SDC Program Details
Yes! Graduates of the Service Dog Coach Certificate program may refer to themselves as a Certified Service Dog Coach™ or use the abbreviation SDC™. Graduates receive the SDC™ logo to use in their marketing materials, a certificate suitable for framing and are listed in our online directory. Please note that students earn the SDC certificate by completing the coursework to the standards delineated in the program, merely enrolling and finishing is not enough.
Earning the Cooperative Paws SDC® designation demonstrates that a trainer meets the requirements of a reputable educational program in service dog training, and shows the trainer’s commitment to reward-based methods.
SDC Graduate Benefits Also Include:
- The Cooperative Paws SDC® certificate
- Use of the SDC™ designation
- Use of the Cooperative Paws SDC® logo in marketing materials
- Service dog training business tools
- Online listing of graduates
- Earning CEU’s
- A private Facebook group for support, access to updated materials and service dog industry news
Cooperative Paws SDC® certificate is flexible and graduates choose how they wish to apply the knowledge and skills they gained from the program. Many SDC graduates expand their own training businesses by incorporating service dog training into their existing dog training services. Some SDCs work for non-profit service dog organizations, while still others specialize in a particular area or type of service dog training.
There is no government provision for certification of service dogs in the United States. Certification of service dogs reflects the standards, training and quality of the organization or individual who certified the dog.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) states:
“Q17. Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?
A. No. Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.”
Assessment and evaluation of service dogs is important, even if it is not a legal requirement. Cooperative Paws SDC® graduates receive tools to assess service dogs. Additionally, they learn about meaningful ways to document service dogs’ training.
Because SDCs choose how they wish to apply their knowledge and skills in service dog training, they vary in whether or not they choose to offer some type of certification to the dogs they work with. Many SDCs incorporate service dog training into their pet dog training businesses. However, some SDCs work for nonprofit service dog programs and still others do both!
Continuing education is important in this rapidly changing field. SDCs need 12 CEUs every 3 years to maintain their credential.
We make this financially do-able for SDCs in three ways:
- CEUs already accepted from organizations including the CCPDT, KPA, IAABC and PPAB can be used to meet SDC renewal requirements.
- We recognize some “out of the box” options for CEUs such as some types of volunteer work, reading books on disability issues and community presentations on service dogs.
- We do not charge a renewal fee.*
*We hope to always be able to keep renewals free, but we reserve the right to charge a nominal fee in the future if needed to offset administrative costs. Individuals who allow their certifications to expire may be charged a fee if they later choose to renew.
Yes, we have graduates from other countries including Canada and Australia. We welcome international applicants!
The Cooperative Paws SDC® curriculum is comprehensive and covers the foundation knowledge and tasks needed to begin offering service dog training including:
- Different types of service dogs (guide, mobility, medical alert, psychiatric and more) and ways they can help.
- Strategies to adapt training for people with disabilities – including mobility, vision, hearing, cognitive and psychiatric disabilities.
- Disability etiquette – the language to use when communicating about disabilities and why this is important.
- Temperament characteristics needed for service work, how to screen client’s pets effectively and sensitively.
- Basic training and socialization needs for service dog candidates
- How to train essential service dog tasks
- retrieve (also pull, hold, and carry)
- hearing alert
- Targeting based (push doors, turn lights, access buttons)
- Task training step-by-step instructions for numerous tasks including commonly requested tasks like anxiety alert, deep pressure therapy and more.
- Behaviors and training needed for public access, how to prepare dogs and owners for challenges and how to assess public access readiness
- Service dog program challenges such as matching recipients with dogs, providing education to recipients, supporting working teams and more!
- How to support working teams to ensure the dog’s training is maintained
- Strategies to incorporate service dog training into a pet dog training business in a way that is practical, and compliments your existing services.
- How to collaborate with healthcare professionals
- How to handle unique training requests such as behavior consultations with working service dogs and “at home only” service dogs
Also students have access to our extensive Learning Library of scientific research, news articles and other resources on various service dog specialties including mobility, guide, hearing, psychiatric/PTSD, autism, diabetic, seizure-alert and more. Essential business tools are included in the course (such as a contract addendum and medical release developed in consultation with an attorney) and students can ask questions via discussion areas and email.
Yes! The SDC™ program includes content on a wide range of service dog specialties including psychiatric service dogs. Step-by-step task training instructions are included in the program for tasks often needed for service dogs for people with PTSD including an anxiety alert and Deep Pressure Therapy. The SDC program covers foundation task training, knowledge, temperament requirements, public access assessments and business tools that are needed to train all service dogs.
The 12 week time frame allows for approximately 2 hours a week of time dedicated to the course as well as one flex week. One of the course projects requires training two service dog tasks. This project can be challenging and depending on the student’s skill set, some students may need to allow more time than others.
All discussion and feedback is done via email or via the class discussion areas. Students can work on the course, ask questions and participate in discussions during times that fit their schedules.
