SDC Program Details
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® certification
- Use of the SDC™ designation
- Use of the Cooperative Paws SDC® logo in marketing materials
- Service dog training business tools
- Online listing of graduates
- A private group for support, access to updated materials and service dog industry news
Cooperative Paws SDC® 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 by the CCPDT, KPA and/or IAABC can be used to meet SDC renewal requirements.
- We recognize “out of the box” options for CEUs such as some types of volunteer work, documentary movies on disability, 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! 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 hard copy certificate suitable for framing and are listed in our online directory. Please note that students earn the SDC credential by completing the coursework to the standards delineated in the program, merely enrolling and finishing is not enough.
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 work effectively and adapt training for people with disabilities – including mobility, vision, hearing, cognitive and psychiatric disabilities.
- Behavioral characteristics needed for service work – how to screen client’s dogs 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 tasks (push doors, turn lights, access buttons)
- scent-based alerts (as needed for diabetic alert)
- Task training step-by-step instructions for numerous tasks including commonly requested tasks like anxiety alert, deep pressure therapy and more.
- Behavior 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.
Click here to see a screenshot of the course outline as seen on the Learning Management System.
Yes! The SDC™ program covers the process for training numerous tasks for a wide range of service dog specialties including psychiatric service dogs. Step-by-step instructions are provided for tasks often needed by people with PTSD such as anxiety alerts and Deep Pressure Therapy. Additionally, the SDC program covers information that is important for training all service dogs, such as how to assess service dog candidates, how to train and prepare dogs for public access, strategies to accommodate people with disabilities, business tools, and much more.
The course was designed for the busy working professional and the majority of our students run their own dog training businesses. Because this course includes a hands-on training component, the amount of time students’ need varies. We recommend planning on spending about 4 hours a week on the course. Many students complete the course with a couple of weeks to spare.
The course is self-paced but with a firm deadline at the end of the 12 weeks. A flex week was built into the course. This means students can dedicate more hours some weeks and less others and have flexibility on when to submit coursework. However, this also means students need to have good time-management skills and schedule their work appropriately.
To help students get the most out of the course, there are soft deadlines for submitting work. Students receive reminders of soft deadlines as well as tips on pacing their coursework via email.
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 includes video presentations, reading materials and an “open book” quiz. Lessons also include discussion areas and you are encouraged to email the course instructor, Veronica, with your questions.
There are four required projects. Three are short (one page) essays. The fourth involves training a dog two service dog skills: a retrieve with a controlled 3-5 second hold and task you choose from a list. You will need to submit short videos of your training. Rubrics with specific requirements for each project are provided so you know exactly what you need to do.
The technology requirements are very basic. You will need access to a computer, the internet and email. You will need 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.
We recommend using a tablet, laptop or desktop for the course, however, the course can be accessed on a smart phone as well. You need to be able to take videos of yourself training a dog with a cell phone and upload them so the instructor can view them (via YouTube, Dropbox or Google Drive) as well as write and submit short essays via email.
Yes. You will need to submit videos of your process training a dog two different skills that are commonly needed in service dog work. You may use your own dog or a client’s dog. You need to have frequent, consistent access to the dog for the duration of the course. You need to be able to work with the dog several times a week in order to be able to train advanced behaviors.
All of the training for the course can occur in your home or in a training facility.
The dog you work with needs to be:
- A healthy dog that is “easy to train.” Dogs who are not food motivated or who do not enjoy training are not appropriate. You will be training advanced, complex behaviors and will need to do frequent training sessions. Dogs who are stressed by training are inappropriate.
- An appropriate age to train. A young puppy is not appropriate for the course. A geriatric dog that has age-related health issues is also inappropriate.
- There is no specific breed requirement. SDC students have worked with various purebred dogs and mixed bred dogs successfully in this course.
The dog does not need to be appropriate for service work. All of the training can occur in your home or in a training facility.
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 access to an appropriate dog for the course, and 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.
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 are often needed. Service dog training clients are usually 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.
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:
Applying to the Program
The SDC Certificate program is for experienced professional dog trainers who are committed to positive training methods as per the SDC Code of Ethics. We recognize that trainers may enter the industry and gain experience in different ways, therefore a range of different credentials, experience and education can be used to satisfy prerequisites. Unfortunately, without reviewing a person’s completed application we cannot tell someone if they qualify. Please note that our on-demand courses do not have prerequisites.
Yes, we welcome international students! We have talented graduates from many countries including Australia, Canada, Greece and the United Kingdom in addition to the United States.
Your video should show you training a dog a behavior that the dog does not already know using clicker training. We are interested in your training mechanics not the dog’s finished performance. We do not expect to see a finished, fluent and generalized behavior in this short video.
A simple behavior usually works best. For example, targeting a lid, hand, sticky or another item with a nose or paw(s); performing a chin rest on your hand or couch. You can generalize a skill, for instance, if the dog was previously trained to touch your hand with their nose, you can show training the dog to touch a spoon instead.
If you happen to already have video that shows you training a dog a behavior that the dog does not already know using clicker training (for instance, on social media) and the video meets the criteria, you are welcome to submit it by providing the link.
Your video should be approximately 2 min. long and show:
- You training the dog the entire time.
- You marking with a clicker and rewarding desired behavior.
- You adjusting criteria appropriately as per the dog’s responses.
Your video should NOT show no reward markers (no “uhuh,” “ack” or other similar verbalizations).
Preferred method of sharing video: upload the video to Dropbox, Google Drive or YouTube and put the link to the video in your application.