The Best Service Dog Training in Georgia

service dog wearing vestIf you’re living with a disability in Georgia, it might be worth training your new pooch (or 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” (which includes restaurants, entertainment venues, retail stores, educational institutions, and more). Businesses, including housing and airlines, cannot charge for a service dog or treat the owner differently, providing the animal is housebroken and well-behaved.

Georgia law provides similar protections, albeit only for physiological disabilities such as sight, hearing, and mobility impairments. However, patrons have the right to apply whichever law grants better protections; therefore, service dogs assisting with intellectual disabilities are still protected in Georgia under the ADA. Emotional support animals don’t receive these protections under state or federal laws.

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 Georgia.

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 type of 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 purpose-bred puppy, while others accept existing pets (after a rigorous evaluation) or source animals from a local shelter. In any case, check whether their 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 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 and disadvantages, 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 can be essential when a severe disability renders self-training impractical. Both human and canine 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 Easy: trainers do most of the work, essential for people with severe disabilities.
Convenient: train your dog at a time that’s suitable for you Effective: in-person trainers draw on years of experience to achieve optimal results
Comfort: no need to leave the comfort of your own home Exercise: you and your dog will get out and about

 

The Best Service Dog Training in Georgia

Now that you’re up to speed, it’s time to check out the top service dog training programs in Georgia, 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 also 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 (along with 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

Canine Assistants

This sizeable non-profit organization works tirelessly to place fully-trained service animals in the homes of people with disabilities in Georgia. Unfortunately, only a small selection of disabilities are covered, as they focus on epilepsy/seizure disorder, type 1 diabetes, and mobility impairments. Other special needs may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

To achieve the best possible outcome, Canine Assistants will breed, raise, and train animals at its in-house facility (no BYO option here) and only works with Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Goldendoodles. While the organization provides amazing animal assistants and the service is free, bear in mind the waiting list can drag on for five years or more.

Cost: Free

Location: Milton, Georgia

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes, two-week training camp in Milton

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.canineassistants.org

Comprehensive Pet Therapy

One of the leading animal trainers in Atlanta, Comprehensive Pet Therapy has served over 50,000 dog owners to date. Many of those undertook its prestigious service dog training program, recognized by People Magazine and the New York Times best-selling book Doctor Dogs.

CPT trains service dogs for multiple disabilities—physical and hearing impairments, diabetes, autism, epilepsy, psychiatric conditions—and will work with either an existing pet or a custom-bred puppy. Most of the training occurs at an in-house boarding program, with public access and at-home sessions included in the mix. Alternatively, a substantially cheaper hands-on program allows capable clients to perform most of the training themselves (under expert guidance from the team).

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.cpt-training.com

Ranger Dog Training

This superb training center in Lithia Springs is the brainchild of Ken Cappello, a retired serviceman with a passion for helping vulnerable dogs and needy veterans. Ken specializes in training dogs to assist with POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), PTSD, and mobility impairments, running a comprehensive program that lasts a minimum of 12 months. Training occurs at the facility, the client’s home, and various public access locations.

Clients can receive a free assessment to determine the suitability of their existing pet, or Ken will organize a litter visit to select an appropriate puppy from a local shelter. Veterans are eligible for a no-cost placement, although the waiting list is often quite long.

Cost: PTSD: $3,195.00-$6,595.00, mobility support: $5,659.00, fully trained: $32,995.00

Location: Lithia Springs, Georgia

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: No

Link: www.rangerdogtraining.com

Peach on a Leash

Peach on a Leash is a popular Alpharetta-based for-profit business serving the north Atlanta area—it’s so popular, spots for service training aren’t always available. Lead trainer and founder Alex Sessa draws on high-level certifications and extensive hands-on experience to train service dogs to assist with various ADA-recognized disabilities. Alex specializes in autism, PTSD, psychiatric conditions, and mobility or visual impairments.

Cutting-edge behavioral science research underpins the approach, which has a steadfast focus on positive reinforcement techniques. Most lessons occur at the client’s home and public access locations, although a boarding program is available on request. The company helps clients choose an appropriate puppy or can evaluate existing pets to determine suitability.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Alpharetta, Georgia

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.peachonaleash.com