The Best Service Dog Training in Vermont

service dog poodleIf you’re living with a disability in Vermont, 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, Vermont law ensures a service dog accompanying a person with a disability cannot be denied access to public accommodations. In any case, all public accommodations must abide by both state and federal law.

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 Vermont.

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 Vermont

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

Green Mountain Dog Camp

This small local business provides dog training services from its well-equipped facility in Roxbury. Founder Janine Manninen runs its popular service dog training program, which includes assistance in locating a suitable animal, as well as in-depth guidance and support. As a Certified Training Partner (CTP), Janine uses force-free positive reinforcement techniques to fine-tune animal behavior at record speed.

Most of the service dog training is undertaken in-house at the facility. Rest assured, your pup will be in good hands, as the complex boasts a leafy 3/4-acre park, as well as a temperature-controlled kennel for those frigid winter months.

Cost: $80 per hour

Location: Roxbury, Vermont

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.greenmountaindogcamp.com

Fetch and More

Fetch and More offers an array of dog training services to several eastern states, including Vermont. Above all else, the company specializes in training service dogs for people with psychiatric conditions, especially PTSD. The comprehensive program teaches a dog to recognize the onset of a psychiatric episode—such as a panic attack—and provide soothing, preventative support. All training comes with a lifetime guarantee.

The company commonly works with veterans and can liaise with insurance companies and Veterans Affairs to negotiate as much financial support as possible. The program takes place at the facility, the client’s home, and various public access locations in the area. Lead instructor John Bellocchio has more than 20 years of experience, plus a dazzling selection of animal behavior certifications and qualifications.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Eastern US

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.fetchandmore.com

Vermont Paws & Boots

Vermont Paws & Boots is a highly regarded non-profit on a mission to “rebuild heroes one paw print at a time.” The organization works exclusively with veterans and first responders, providing highly trained animals to assist with PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), military sexual trauma, or physical disabilities.

The team sources suitable rescue dogs from local shelters and pairs them with an appropriate applicant. All recipients must partake in the training program, which is run by  Executive Director Michelle LeBlanc. As a veteran herself, Michelle has a profound understanding of what servicemen and women have been through—she transforms her real-world experience into an empathetic, efficient approach.

Cost: Free for approved applicants (expect a long waiting list)

Location: Bennington, Vermont

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.vermontpawsandboots.org

College For Pets

Based in New Hampshire, College For Pets is a well-established professional outfit that offers a superb service dog program across multiple states, including Vermont. Note that the company only runs owner-trained programs—the applicant must do most of the legwork themselves. However, you can expect extensive support and advice from the team, throughout the program.

Applicants get to choose between three options: Premier (the most comprehensive option), Puppy (for young dogs around eight weeks of age), or Adult (for older dogs at least five months old). Whichever you choose, expect to spend 18-24 months training the animal—it’s an arduous process that requires 100% commitment.

Cost: Premier $8,500 / Puppy $5,500 / Adult $4,500

Location: Holderness, NH (service dog program is available to residents of Vermont)

Certificate: Yes, Good Canine Certificate provided upon completion

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.collegeforpets.com