The Best Service Dog Training in Minnesota

Guide dog helping blind woman in parkIf you’re living with a disability in Minnesota, 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) and Minnesota state law afford anyone with an eligible disability the civil right to bring a service dog into any “public accommodations” (including restaurants, entertainment venues, retail stores, and educational institutions). Businesses, including landlords and airlines, cannot charge for a service dog or treat the owner differently, providing the animal is housebroken and well-behaved.

Unlike many other states, Minnesota law grants service dogs in training the same rights as fully-trained service dogs. Therefore, you don’t have to wait until training is complete to start enjoying the aforementioned legal protections.

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 Minnesota.

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 Minnesota

Now that you’re up to speed, it’s time to check out the top service dog training programs in Minnesota, 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: $349Location: 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

Aurum Canine Services

Aurum Canine Services is the brainchild of head trainer Dana Daniels, who’s been in the animal medicine/training business since the mid-2000s. While other companies provide service dogs for a broad range of disabilities, Dana works exclusively for psychiatric conditions, allowing her to focus her energy on one specific field. And with countless certifications, qualifications, and prestigious memberships to her name, she’s got the goods to deliver top-quality results.

Dana incorporates six months of intensive public access training (120 hours minimum) into each customized program. She trains multiple dogs at any one time, always adhering to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners guidelines.

Cost: Service dog consultation: $100, service dog training: $60 per hour

Location: South Metro, Minnesota

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.aurumcanineservices.com

Can Do Canines

Can Do Canines is a large non-profit that draws upon an army of some 750 volunteers to train scores of service dogs for needy Minnesotans (it’s the biggest trainer in the state). All animals are trained in-house over several years and delivered to eligible applicants free of charge, despite entailing an average training cost of $25,000 per dog.

The team adopts puppies from local shelters when appropriate or sources them from responsible breeders. Next, it puts the dogs through a rigorous training regime to assist with various disabilities such as autism, diabetes, epilepsy, deafness, hearing loss, and mobility impairments.

Training occurs at the facility and in public access locations around the city, and the animal gradually spends more time in the client’s home as the program progresses. Can Do Canines provides its own certification upon completion, then holds an adorable graduation ceremony complete with a doggy-sized diploma and cape.

Cost: Free

Location: New Hope

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.can-do-canines.org

Helping Paws

Helping Paws is a small local non-profit that delivers service dogs to people with mobility impairments, as well as veterans and first responders with PTSD. Aside from a non-refundable $50 application fee, the service is entirely free. Any Minnesota (or surrounding state) resident over ten years of age with an eligible disability and the financial and physical means to support a dog may apply.

Helping Paws has been working in the Minnesota region since 1988, training puppies in-house at its small Hopkins facility. Funds are raised via donations and sponsorships, so you can expect a long waiting list before meeting with your new four-legged helper.

Cost: Free

Location: Hopkins

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: No

Link: www.helpingpaws.org

PawPADs

Located in Lakeville, PawPADs is a small non-profit that’s been training fully-fledged service dogs in Minnesota since 2005. Mobility impairments are the primary focus here, although the organization occasionally offers diabetic alert dogs as well. Most recipients must pay a $5,000 placement fee, but there are some exceptions, including fee waivers for veterans.

Throughout the two-year program, volunteer staff train the animals in health, obedience, and specialist skills to assist with essential daily activities, occasionally involving the handler in the process. Applicants must be 13 years or older (exceptions considered), physically, financially, and emotionally capable of supporting an animal, and live within 200 miles of Minneapolis.

Cost: $5,000 (fee waivers may apply)

Location: Lakeville, Minnesota

Certificate: Yes

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.pawpads.org