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Service Dog Training Program and Progression

Here at Paws-Abilities we believe that owner trained service dogs are the best!  YOU can select the type of dog that you want to have as your partner.  Unlike other programs where you are assigned a dog, we believe that by allowing you to select your own dog, as long as it has the correct temperament to be a service dog, we can help you train it to be one.   Depending on the age of your dog or puppy we have a few places where YOU can start on your journey to becoming a successful team. 

Below is a break down of all of the courses we require to be certified by us as a Paws-Abilities Service dog team. In total we require between 100 and 120 total classroom hours training.  While our program is not short, we feel when complete you will have the skills to go out in the world as a successful team.  If you are starting with an adult dog you of course would skip the puppy courses.  If you have a wee pup, we have classes for short legs and  short attention spans as well.   After you have filled out some paperwork that allows us to ensure we keep you on the right track you will go, sequentially through the following steps.  At the end you will be full prepared to be a certified by Paws-Abilities service dog and handler team! 


  • Initial intake sessions - All service dog handlers are required to participate in   initial intake sessions. After we have reviewed your paper work we will schedule an appointment with Dana Babb our head trainer to discuss training steps.  After this initial assessment you will then meet with Tom Amos, an experienced counselor.  These sessions helps us identify any issues or thoughts you may have towards your use of an owner trained service dog. This session will last an hour with each professional and allows us to ensure that everyone is on the same page for future training and goals. 


  • Puppy Kindergarten – Puppy Kindergarten is the first introduction you and your dog will have to the world of obedience. It is something which will allow any future service dog to have the foundation necessary to go on to further classes.  Here you and your puppy, in a series of lessons geared towards a puppy’s attention span, will learn the very beginnings of walking on a leash, sit, down and stay.  You will learn the ins and outs of crate training, chewing, and how to deal with the trials and tribulations of puppy life.  Taught by our experienced head trainer, Dana Babb, you cannot ask for a better start for you or your puppy. 


  • Kindergarten Puppy Skillz – This class will further expand the skills you learned in puppy kindergarten. Set in a smaller and more intimate setting, this class will give you more one on one time with an instructor and allow you to start creating greater focus in your young dog through a series of carefully crafted exercises.


  • Genius Puppy – Geared towards the four to six month old puppy, this class is the next step after the kindergarten series to get your puppy ready for Star puppy and Basic Obedience. Here your puppy will begin to shine as they expand on things they have learned earlier.  They will start to work their young minds for longer and longer periods of time through a variety of skills and games taught to you by our expert instructors.


  • AKC Star puppy – Star puppy class is the final class in the puppy series. Here your puppy will put all of their prior skills to use as they work on learning skills they will eventually need to earn to become Canine Good Citizens.  As the puppies in this class further learn to explore their world, they will learn the manners they need to help the succeed when they are out and about. Here your dogs will also, in carefully monitored situations, interact with other puppies for the first time in a classroom setting. When this six week class concludes you and your dog can take the AKC Star Puppy test, as you will have learned to teach your dog to accept a variety of situations, from being held or petted by strangers, to greeting dogs you may meet out on a walk.  When your dog passes the end of course test you will be eligible to enroll your pup in the A.K.C. Star puppy program and your will receive a frameable certificate and medal showing your puppy has Star Puppy skills!  Your dog will also be able to jump right into basic obedience with a good working knowledge of what is to come!


  • Basic Obedience – The cornerstone of your service dog’s education, this class will set the tone for all future classes. This class will be the one where your service dog gets to really dig into the correct foundation he will need to go on to further work as your service dog partner. He will learn how to walk nicely on a leash with out pulling, sit automatically, sit when asked, down, stand, stay and come when called.  All of this is done around other dogs of various ages and levels to help him learn to focus on you, his handler and not that which is around him.


  • Beyond Basic Obedience - Service dogs need to be highly educated. If basic obedience is elementary school, then this is high school.  Here your dog will learn further heeling skills as well as learning the foundations for off leash heeling.  Under distractions your dog will learn to really nail their stays, as well as focus on you under heavier distractions.  These, as well as other practical for the real world obedience skills will be taught in this small, six week class. 


