Service dogs can provide a slew of benefits to people with disabilities, from psychiatric support to assistance with vision and mobility impairments. Not only are these adorable companions essential to everyday life, but they also enjoy various protections under federal and state law.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), for example, prohibits public accommodations (restaurants, cinemas, supermarkets, etc.) from denying entry to a trained service animal that accompanies a person with an eligible disability. There are some exceptions, such as the animal must be housebroken and not pose a risk to other patrons. On the whole, however, you can bring a service animal everywhere you go.
Hawaii state law provides similar protections, and a person with a disability can choose to apply whichever legislation benefits them most.
With all that in mind, it’s worth training your pet (or a handpicked pooch) to become a bonafide service dog in Hawaii. And to help you do that, we’ve recommended the top five in-person and online service dog trainers in the state.
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, 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 Hawaii
Now you’re up to speed, it’s time to check out the top service dog training programs in Hawaii, 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.
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).
Location: Online only (6 video modules)
1:1 Support: Yes
Equipment Provided: Clicker, plus optional service vest, collar, collar tag, and leash
Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs’ mission is clear: enhancing the independence and overall quality of life for people with disabilities living in the state. This reputable non-profit trains service dogs to assist any disability except blindness, customizing each program to cater to individual needs.
Volunteer puppy raisers undertake most of the training in their own homes, teaching over 90 commands and testing for obedience, temperament, and health. Community donations and corporate sponsorships cover most of the costs, perfect for low-income applicants in Hawaii. The organization places animals for free or a nominal fee. Nonetheless, like all non-profits, you can expect to encounter a long waiting list.
Location: Kahuku, Hawaii
1:1 Support: Yes
Equipment Provided: Unspecified
Located in Oahu, Balanced Obedience is a well-regarded professional outfit offering multiple canine training programs, including a service dog option. Head trainer Sabrina runs the program, which spans 120 hours of obedience training and 30 hours of public access sessions. Upon graduation, applicants receive a doggy vest, ID card, and certificate to demonstrate authenticity, although none of these is a legal requirement under the ADA.
Dogs who first pass the company’s obedience course get a discounted rate, making the program cheaper than most other in-person training options in Hawaii and around the United States. At present, Balanced Obedience only trains service dogs to assist with diabetes and allergen detection. That said, the company can assist you in finding a trainer for other disabilities.
Cost: $700 (for dogs who have already passed obedience training)
Location: Oahu, Hawaii
1:1 Support: Yes
Equipment Provided: Vest, ID Card
Assistance Dogs of Hawaii is a well-established non-profit that prepares animals to serve in hospitals and courthouses, and it also runs a fantastic service dog program. The charity sources donations from the community to fund the program, placing animals into the homes of people with disabilities for free. Boasting full accreditation with Assistance Dogs International and ongoing lifetime support, it’s among the most sought-after non-profit trainers in the state.
During the program, a professional trainer will teach a pre-selected animal around 90 commands over a two-year period. The organization caters to people with spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and spina bifida. Anyone looking for psychiatric service dogs or help with diabetes or mobility impairments will need to look elsewhere.
Location: Makawao, Hawaii
1:1 Support: Yes
Equipment Provided: Unspecified