Owner Trainers

Welcome prospective Owner Trainers and those curious about the Owner Training concept!
(this page is currently under construction;please enjoy what is here and know there is more coming!)
Table of Contents 
What is Owner Training?
Why do people owner train? 
Reasons for Owner Training
My Experience as an Owner Trainer
Selecting a Service Dog Candidate
Training Resources

What is Owner Training?
Owner Training is the process where a person with a disability and/or their family elect to choose, raise and train their own service dog.
Why do People Owner Train?

Selecting a Service Dog Candidate

Temperament Testing

The Personality of a Service Dog: Temperament Testing

 Selecting Shelter Dogs for Service Dog Training By Emily Weiss, Department of Psychology Wichita State University and Sedgwick County Zoo Wichita, Kansas

The C-BARQ (or Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire) is "designed to provide dog owners and professionals with standardized evaluations of canine temperament and behavior. The C-BARQ was developed by researchers at the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society of the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently the only behavioral assessment instrument of its kind to be extensively tested for reliability and validity on large samples of dogs of many breeds."

 Books For Selecting Dogs
Lend Me an Ear By Martha Hoffman
Why We Love The Dogs We Do Dr.Stanley Coren
Articles on Selecting Dogs

Owner Training your own service dog is a choice people make for a variety of reasons.

Reasons Behind Owner Training
  1. It's Faster than Going Through a Program.
  2. It's Cheaper Than Going Though a Program.
  3. Programs Don't/Won't Train the Kind of Dog I want.
  4. I want to be involved in my dog's training.
  5. I want my dog to have skills the programs won't train.
  6. I have years of training experience and know I have the skills to train my own dog.
  7. The programs/trainers I have talked to won't train a dog for me (or the person I want a dog for).
  8. I have/had a program trained dog and I want to train my successor dog.

1. It's Faster than Going through a Program.
This is a very tricky situation. If you start with a puppy it could be any where from two to three years before you have dog with all the training,maturity,and experience necessary for the dog a service dog. This is assuming that the puppy you start out with passes all the health checks, doesn't have any negative experiences during puppyhood that render him unable or unwilling to be be service dog, and wants to do service dog work. If you start with an adolescent or adult dog you may,possibly end up with a working partner in one to two years provided the dog does not have and health or behavior problems that make him unsuitable/undependable for work as a service dog. People hear the average wait for a program trained dog is 2-5 years and think that is an impossible amount of time to wait. They often don't realize that a program's wait list is rarely a first come, first serve situation. Programs are constantly going over their wait lists along with the dogs they are currently training looking for potential matches, if a person looks like a good match for a given dog programs will move forward to evaluate the match potential further regardless of whether the person just got on the list.

2. It's Cheaper Than Going Though a Program.
Service dogs are not a bargain item by any means. I, personally, spent $9,000 raising, training, and maintaining the training of my owner trained dog. Going through Summit Assistance Dogs I was encouraged to fund raise to support the cost of my dogs, but they stressed that they never turn anyone away for lack of ability to pay; they would scholarship whatever the difference was between what I could fund raise and the cost of my dog which was estimated between $15,000 and $25, 000. As an owner trainer you are responsible for all the cost of any potential service dog candidate including (but not limited to):
  • Purchase price/adoption fees- any where between $100-several thousands of dollars
  • Spay/Neuter
  • Vaccinations
  • Health checks- hips, elbows, eyes, heart, and any breed specific health concerns
  • Regular well dog vet visits
  • Temperament testing
  • Training classes -Puppy Kindergarten, Basic Obedience, Intermediate Obedience, Advance obedience 
  • Service Dog Specific Training- Beginning Task Training, Intermediate Task Training, Advanced Task Training, Public Access Training, any other specialized skill such as search and rescue
  • Private Training sessions for any specific/specialized issues-example I hired a private trained after my service dog candidate got shocked by an automatic dog and was consequently afraid to cross them.
  • Gear- Leashes, collars, toys, food, treats, harnesses, vests, backpacks, and tools such as door pulls
  • Time

3.    Programs Don't/Won't Train the Kind of Dog I want.

The most successful breeds of dogs at becoming service dogs are Labradors and Golden Retrievers and crossed of the two breeds. While is it true that there are individuals within other breeds who may have what it takes an owner trainer looking at breeds outside the two most common is making their journey to finding a candidate much more lengthy and expensive while adding more challenges for themselves as a team. The public is accustomed to seeing Labs and Goldens; they are the breed equated in their minds with service dogs work. Labs and Goldens don't come with reputation of being dangerous or scary, along with their happy dispositions they are easily accepted. The two breeds also have been breed since their inception to work as a team with humans to accomplish the job. Companion lines of these breeds also have the medium energy level and the balance of being smart and biddable. Their certainly are breeds that are smarter, more independent, etc; however, the life of a service dog requires that they have enough intelligence and energy for the job while not having so much ofg either that they become bored or have tons of pent up energy during down times leading to the dog inventing their own fun or becoming impossible to live with for a person with a disability.