Program vs. Owner Trained

The Service and Therapy Dog forum is for all service and therapy dogs regardless of whether or not their status is legally defined by federal or state law, how they are trained, or whether or not they are "certified." Posts questioning or disputing a person's need for a service or therapy dog, the validity of a person's service or therapy dog, or the dog's ability to do the work of a service or therapy dog are not permitted in this forum. Please keep discussions fun, friendly, and helpful at all times.


out of the- shiverer comes- the brave!
Barked: Thu Jul 11, '13 7:19pm PST 
I need a service dog, I am considered disabled and my other treatments aren't working. I've been researching PSDs for years, and I'm a bit baffled by the responses I keep getting. While I've had loads of experience having dogs, my family has never focused on traditional training. Our dogs were well versed in the house rules and acceptable in public, but by no means service dog material. Many, many times I've been discouraged by people online by people saying I shouldn't owner train and rather get a program trained dog (not a problem), but then I get told from other people that program trained dogs don't meet the mark. I'm lost, it can't be both ways can it? I can't be discouraged from owner AND programed trained dogs! Could I get some advice on owner training or some programs recommended? It'd be a great help.

Barked: Thu Jul 11, '13 8:22pm PST 
This is what I've learned: program dogs may "miss the mark" because they're trained in a somewhat general sense until they're matched with someone. A service dog out of a program has a period of time where they and their new handler have to bond, figure out how they can work together, and also to tailor behaviors the program taught to the individual handler's life. Other program dogs may miss the mark because the organization itself does not fit the individual handler-to-be's needs.

I think owner-training is a fine choice, the key being to know your limitations in training and having a solution. My goal is to train Oberon as a service dog, but to do that I should do everything I can to maximize our chances. What I do to maximize my dog's chances may or may not work for you, but I think as long as you have a plan to address problems (both before and after they happen) then owner-training may very well be a choice for you. Plus you can be as specific and as customized as you want.
Iris vom- Zauberberg

Service Werewolf
Barked: Fri Jul 12, '13 3:55pm PST 
There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

I made the choice to owner train an obedience trained 15 month old dog. It has been the most challenging task I have ever taken on, with the help of professional trainers.

The disability related training is fairly easy. It is the public access training that has taken the most time and work and is the most likely reason to wash out a dog. And yes, your dog might have to be washed out.

A program dog, from a good program, is being prepared for public access from day one. Service dogs need to be comfortable in chaotic situations so they can perform their work or tasks regardless of whatever is going on around them.

Being paired with a program dog is not without work, though. Partnering with a SD requires learning to work together and speak each other's language.

You can train a program dog to do tasks specific to your disability after being partnered. If you are not experienced, you can find a trainer to help you.

I haven't decided whether my next SD will be owner-trained or from a program. I have a couple years before I have to start thinking about that decision.

Edited by author Fri Jul 12, '13 3:56pm PST


Crazy Sadie- Lady

Im a SD and- proud of it so- there!!!!
Barked: Mon Jul 15, '13 5:58am PST 
I tryed to go through a program they were kinda rude and judgemental to me.
Came up with a whole lot of BS to me about why they refused. IN the end the head person said train your own you are allowed. "That was interesting," So I did...
Most programs discouraged OT and OT sometime discouraged programs. BOL
Yeah crazy! Any who I trained Sadie... Did not know what to train her for really or how I was going to train her so I went the source ADA and asked. They said make sure she behaved herself that was all. Hmmmm, OK??? So I did. Sadie dose everything I need all that she dose is medigated for my illness. She dose a lot of grounding work. She is a pain cause she only picks up stuff when she feels like it BOL. But she dose do it at the od time when I need her to. She trained herself for the most part though and she dose it right. No body complains. As a matter fact I have heard and been told she dose very well and even my trainer that I was working with told me I was wasting my money having him. Hmmm? strange ha?
So She just dose it ok that is good right ?

True Grit in a- harness
Barked: Fri Jul 19, '13 11:04pm PST 
Hi, I got mine from a program and its been worth it. I had thought about training my own a while back but, talk about challenges and you have no right to go into a public place for public access training till they are official depending on your area. In my area i'm sure i wouldn't of been able to find too many places that would allow me access without a trained dog. Getting one from a program you know they are trained in public access there's no getting permission. There's no deciding upon when they are ready to go in cause that's decided for you. You know they are up to snuff on basic commands and canine good citizenship there's no question there. My advice is look for a good program research, research, research. Sure i'm blind but, i went along similar avenues. I chose Leader dogs for the blind because they're flexible. They will work with me and i don't have any strict strict rules on what i can and can't do with Mattie. Mostly only guide lines. Now that i'm a graduate i can have her trained in other tasks.
By going into a program you have to go through a bonding deal that occurs between a week to a month to happen usually. Mattie is my technical second dog since my first got Career changed. We bonded quickly and we're technically still in the bonding process you won't be instant team awesome after the bonding period it usually takes up to 6 months for any team. I face challenges with Mattie everyday but, i still trust my life to her.
Programs allow you to focus on whats needed for you and bonding with the dog. Some people don't like going to a facility, i recommend it. It's like therapy the good kind not something that the doctor tells you to do its good for you. My class was great we supported each other. We laughed together, we cried together, we palled around. I feel better now about myself and life after that. They are the reason that after my first dog got career changed i was able to say hey what the heck i'll give it another try. I'll give this dog a chance.
Another advantage to going to the facility is you can get help on a one on one basis. You can ask the trainers any questions you have at any time. For example i had asked why do i give Hershey a treat with a closed hand then open it instead of pinched.
The answer so she doesn't get your fingers.