  • Beyond Basic Skillz – Taught in short, four week classes, this class is for refinement and finishing of skills you have learned prior. In a smaller instructor to student ratio, you and your dog start putting all the pieces together and finding out just what team work really is, as you ask more and more of your dog through greater focus and more intense stays. Your dog will learn to find targets and the valuable skill of "leave it" in preparation for their future job as a service dog. 


  • Canine Good Citizen – Canine good citizens are welcome in many places. Your service dog will legally be welcome anywhere you go.  This class will give you the skills and abilities to start to navigate the outside world.  Here you and your canine partner will learn to work around strangers with and without their dogs in real world type settings.  At the end of this six-week class you will be prepared to take the canine good citizen test and add the title CGC to your dog’s name!


  • Rally 101 – Rally is an exciting dog sport that allows you to use all of the skills you have learned in your prior obedience classes and put them to the test by following various skills tests that are posted at stations in the room. In Rally 101 you will learn how to pivot and turn with your dog on command, as well as side step, and weave in and around objects. While Rally is a sport which does offer titles, this class is vital for service dog teams as it allows you to learn to navigate many obstacles with ease and reliability.  Learn to turn in complete circles, left and right, and even sideways all while keeping your dog with you in the correct position.  This is a six week course. 


  • Rally 201 – A continuation of what you learned in Rally 101, here you will learn even more ways work with your dog as the station tasks get more challenging.  Learn to turn keep even more focus on you while you and your dog do complete circles, move to the left and right, and even sideways all while keeping your dog with you in the correct position.  This is a six week course which every dog and handler will benefit from. 


  • Counseling Session – As you have gone through all the classes, once again we will have you sit down with our counselor and discuss how things are going. You will get a chance to, in an unbiased environment, talk about what you feel your current goals are and how you want to proceed in your service dog training. 


  • Tricks – This six week is a requirement for all teams. Not only will you learn some fun ways to bond with your dog, you will also learn clever ways to ensure that the public doesn’t touch your dog. With this class you will learn how to destress and refocus your dog through small and simple games and tricks you can do anywhere.  


  • K9Nosework – While a fun and exciting new dog sport, K9nosework is designed to teach your dog to start to learn to use his nose. Here, starting with fun games to find treats and toys in boxes your dog will wake up to a whole new way of using himself with your guidance. While only one class is required, many find themselves hooked and go on to take additional courses.


  • Service Dog Tasks – Dictated by those in the group at the time, this class will go over things your dog needs to do specifically related to your personal needs. Part dog training class, part discussion format for handlers, this class will also help you learn to navigate the rules and regulations the ADA has set forth for service dog teams.  An initial class is four weeks long, but many teams find this to be an ongoing part of their education as they come across different situations while out and about and need a place to discuss and work through them. 


  • Private Lessons – As all service dogs are required to have tasks specifically trained to them, these lessons with head trainer Dana Babb will make sure your dog has all that he needs to help you with your daily activities. Here is where you will work on more complex tracking or detecting skills, learning to help with mobility issues and other skills which need to be covered on a one on one basis. 


  • Therapy dog skills – While a service dog is NOT a therapy dog and vice versa, many of the skills a therapy dog needs are also ones a service dog needs. In this four week course you will learn how to teach your dog to ignore eye level food, unique distractions, strange equipment he might see in a hospital or clinical setting, and how to deal with running children amongst other things. 


  • TDI test – We don’t expect you to ever take your service dog to work in a therapy type setting, however, the therapy dog test is a great way to see where you and your dog are at. Passing this test is a great way for you to see just how far your dog has come, as he demonstrates the skills he has learned with in a group testing situation.


  • CGC Urban and Advanced tests –Although these are AKC sponsored tests we feel that upon passing these rigorous tests which demonstrate all of the skills you and your dog have learned, that you will be able to face the world as qualified and certified by us service dog teams. The items you will be tested on are similar if not harder than the items commonly given on service dog access tests.  As part of the program we will video these for you to keep, demonstrating that your dog has indeed learned all the skills we feel necessary to become a Paws-Abilities certified service dog team and allowing  you to greet the world head on. 

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