Many students complete the course with a couple of weeks to spare. The course was designed for the busy working professional and the majority of our graduates run their own dog training businesses. The course is self-paced, so students can dedicate more hours some weeks and less others. However, this also means students need to have good time-management skills and schedule their work appropriately.
Yes! Our graduates work for both for-profits and non-profits. One of the advantages of our certification is the flexibility.
The Cooperative Paws SDC® curriculum covers everything from temperament assessment, information on disabilities, task training, public access and much more, which applies to all service dog training. Additionally, there is content in the course that is specifically designed for trainers who work for non-profit programs. The course instructor, Veronica, has a wide range of experience in the service dog industry including experience working for and consulting with non-profit service dog training programs.
The program is online but also interactive. Each lesson involves a combination of reading material, video presentations and an “open book” quiz. Lessons also include discussion prompts and you are encouraged to email the course instructor, Veronica, with your service dog training questions. You can retake the quizzes if you need to.
There are 4 required projects. Three of the projects are short (approximately one page) written essays. One requires a visit to a location such as a medical supply store or rehabilitation facility, and another requires a visit to a local shopping mall, supermarket, airport or other similar location.
One project involves submitting 6 videos of your process training a dog two different service dog tasks. One task needs to be a back-chained retrieve with a controlled hold. You choose the other task from a list. Rubrics with requirements for each project are provided so you know exactly what you need to do.
You are encouraged to ask questions in discussion areas in the course or via email. You will received feedback on your training and projects via email.
The technology requirements are very basic. You will need to be comfortable using a computer, the internet and email. You will need access to a reliable internet connection.
The course is on a very user friendly online Learning Management System. Students receive an email prompt to set up a password and sign into the course – this takes less than a minute.
You can take the course on a laptop, smart phone or pad. You need to be able to take videos of yourself training a dog with a cell phone and upload so the instructor can view them (via YouTube, Dropbox or Google Drive) as well as submit short essays via email.
You do need a dog to take the course, but the dog does not need to be suited for service work. There is one project in the course that requires you to submit videos of your process training a dog two different behaviors that are commonly needed in service dog work. All of the training for the course can occur in the comfort of your own home.
You will not be training this particular dog to work as a service dog. The dog you work with in the course does not need to have the behavioral characteristics needed to work in places pets are not allowed. We strongly recommend that the dog you use for the course be a personal dog that you own.
You will need:
- A dog that is an appropriate age to train. A geriatric dog or a puppy would not be appropriate for the course. Most dogs younger than 6 months will not be appropriate.
- A healthy dog that is relatively “easy to train” is best for this project. Dogs who are not food motivated or who do not enjoy training are not appropriate.
- You need to have daily access to the dog. Most students find they end up working with the dog for 6 weeks for the project, but some students take longer. If you plan on using a friend or client’s dog, training a few times a week will not be sufficient.
- You do not have to use the same dog for both behaviors unless you want to.
- There is no specific breed requirement. SDC graduates have worked with golden retrievers, labradors, pit bulls, border collies, Havanese, hounds, samoyeds, doodles and many mixed bred dogs to complete the program.
We are committed to scientifically sound, force-free training methods. SDC™ students learn how to apply clicker training and lure reward techniques to train service dog tasks. Additionally, we emphasize strategies to reduce dog’s stress and to ensure the dog’s needs are met. Service dogs do so much for their owners they deserve an excellent quality of life. Cooperative Paws LLC is a proud member of the No Shock Collar Coalition.
No. This course was designed for professional trainers interested in learning how to train service dogs for others.
You will need a computer and access to an internet connection. You also will need a smart phone to record and send video.
You will need the usual dog training supplies, including treats and a clicker. You also may need to purchase a dowel or dumbbell if you do not already have one.
While specific books are not required for the course, some books are recommended, such as the instructor’s book: Service Dog Coaching: A Guide for Pet Dog Trainers.
Preparing a dog to work as a service dog takes typically 2 years and ongoing maintenance training throughout the dog’s working career. A wide range of services can be incorporated to train a service dog: from private lessons to group classes, board and train and day training. Many times owner-trainers seek help when their dogs are still puppies, so even puppy training classes can be incorporated! Service dog training clients are often very committed to their goals. It is a wonderful opportunity to work with committed, long-term clients and change lives!
Being skilled in training service dogs helps grow your pet dog training business too! Seniors, people with chronic illnesses or people who have a family member with a disability are drawn to trainers who can demonstrate experience training service dogs. Expertise in service dog training also brings in owners who want their puppy or dog to be “as well behaved as a service dog.”
We have a course we created just for people entering the field! Service Dog Fundamentals is designed for career changers and beginning dog trainers. Cooperative Paws Service Dog Coach™ is designed for experienced trainers who meet our prerequisites.
Certifications and courses as well as experience can be used towards meeting Cooperative Paws Service Dog Coach™ admission requirements. We encourage people getting started in professional dog training to look for high quality foundation educational programs that provide a combination of a solid understanding of learning theory, science-based training methods as well as hands-on, supervised experience under a qualified mentor trainer. Learn more about one of the excellent pet dog training foundation programs we recommend below: