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.
Cooperative Paws SDC® graduates apply their knowledge, skills and business tools in different ways. Many expand their own training businesses by incorporating service dog training, others work for non-profit service dog organizations.
Additionally, benefits include:
There is extensive confusion about what certification actually means when it comes to service dogs. There is no government provision for certification of service dogs in the United States.
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 still important, even if it is not a legal requirement. Cooperative Paws SDC® graduates receive tools to assess and evaluate service dogs and learn about different ways to document service dogs’ training.
Cooperative Paws SDC® graduates work in different ways with service dogs. Many incorporate service dog training into their pet dog training businesses, others work for nonprofit service dog programs and some even do both! Some SDC graduates decide to offer certification of service dogs, others opt for different types of documentation. Learn more about the complex issue of certification here.
We know you are busy! We allow for holidays (generously!) and work with students to plan coursework so they can best fit the program into their schedule. The 12 week estimated time frame allows for only 2 hours a week of time dedicated to the course. The course is self-paced, so students can dedicate more hours some weeks and less others.
We have found that setting a time limit is a benefit to students. It helps students stay on track and meet their goal of getting started in service dog training. We also recognize that trainers are busy, have commitments and travel schedules. So if you have scheduling concerns, please let us know so we can discuss your needs. Please contact Veronica at [email protected] to discuss your scheduling concerns.
You will need to be comfortable using a computer, the web and email. You will need access to a reliable internet connection. Each lesson involves a combination of written material, video and an online quiz.
The SDC 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. It literally takes less than a minute.
You can take the course on a laptop, smart phone or pad. You will need to be able to take video of yourself training a dog and submit it (email, Google Drive, YouTube, Facebook Messenger, Dropbox are all options) as well as submit short essays (email). We have worked with many students who do not consider themselves technically savvy. If you are unsure, please send us an email at [email protected] so we can answer your questions.
Each lesson involves a combination of written material, video and an online quiz.
There are 4 projects required in the program. Three are essay and one requires submitting videos of your work training a dog. You will need access to a dog to train, the ability to take video of yourself, and be able to send video and files. You will upload video of yourself training and our expert will give you feedback via email. One project requires a short visit to a location such as a nursing home, hospital, adaptive equipment supplier or independent living center, and another project requires a short visit to a local shopping mall or other similar location.
The Cooperative Paws SDC® curriculum is comprehensive, it covers all of the foundation knowledge and tasks needed to begin offering service dog training. Also, essential business tools are included as well as access to Veronica, via discussion areas and email for feedback on training, projects and questions as needed.
The curriculum includes:
- Types of service dogs and ways they can help
- Strategies to adapt training for people with disabilities
- How to select a dog for service work, how to screen client’s pets effectively and sensitively
- How to train essential service dog tasks with guidance and feedback from our expert
- retrieve (also pull, hold, and carry)
- hearing alert
- targeting based (push doors, turn lights, access buttons)
- task training “recipes” with step by step instructions for numerous tasks including commonly requested tasks like anxiety alert and deep pressure therapy
- Behaviors and training needed for public access and learn 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!
- Strategies to incorporate service dog training into a pet dog training business
- How to collaborate with healthcare professionals (and paperwork that makes this easy!)
- How to handle unique cases such as behavior consultations with working service dogs and “at home only” service dogs
- A comprehensive Learning Library with books, articles and resources on service dog specialties including mobility, guide, hearing, psychiatric/PTSD, autism, diabetic, seizure-alert and more.
Business Tools include
- Guidelines and form to assess service dog candidates
- Guidelines and form to evaluate public access work
- New client intake & questionnaire template
- Marketing tools – website content examples, social media and search engine optimization information
- Client handouts
- Medical release, Healthcare provider letters & forms, Client Contract Addendum created in consultation with an attorney
Yes the program includes content on a wide range of service dog specialties including mobility, hearing, psychiatric, seizure response and medical alert. The SDC program covers foundation task training, knowledge, temperament requirements, public access assessments and business tools that are needed to train all service dogs. Step by step task training is included in the program, including “training recipes” for tasks often needed for service dogs for people with PTSD.
The SDC also includes a Learning Library packed with resources, scientific research and recommended books on different specialties including commonly requested specialties such as PTSD, Autism and the latest research on medical alert/response. Additionally, you have access to Veronica, a service dog expert, via email and via discussion areas at the bottom of each lesson if you have specific questions on tasks or specialty areas as you complete the program.
Yes! There is a large and growing demand for service dog training support and a shortage of positive pet dog trainers with the knowledge and skills to offer this specialty. Service dog training takes typically more than 2 years of regularly scheduled training appointments. 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. 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.”
Yes! 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. The business tools such as the medical release, assessment tools and handouts are relevant for and can be adapted for any business structure. Many lessons include content that is focused on the unique needs of service dog non-profit programs and covers topics such as matching dogs to recipients, educating recipients and selecting dogs. Students have access to Veronica via email and can ask questions in discussion areas below each lesson. Veronica has a wide range of experience in the service dog industry including experience working for a non-profit service dog training program.
We are happy to set up a payment plan. We can split the cost of the course into 4 monthly payments. When students log into the course, they have access to the entire course right away (and all materials). For this reason, full payment is required before beginning the course. If you are interested in setting up a payment plan, please note this in your application when you submit it.
Yes. We offer group discounts to trainers who work for the same business. Please contact Veronica for details.
The Cooperative Paws Service Dog Coach™ program is designed for experienced dog trainer professionals who already meet our prerequisites. Service Dog Fundamentals is an introductory online course designed for career changers and beginning dog trainers.
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:
Yes, your dog does not need to be service dog material for you to take the course. There is one project in the course that requires you to submit video of yourself training a dog two different behaviors that are commonly needed in service dog work. All of the training can occur in the comfort of your own home. You will need to be able to submit video of the training process for feedback. You will need:
- A dog that is an appropriate age to train and suitable to train. A geriatric dog or a very young puppy would not be appropriate.
- A 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 for this project.
- You will just be training the dog two different behaviors – you will not be training this particular dog to work as a service dog. Therefore, the dog you work with in the course does not need to have the behavioral characteristics needed for public access service work.. Dogs that have some behavior issues are often fine to work with for this project.
- If you choose to use a friend or client’s dog, be aware that you need to have very frequent access to the dog in order to do this project. Once or twice 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.