How would someone like me become a service dog trainer?


If you are serious about learning to become a service dog trainer, look at Bergin University of Canine Studies (BUCS) in Santa Rosa, California; a fully accredited university with a graduate program. BUCS provides seminar and semester courses. The founder is Dr. Bonnie Bergin, who founded the concept of service dogs, and still personally trains. Who better to learn from than the person who set the national standards? That is a special privilege and experience because Dr. Bergin is known around the world for her work! All of Alaska Assistance Dogs’ trainers were Dr. Bergin trained.

Training service dogs is different than training your average pet. There is a special selection process to check the capacity of a dog to be a service animal (not every dog can be a service dog). They have to learn 60 – 90 commands and go through specific training depending on the type of service dog they will become. To qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs should be able to pass the Assistance Dog International (ADI) Public Access Test.

Service dogs have the privilege of public access by federal law, but, even though the ADA doesn’t require certification for a service dog, if there is a dispute a judge can require documentation on the service dog and handler. The owner would have to provide proof of disability, records on the service dog and its training. The judge can and will ask the person to perform the different “tasks” that qualify the dog as a service dog. Self-trainers, if called into question, have the same burden of proof as service dog training organizations do. So if you want to train service dogs it is important to have the education and certification yourself because a service dog is not a pet.

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