The Best Service Dog Training in Maine

service dogIf you’re living with a disability in Maine, it might be 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) and Maine’s Human Rights Act afford 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.

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 Maine.

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 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 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 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 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 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 Maine

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

Service Dog Strong

Service Dog Strong is a small non-profit that trains animals to provide psychiatric support to survivors of sexual assault in Maine. Simone Emmons and Kristen Stacy co-founded the highly specialized organization, and the passionate duo has placed four service dogs to date. The organization only works with puppies rescued from local shelters as part of its sustainable ethos.

Any Maine resident diagnosed with PTSD resulting from sexual assault or Military Sexual Trauma (MST) may be eligible, although some conditions apply. Recipients must attend one weekly four-hour training session for 20 weeks to complete the program. The organization sources donations from the community and provides placements free of charge.

Cost: Free

Location: Denmark, Maine

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: No

Link: https://www.sdsmaine.org/

K9s on The Front Line

K9sOTLF is a national non-profit that trains animals to support veterans with combat or service-related PSTD or TBI. The organization offers its services to most American states, including Maine. Although canine companions are placed free of charge, veterans will need to join a long waiting list and agree to take responsibility for future expenses.

The comprehensive program encompasses 300 hours of training over six months, including at least 60 hours of public access training. Applicants are required to attend a weekly two-hour session in their local area and provide at least two hours of in-person training at home per day. Recertification and re-evaluation are provided every 12 months for the lifetime of the animal.

Cost: Free

Location: Nationwide, including Maine

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.k9sonthefrontline.org

College for Pets

This professional outfit offers three distinct service dog programs in four American states, including Maine. All programs have a combination of one-on-one tuition, group classes, public access training, video lessons, and online support—the customer needs to do most of the training themselves.

The Premier Program is the most comprehensive (and pricey) of the lot, with professional trainers providing a five-week board and train course to hone specific skills. The Puppy Program sees participants train pre-selected dogs from eight weeks of age with expert consultation and support. Finally, the Adult Dog Program is suitable for approved existing pets over five months of age.

Cost: Premiere: $8,500 / Puppy Program: $5,500 / Adult Program: $4,500

Location: New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Learning toys, vest, harness, and badge

Link: www.collegeforpets.com

King K9 Academy

This small professional trainer is the brainchild of Joshua Antell, a renowned local expert with a reputation for outstanding results. Joshua has been in the dog training business for over 20 years and has served the Maine region since 2015. Over that time, he’s assisted scores of local dog owners by adopting a bespoke, scientific, and psychosocial approach towards every pooch.

Joshua offers a service dog training program at his farm in Maine, which typically includes obedience training, commands, and public access sessions. The fully customizable course can last for weeks or months, depending on the client’s needs and the temperament of the breed. During training, dogs are either housed at his Maine farm or the owner’s property.

Cost: Board and train programs cost approximately $1,000 per week.

Location: Rural location 45 minutes north of Portland

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.kingk9academy.com