So finding a flexible program would be a good bet and if they did as some say 'miss the mark' after you got them there's nothing saying you couldn't do a little training with them or talk to a trainer to get them up to the mark. They are trained with the basics in mind till matched up.
For example i needed a technical all purposes service dog being blind and having medical conditions. Well i have the blindness and balance issues covered now all i have to do is work on the medical conditions with her and i'm set.

The other thing i'd recommend which either way would cost you money unless you go with a program unless there is charity involved or you have money is a private trainer. Especially one that trains service dogs. They might charge you but, they know what's acceptable and what's not. No need limiting yours and every other service dog users access cause your dog did something unacceptable for SDs.
A trainer would at least be good to consult if not help you train them the entire way. I'm going to consult a private one in my area for help with a few tasks unless i figure something out but, i have no clue of how i'd afford it. Though by working through the entire process with the trainer i know the dog will listen to me and i'll know how to handle it in the future.

Another thing about programs that your probably not interested in is the dog often comes with free stuff. Like i got brushes,a leash, a tie down, her harness, an id, information packet, a newsletter, emergency info to put in the refrigerator and glove box. A bandanna and a life time of support plus help with vet bills.I even got a picture upon request of my first guide dog that was career changed. Then you've also got help and someone to back you up if someone discriminates against you and or if someone does something to your dog for example someone's pet dog attacks yours.

So the choice is yours but, be sure you do plenty of research of what you want in your dog and whom can supply it. I was able to train my pet dog to sit, stay, come, lie down and do other tricks but, i knew i couldn't go service dog quality by myself. The better trained the dog the better you would be, the better others would be. I mean even though we all are individuals with service dogs. We all still represent one group to people's views and opinions.

whatever you decide good luck and i probably just wrote a lot

out of the- shiverer comes- the brave!
Barked: Fri Jul 26, '13 1:46am PST 
Thanks! I'll keep these opinions and advice in mind when making a choice. I'm continuing to do my research and am quite excited to finally move towards living normally with the help of a furry friend. Thanks again!

Momma's Leash on- Life
Barked: Sun Jul 28, '13 7:52am PST 
Program or Owner Trained is up to the individual. As has been said, both have positives and negatives. My personal choice is owner trained.

If you go with a program, you need to make sure the program has a good track record and will work with you if there are any issues. If I were going for a program dog, I would probably work with Canine Assistants. First because Victoria Stilwell (It's Me Or the Dog) did a great interview with them (YouTube, Stilwell Service Dog) and recommends them. Second because of how far they will go to make sure the dogs are well trained and $assistance, based on income, throughout the life of your partner. I can't imagine finding a better program. They go the extra mile and I love it.

As I said, however, I intend to train my own SD. It's a more personal route and one I prefer because the pup will see my normal versus when I'm not feeling well, times I'll need the dog to work as an adult. I'm also not actually alone. I'm in a group of people who've self trained for years, I have a trainer, I've picked up priceless books (if you're going to self train, get Teamwork I & II, they're SD self training specific traininng books).

My group suggests training your dog to CGC level and then training for PAT (Public Access Testing). Once your dog passes the PAT, it's considered a Service Dog. Of course, during that entire time, you're also task training. I've done a lot of research over the past year. Willing to answer questions as I'm able. I know I'm saying a lot.

The greatest advantages of personally training is a closer working relationship and the ability to train what you need when you need. With program dogs, you could unintentionally cause the dog to lose the training it aready has if you try to train any thing. There's not that danger if you train the dog yourself because you know the ins and outs of the dog's training. If you don't feel comfortable with training, however, a program may be the way to go. It's all up to you.

Just don't call the ADA with training questions. They're a legal institution, ensuring handlers have the right to go into public and to train their own dogs. They're not a training institution. There are many different types of Service Dogs, different means of attaing the same goal. There's no standard that they go by, which is good because if they did we would no longer be able to self train without getting an education to do so. There are, however, basic rules of etiquette to follow. That's what the PAT covers. Ther's a number you can call in case of discrimination, but not sure what it is.