-person programs may achieve better results because an experienced professional provides expert, tailor-made training sessions. Furthermore, the in-person option puts less burden on the owner, which is essential when a severe disability renders self-training impractical. Both humans and canines also get ample opportunity to socialize and exercise—active and outgoing owners often find in-person training more fun.

Pros of Online Service Dog Training Pros of In-Person Service Dog Training
Cost-effective: online courses cost a fraction of the price of in-person programs Less owner burden: trainers do most of the work, essential for people with severe disabilities.
Convenience: train your dog at a time that’s suitable for you Expertise: in-person trainers draw on years of experience to achieve optimal results
Comfort: no need to leave the comfort of your own home Exercise and socialization: you and your dog will get out and about

 

The Best Service Dog Training in Missouri

Now you’re up to speed, it’s time to check out the top service dog training programs in Missouri—both in-person or online. We’ve searched long and hard to identify and review the top courses in the state to make the selection process easier for you.

US Service Animals Online Training

The top dog in virtual training, US Service Animals Online Training gives you everything you need to teach your canine to become a service dog from home. The six-module program consists of 12 easy-to-follow videos that outline cutting-edge animal behavior theories and how they apply to your four-legged friend. Unlike other online programs, you’ll get customized support from a professional service dog trainer throughout the course.

The comprehensive program teaches your pet to assist with various disabilities, including blindness, hearing loss, diabetes, mobility issues, and epilepsy. No breed or size restrictions apply, and you get a handy certificate at the end (there’s also an optional service vest, collar, collar tag, and leash).

Cost: $349

Location: Online only (6 video modules)

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Clicker, plus optional service vest, collar, collar tag, and leash

Link: www.usserviceanimals.org

Precious K9s

Located in Battlefield (near Springfield), this professional outfit runs a service dog training program for residents around the state. The company excels at teaching people with disabilities how to train a service dog themselves—get prepared to do most of the work yourself. Private tuition and group classes occur either online or at their facility.

Precious K9s will consider helping you train your existing pet. However, both the human and canine applicants must pass a rigorous assessment to determine suitability. CEO Carrie Galvan oversees the service dog program, drawing upon 20 years of experience and multiple prestigious accreditations to achieve superb results.

Cost: Service dog programs from $6,000 (+ $50 application fee)

Location: Battlefield, Missouri

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.preciousk9s.com

Missouri Patriot Paws

Missouri Patriot Paws is a medium-sized non-profit that provides service dog training for veterans and first responders with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The majority of its canine graduates have been rescued from local shelters, in order to give vulnerable animals another chance at life. However, the organization may also agree to train an existing pet with a close bond to the applicant, provided it passes a series of assessments.

Regular training sessions occur at the facility and public access locations, and applicants get plenty of homework to complete in their spare time. The organization sources funding from the community and places dogs free of charge for applicants with modest financial means.

Cost: Free for low-income applicants

Location: Kansas City and St Louis, Missouri

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Advice on acquiring equipment provided

Link: https://mopatriotpaws.org/index.html

StLHuggs

StLHuggs is a St. Louis non-profit that teaches people with disabilities how to train their dog (or new puppy) to become a fully-fledged service dog. Eligible disabilities include autism, allergies, diabetes, mobility impairments, and visual/hearing loss. As an owner-trained program, the course provides the necessary knowledge and tools to successfully train a service dog at home.

Head trainer Liz Johnston leads the program, backed by a whopping 40 years of experience in the field—she’s a true dog training veteran. Liz started the St. Louis chapter of HUGGS (a large, nationwide non-profit) back in 2008 and has served scores of needy applicants since then. After passing an assessment and interview, the applicant must attend monthly outings, training classes (one every six months), testing days, and the graduation ceremony.

Cost: Fees apply, contact for more information

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Vests, patches, and IDs provided, although they remain the property of the non-profit

Link: www.stlhuggs.org

Champ Assistance Dogs

This large non-profit draws on a pool of over 150 volunteers (many of whom are inmates at local prisons) to provide fully trained service dogs to people with disabilities in Missouri. The organization doesn’t receive any federal funding, relying on generous donations from the community, instead. All animals are placed free of charge.

The non-profit runs a tailor-made at-home and public access service dog program. Since beginning the program in 1998, they’ve placed over 77 service dogs into local homes. Canine candidates come from shelters or breeders and reside in the caregiver’s home throughout the training process. Unfortunately,  Champs doesn’t provide service dogs for people with visual/hearing impairments, epilepsy, or diabetes.

Cost: Free

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.champdogs.org