The Best Service Dog Training in New Jersey

service dog on white backgroundIf you’re living with a disability in New Jersey, 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.

Furthermore, the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) of New Jersey provides similar protections for service dogs that assist people with physical, mental, developmental, or psychological disabilities.

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 New Jersey.

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 New Jersey

Now you’re up to speed, it’s time to check out the top service dog training programs in New Jersey—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

John Soares K9 Training

John Soares K9 Training is a well-regarded outfit in Ringwood that specializes in canine obedience, although the team does offer an in-depth service dog program, as well. Owner and lead trainer John Soares, a certified and high qualified professional, runs the comprehensive service dog program, which he tailors to the customer’s unique needs.

The service begins with an in-depth consultation, where John determines the ideal breed for the job. The company then helps the client source the perfect puppy from its vast network of local breeders and shelters. Training mostly takes place at the Ringwood facility and typically lasts for several years. John schedules follow-up sessions after the program is complete to ensure every canine graduate is performing at its peak.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Ringwood, New Jersey

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.johnsoaresk9training.com

The Seeing Eye

The Seeing Eye is a philanthropic, non-profit organization that seeks to enable people with visual impairments to regain their independence and quality of life. As the name implies, the Seeing Eye strictly trains guide dogs; therefore, the organization isn’t suitable for people with any other kind of disability.

Although based in New Jersey, the organization serves people throughout America—it’s placed an impressive 17,000 guide dogs to date. Applicants apply via the website, then attend an in-depth 3.5-week training program at the Morristown facility. The organization funds the program through donations, although applicants must pay a nominal fee to demonstrate commitment.

Cost: $150

Location: Morristown, New Jersey

Certificate: No

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Harnesses

Link: www.seeingeye.org

Pro Canine Center

Pro Canine Center is a highly-regarded professional training company, which serves the New Jersey and New York areas. Esteemed trainer Andres Aportela leads the team, which is backed by 30 years of experience, plus a long list of qualifications and accomplishments.

Service dog training is provided for people with physical impairments, diabetes, and psychological illnesses, although other disabilities may be catered for on request. Andres insists on training service dogs as puppies, in order to achieve optimal results. In most cases, Andres will help the customer choose an appropriate candidate from a local breeder, then train the animal in-house at his Frenchtown facility.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Frenchtown, New Jersey

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.procaninecenter.com

Service Dog Academy

Service Dog Academy is a New Jersey business run by Mary McNeight, one of the country’s most esteemed medical alert trainers. Mary has a wide array of certifications and qualifications in the field. Plus, she’s a regular keynote speaker at some of the biggest animal psychology conferences in America.

Mary only works with medical alert service dogs, which detect oncoming seizures, high blood pressure levels, high/low glucose, and other potentially hazardous conditions. She’s trained over 250 medical alert dogs to date and currently only offers her services online or via a board and train program. A typical program lasts eight weeks and requires the customer to do a large amount of “homework” training in their own time.

Cost: Eight-week online program $1,299 / Two months board and train $14,000

Location: Online

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: No

Link: www.servicedogacademy.com