The Best Service Dog Training in North Carolina

Service DogIf you’re living with a disability in North Carolina, 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 North Carolina law 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 North Carolina.

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 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 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 North Carolina

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

Four Paws and a Wake Up-NC

This well-regarded non-profit trains service dogs for veterans with disabilities for free. The organization relies on donations and sponsorships to fund the program, training animals at an in-house facility and teaching them how to interact with veterans at home. Eligible applicants must have a Veterans Administration Rating Decision regarding their disability and be prepared to wait for five years or more.

The organization also offers a fee-based Owner Assisted Training program, available to anyone with an eligible disability, including non-veterans. The 10-month course takes place in Wilmington and requires the applicant to attend hour-long classes each working day, plus provide regular in-person training at home.

Cost: Veterans free / OAT contact for a quote

Location: Wilmington, North Carolina

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.k94pawsnc.org

Appalachian Dog Training

Appalachian Dog Training is a North Carolina-based trainer that exceeds the standards established by the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. The company trains service dogs for multiple disabilities: PTSD, autism, mobility impairments, epilepsy, and hearing loss.

All puppies are raised by professional trainers from birth (no BYO option available) and undergo a rigorous 12-24 month training regime. Once complete, staff teach the client how to work with their new service dog during a one-week placement program. But support doesn’t stop there: the team includes an annual refresher course to fortify a lifelong bond between handler and pooch.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Mills River, North Carolina

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.appalachiandogtraining.com

Level Up Dog Training

This superb Jacksonville-based, in-person operator takes service dog training to the next level. Level Up Dog Training specializes in preparing puppies to assist people who suffer from psychiatric conditions or mobility impairment. Nonetheless, other disabilities may be catered for, including autism, diabetes, and hearing/visual impairments.

The company offers three distinct programs: Owner-Trainer Assistance, Helper Head-Start, and Fully-Trained Dogs. While the latter has the company raise and train a pre-selected puppy from birth, the former two options offer varying degrees of self-training to lower program costs—plus, you can BYO dog (pending approval).

Cost: Existing Dog Evaluation: $75 / Dog Selection Assistance: $250 / Service Dog Training: Contact for a quote

Location: Jacksonville, North Carolina

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.levelupdogtraining.com

The Dog Door

Located in Asheville, The Dog Door is an internationally recognized outfit that offers fully trained service dogs to needy customers in the region. Backed by thorough scientific research and unwavering compassion for canines, the company trains highly responsive animals to help people with disabilities overcome everyday obstacles.

Certified and highly qualified (BA, CDBC, CPDT-KA) trainer Kim Brophey runs the service dog program, delivering a wide range of custom-trained puppies that cater to multiple disabilities. It’s a costly and lengthy undertaking, but clients rave about Kim’s outstanding results and her ability to foster long-lasting partnerships between human and dog.

Cost: Contact for a quote

Location: Asheville

Certificate: Unspecified

1:1 Support: Yes

Equipment Provided: Unspecified

Link: www.dogdoorcanineservices.com