The Best Service Dog Training in New Mexico

visually impaired woman with guide dogIf you’re living with a disability in New Mexico, 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 right to bring a service dog into any “public accommodations” (restaurants, entertainment venues, retail stores, educational institutions, etc.). Businesses, landlords, and airlines cannot charge for a service dog or treat the owner differently, providing the animal is housebroken and well-behaved.

New Mexico created the Service Animals Act in 2013, which aligns with the Americans with Disabilities Act to offer protections to service animals and their users. Under this act, only dogs and miniature horses are considered service animals. Most of the protections are the same as what is offered by the ADA. The Service Animals Act also prosecutes those who would misrepresent a pet as a service animal.

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 Mexico.

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 waitlist indicates a successful business (or a popular non-profit), you should also consider your own timeline. 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, 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 Mexico

woman in wheelchair at store with service dog

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

Assistance Dogs of the West

Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW) is accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). This non-profit organization connects people with organizations that can help them acquire or train service dogs. Service dogs and their owners are trained for a minimum of six months by ADW trainers and learn a minimum of three tasks. Classes run in 12-week blocks. Once an owner-trainer and their dog pass the program, they will be required to take annual public access tests for the next two years to ensure that the team retains the skills taught during the program. Assistance Dogs of the West only uses positive training techniques that do not involve pain, force, fear, or intimidation.

Cost: $1,800+

Location: In-person (Santa Fe, NM)

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: None

New Mexico Dog Training Academy

New Mexico Dog Training Academy can help you train your own dog to become a service dog if they have what it takes. Training is administered in one-on-one and group settings; and is conducted in your own home, the New Mexico Dog Training Academy’s facility, and public. These various modes of training will prepare your dog to work in all different settings. The New Mexico Dog Training Academy is part of the Pet Professional Guild, meaning that trainers do not use force, fear, pain, or intimidation to train dogs.

Cost: $2,900+

Location: In-person (Albuquerque, NM)

Certificate: No

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: None

Academy of Canine Excellence

The Academy of Canine Excellence will help you train your dog to perform tasks that aid your disability. They can also match you with a dog from one of their partnered breeders or rescues; this pup will be yours and live in your home as you work through the service dog training program. The Academy of Canine Excellence claims to use “balanced” force-free and fear-free training methods that focus on positive reinforcement. However, balanced does mean that corrections are utilized as well.

Cost: Contact for details

Location: In-person (Albuquerque, NM)

Certificate: No

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: None

Service Dog Training School International

Service Dog Training School International offers a few different online courses for training service dogs. One is a general service dog class, one focuses on psychiatric service dogs, and one is for diabetic alert dogs. The methods you will learn to train your dog are all positive.

Each course differs in cost and has a different number of training modules and videos included. However, each one comes with one-on-one support and is available to you for two years from the time you purchase so that you can go at your own pace.

After completing a training session, you will be required to do an assignment to prove that you and your dog have mastered the skills taught during the session. Some assignments will require you to take pictures or videos that instructors will then assess. After you complete all assignments and tests, you will receive a certificate that details the tasks your dog has been trained for.

Cost: $349 – $599

Location: Online

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: None