The Best Service Dog Training in South Carolina

A polive sniffing dog at the trainingA properly trained service dog can provide essential assistance to a person with a disability, greatly improving their quality of life. Furthermore, service dogs receive protections under federal and state laws, allowing them to accompany their handlers wherever they roam.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all public accommodations (bars, restaurants, museums, etc.) in the United States must not deny entry to a properly trained service dog accompanying a person with an eligible disability. Some exceptions exist, such as an animal that isn’t housebroken or poses a safety risk.

In addition, South Carolina’s disability rights law affords similar rights to handicapped (a substantial physical or mental impairment) persons and their accompanying animals. A person with a disability can choose to apply whichever law—federal or state—grants them more protection.

Training a service dog is a lengthy and often expensive undertaking, so it’s worth doing your research before diving in. To help you on your way, we’ve compiled a list of the top five service dog trainers in South Carolina, both in-person and online.

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 South Carolina

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

Dog Training in Your Home

DTIY is a Columbia-based professional trainer that provides a wide range of services to the city, including service dog training. Lead trainer Lynn takes charge of the program, which involves a comprehensive training regime in the client’s home and intermittent public access sessions. Lynn is experienced in preparing service animals to assist people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and mobility issues, among other disabilities.

The company offers a free evaluation, in which it will assess the relevant variables and provide a quote. All customers receive a Lifetime Better Dog Warranty, which entitles them to unlimited phone and email consultations, and free further training if required. Founded in North Carolina way back in 1989, the company has won multiple awards and is widely considered among the top trainers in the state.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Columbia, South Carolina

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.dog-training-columbia.com

Pawsitively Obedient

This well-regarded professional outfit provides an array of dog training services backed by scientifically proven methods, including a superb service dog program. At present, Pawsitively Obedient only works with animals intended to assist people with PTSD, hearing loss, and diabetes—anyone with other disabilities needs to look elsewhere. However, by focusing on a select few specific fields, the company achieves stellar results and has earned a solid reputation for excellence.

After the initial free phone consultation, the team will observe the customer’s animal for 90 minutes to determine suitability. If the animal passes, it will embark on a 1-2 year training program, with sessions at the client’s home and public access locations.

Cost: $8,000 – $12,000

Location: Columbia, South Carolina

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.pawsitively-obedient.com

Service Dogs for Veterans

Service Dogs for Veterans does exactly what the name suggests: providing fully trained animals to assist servicemen and women throughout the state. The Greenville-based non-profit rescues suitable dogs from local shelters and trains them through an eight-month program. Canine graduates learn to help veterans with PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

The organization’s overarching aim is to prepare a canine “Battle-Buddy,” who helps fill in the gaps between counseling and medication. The team has put 76 graduates through the program to date, improving the lives of vulnerable veterans in five counties and two states. The program takes around eight months to complete, and the organization covers 98% of the costs through community donations.

Cost: Modest costs involved

Location: Greenville, South Carolina

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: https://www.sd4v.org/

The Service Dog Institute

TSDI is a South Carolina non-profit dedicated to enriching the lives of children living with a disability in the state. Although the organization primarily works with kids aged 5-18 years, it may also be able to assist adults and veterans with special needs. Institute employees assess all applicants on a case-by-case basis and give priority to those who need help most.

From its Greenville facility, TSDI trains dogs for PTSD, mobility impairments, autism, and various psychiatric conditions. The organization sources funding from the local community to place its animals free of charge. As a result, waiting lists can stretch for years, and some programs aren’t always available—the institute isn’t currently accepting applications from people with PTSD, for example.

Cost: Free

Location: Greenville, South Carolina

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.theservicedoginstitute.org