The Best Service Dog Training in Connecticut

Dog rescuer in life vest on beach near riverIf you’re living with a disability in Connecticut, 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. Neither Connecticut law nor the ADA requires the owner to carry or provide documentation.

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 Connecticut.

What to Look for When Choosing Service Dog Training

Choosing an appropriate service dog training center is the first step toward 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 Connecticut

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

The Exceptional SideKick Service Dogs

TESSD is a well-regarded non-profit organization that provides fully trained service dogs to support young adults and adolescents with psychiatric disabilities. As one of the first people in Connecticut to become a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Abby draws on her experience and expertise to achieve outstanding results. The program aims to empower young people to complete their studies and live a fulfilling, independent life.

A team of passionate TESSD volunteers raise and train puppies in their homes for the first year and a half of life. Abby then places the dogs with suitable applicants, undertaking a rigorous training regime that’s customized to client needs. The organization also offers an owner training program (BYO dog), but all animals must pass strict temperament and suitability tests.

Cost: Free for approved Newtown youths (12-22). Youths located elsewhere in Connecticut may be eligible via donations/fundraising.

Location: Newtown, Connecticut

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.exceptionalsidekick.org

Sharron Lang

Sharron is an independent dog trainer who provides services through the Petworks platform, enabling her to offer lower rates than brick-and-mortar businesses. The certified trainer provides a comprehensive service dog training program, conducting sessions at her home, the client’s home, and public access locations around Connecticut. Board and training programs can also be arranged on request.

Sharron works with any suitable breed and can teach animals to assist with various mental and physical disabilities. She’s been in the dog training business for over six years and has scores of happy customers scattered around the state.

Cost: Contact for quote

Location: Brookfield, Connecticut

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.petworks.com

TCL Dog Trainer

TCL Dog Trainer offers a unique in-person program, providing a Service Dog Coach (SDC) to guide the client through the process—a blend of self and in-person training. To get started, customers undertake a free phone consultation and must pass an in-depth canine and client suitability evaluation. Upon approval, a highly-skilled SDC will provide scheduled sessions over a minimum of six months, plus bespoke advice on how to train the animal at home.

The company only works with healthy Good Canine Citizens (must have passed within six months) between one and four years old. Human applicants must be 18 years or older, have an eligible disability, and be willing to practice with their dog in between sessions.

Cost: $125 evaluation / per session

Location: Sherman, Connecticut

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.tlcdogtrainer.com

Canine Cadre

This small but reputable dog trainer has been operating out of Wallingford for a whopping 42 years—they’re the most experienced trainer in Connecticut. Among their slew of services, Canine Cadre offers a comprehensive service dog program that focuses on hearing ear dogs.

Veteran trainer and company founder Lenny Paquette runs the service dog program, drawing on his decades of experience to deliver exceptional results. His canine graduates learn to recognize and respond to sounds owners may miss, like boiling kettles, doorbells, and alarms. All animals must first pass their Behavioral/Puppy Foundation Program and acquire Good Canine Citizen certification before training can begin.

Cost: Up to $20,000

Location: Wallingford, Connecticut

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.caninecadre.net