The Best Service Dog Training in Alabama

Service Dog TrainingIf you’re living with a disability in Alabama, it’s 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) allows 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. Alabama law provides similar protections, albeit with less detail than the ADA.

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 Alabama.

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 bona fide 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 service dog trainers work with every breed and age. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing—it could mean they excel at training a specific type of dog. In any case, double-check whether your trainer of choice will work with your preferred breed.

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 year-long 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 an in-person  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 a time that’s convenient for you—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 for complex requirements because an experienced professional provides expert, tailor-made training. Also, both humans and canine 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 Bespoke advice: a trainer can offer tailor-made tips in real-time
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 Alabama

Now that you’re up to speed, it’s time to check out the top service dog training programs in Alabama, 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-model 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 seizures. 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

Service Dogs Alabama

As the organization puts it, Service Dogs Alabama “trains dogs who change lives.” This independent non-profit organization trains and places canines to assist needy people with various disabilities: autism, diabetes, seizures, PTSD, and mobility impairments. The well-regarded outfit operates via passionate volunteers and community sponsorships/donations, which allow it to train up to 50 animals at any one time.

Fully trained service dogs are provided to approved applicants free of charge, but expect a waiting time of at least 18 months. Children, adults, and veterans with disabilities may be eligible, and the organization also trains service dogs for schools, youth facilities, and courtrooms.

Cost: Free

Location: Hope Hull, Alabama

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.servicedogsalabama.org

Alabama Dog Academy

Led by local expert Elizabeth Morgan, Alabama Dog Academy offers a comprehensive service dog training program for people with varying disabilities. Elizabeth has been training dogs since 2004 (service dogs since 2007) and has obtained numerous qualifications in the field, making her one of the leading experts in Alabama.

Every program is custom-made to client requirements, blending temperament assessments, obedience training, and commands. A minimum of 16 special sessions focus on service dog tasks and public access behavior. Clients are welcome to BYO pooch, but Elizabeth recommends working with new puppies of a select breed to obtain optimal results.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Huntsville, Alabama

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.alabamadogacademy.com

Got Your Six

Huntsville-based military veterans with PTSD should get in touch with this well-run non-profit organization. Huntsville Got Your Six provides suitable applicants with fully trained animals free of charge, a godsend for servicemen and women who don’t have the financial means to pay hefty training fees.

The organization provides multiple at-home and public access training sessions over approximately two years. However, the veteran is expected to undertake most of the training at home (expert guidance provided), performing prescribed exercises for 2-3 hours per day. If your dog isn’t suitable, the team will source an appropriate candidate from local shelters.

Cost: Free

Location: Huntsville, Alabama

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.huntsvillegotyoursix.org

Dog Trainer Wendy

Wendy is a Bremen-based freelance dog trainer with 30 years of experience in the field. She offers a range of comprehensive services to customers in the area, including her highly regarded service dog training program. Positive reinforcement is the primary approach—Wendy has a smorgasbord of tasty treats to help her teach your pooch.

One-on-one sessions are available in the afternoons from Saturday to Tuesday each week, either as at-home or public access classes. Wendy will provide a thorough assessment of your animal to determine its suitability or otherwise help you find an appropriate puppy. Not all disabilities are catered for, so it’s worth getting in touch to see if she can work with you.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Bremen, Alabama

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.dogtrainerwendy.com