The Best Service Dog Training in Maryland

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that people with disabilities have a civil right to bring a service dog into any “public accommodations,” even if that establishment normally prohibits animals. Furthermore, Maryland’s service animal law grants similar rights to individually trained animals that provide support to people with disabilities.

Public accommodations cover various venues, including hotels, stores, transportation services, and educational institutions. Exceptions include religious organizations and private, membership-based clubs. Businesses, including landlords and airlines, cannot legally charge a disabled person for an accompanying service animal.

Therefore, if you’re living with an eligible disability in the state of Maryland, it’s worth training your canine companion to become a fully-fledged service animal. Eligible disabilities include visual impairment, hearing loss, seizures, mobility issues, and balance or stability problems. Service animals that assist with psychiatric conditions receive the aforementioned protections under federal and Maryland laws, but emotional support animals are not.

A service animal must be adequately trained in Maryland, although there is no formal certification or registration requirement. Under federal and Maryland law, public accommodations cannot demand documentation for a service animal, although they may request verbal confirmation regarding the status of the service animal and enquire about the specific tasks it performs.

The MD Veterans Service Animal Program provides grants to various training programs to assist veterans in obtaining a service dog.

What to Look for When Choosing Service Dog Training

Choosing an appropriate service dog training center is the first step towards turning your 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 company with a proven track record of training your specific breed for your unique disability requirements.

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. If you need your animal trained in a hurry, there’s no point joining a year-long waiting list.

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 animal.

Finally, cost is a crucial consideration. While the law requires a service dog to be capable of supporting its disabled 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 offer distinct pros, which we’ll cover 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 tend to achieve better results because an experienced trainer can provide expert, tailor-made advice. 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 Maryland

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


Compass Key

Compass Key has locations all over the United States, and offers a distance learning program for those who aren’t close to a physical location. For the most part, handlers bring and train their own dogs, but occasionally Compass Key does have trained service dogs for sale. The trainers in the Maryland branch have lots of experience and make sure to stay current with dog training trends and tips by going to conferences and classes. Trainers use rewards-based, positive reinforcement, and fear-free training methods, and both Maryland trainers have experience training service and therapy dogs in their own lives. 

Training at Compass Key takes place over a number of different mediums and environments, including a few virtual lessons, which helps ensure that the service dog will be able to perform no matter what the setting is. The cost varies greatly depending on how many lessons need to take place. They treat each case differently, but they have a cost estimator on their website and encourage potential applicants to reach out. Training time varies from dog to dog, but Compass Key advises that it will likely take over a year. 

Cost: $2,000-$39,000 

Location: Northern MD

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified 



AmericanK9 is a popular Crownsville-based business that runs an Owner Trainer Service Dog program to provide much-needed support for people with various disabilities. The company is particularly well-regarded for training dogs to assist with autism, depression, anxiety, multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, diabetes, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and spinal cord injuries.

The program focuses on nurturing a partnership to help people with disabilities overcome the challenges of home and public life. Using various training techniques, both at the facility and in public spaces, the ultimate aim is to help customers regain their freedom and independence. The business offers a customized puppy placement program to increase your chance of success.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Crownsville, Maryland

Certificate: Contact for a quote

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified


Fidos for Freedom

This fabulous volunteer-run outfit strives to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas. The company specializes in training dogs to assist with mobility issues, hearing loss, and psychiatric conditions such as PTSD. It doesn’t, however, train dogs to support people with visual impairments, autism, seizures, or diabetes. Customers are also required to accept a puppy placement—there’s no BYO dog option for training.

Although Fidos for Freedom works primarily with veterans (it’s part of the MD Veterans Service Animal Program), the company serves the greater community as well. All volunteers are experienced puppy raisers and trainers with a genuine passion for improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Cost: Contact for a quote. Veterans may receive sponsorship.

Location: Laurel, Maryland

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified


Shore Service Dogs

As a non-profit corporation, Shore Service Dogs provides a valuable public service to the people of Maryland by rescuing abandoned or abused animals and training them to become service dogs. Above all else, the small local outfit prepares dogs to assist with mobility issues, allowing people with disabilities to achieve greater autonomy and freedom. Assistance with housework, stability, item retrieval, wheelchair propulsion, and clothing removal are among the most commonly trained tasks.

The organization doesn’t charge needy customers to receive well-trained puppies, but you can expect a long waiting list. Funds are raised through charity drives and donations from the local community.

Cost: Free

Location: Salisbury, MD

Certificate: No

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified