All of our trainers are volunteers and most are owner/trainers. They have varying levels of experience with dog training and service dogs, but they all receive the education and support through ELLAS Animals INC that they need to train a dog. Most dogs need at least 120 hours of formal training over 8-18 months before they can work as Service Dogs.
If you want to train a dog, you may do so under one of these categories:
- Owner/Trainer: You are training a dog to be your own Service Dog, ESA, Therapy Dog, or pet.
- Dedicated Recipient: You are training a dog to be a Service Dog, ESA, Therapy Dog, or pet for a family member or friend.
You can locate and evaluate a Service Dog candidate on your own and we will provide support evaluating their potential or you can train a dog we have chosen and placed with you. No breeds or sizes are automatically excluded but you will want to choose a breed and size that suits your own lifestyle and activity level and can perform the tasks or work that the dog’s recipient needs. You can also train a dog you (or your Dedicated Recipient) already own. Most Service Dogs begin their formal training between six months and 2 years of age. We discourage beginning training a Service Dog who is much older than 3 years because by the time their training is completed, they may have few years left before retirement. Either way, as a trainer you will take full financial and legal responsibilities for the dog during and after training.
There are three levels of training for your dog which correspond to three training courses for you.
At the end of each course, once you have demonstrated mastery of the principles and training, you will receive the corresponding certification for that level.
- Foundational Obedience. This course covers balanced training techniques and basic commands such as heel, sit, stay, come, down, and place. Upon completion you will have earned Certified Dog Trainer – Foundational Obedience (CDT-FO) certification.
- Public Access. The course covers focus and duration for foundational commands as well as Public Access commands such as under, back, through, follow, and leave it. During this course, the dog qualifies as a Service Dog in Training and is allowed access to public places prohibited to pets as provided for by your state laws. The ADA does not apply to Service Dogs in Training but you can visit this website to check the state laws where you reside that cover public access for Service Dogs in Training: https://www.animallaw.info/topic/table-state-assistance-animal-laws. For example, Florida extends the same rights and privileges to Service Dogs in Training as the federal laws for Service Dogs. You will be provided with identification of your affiliation with ELLAS Animals INC, your status as a service dog trainer, and your dog’s status as a Service Dog in Training. This is merely for identification purposes only and does not extend any rights or privileges beyond what you enjoy in your state. Upon completion you will have earned Certified Dog Trainer – Public Access (CDT-PB) certification.
- Tasks and Work. This course covers basic mobility and psychological service tasks and work that will qualify the dog as a Service Dog. Individual consultations are included to plan which tasks and/or work your dog will be trained on if they are for an Owner/Trainer or Dedicated Recipient, based on the disability needs. Upon completion you will have earned Certified Dog Trainer – Tasks and Work (CDT-TW) certification.
Each course is designed to take roughly 2-4 months but this varies depending on dog and trainer. We ask for a tax deductible, nonrefundable, charitable donation of $200 at the beginning of each of our 3 courses, so a total of $600 spread out over several months. However, we never turn away anyone who can’t afford this and we will work out a donation amount and schedule that will work for any individual’s budget. The donations cover access to all of the training information and videos as well as email and video conference communication and support. No experience is required to join the program, take a course, and train a dog; however, some experience owning and training dogs is helpful and desired.
What it takes to train a dog
Formal training requires roughly 30-60 minutes a day in 2-4 sessions; however, informal training occurs throughout the day everywhere in the house. For many breeds, you should plan on an additional 30-60 minutes per day of exercise activity, such as walking or running with you, running next to you while you bike, kayaking/canoeing/paddle boarding, or even outside games of fetch. Ideally, dog trainers live in a family home with several people to help out and someone who is home most of the time every day or can take the dog almost everywhere they go. You can train a dog if you are 14 years or older but if you are under 18 years of age, you will need a parent or guardian who is willing to support you and the dog. You must be legally allowed to have a pet in your home and for larger breeds you must have a fenced in backyard. You will need an appropriately sized crate.
If a dog “rings out” (they communicate that they would prefer a less demanding lifestyle), you will have the option to keep the dog as your pet or rehome the dog.
ELLAS Animals INC proudly supports the exceptional training standards and mission statement of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP)