Certified service dog coach Wyatt Regner holds multiple credentials in the areas of dog training and working with people with disabilities. In addition to his SDC, he is a CPDT-KA, he has a certification in Mental Health First Aid and he has studied American Sign Language at the University of Virginia. Wyatt owns B.R.A.V.E. Pet Services LLC and offers service dog and therapy dog training in the Richmond and Charlottesville areas in Virginia. He is currently pursuing a degree in animal health and behavior at Unity College.
What made you decide you wanted to train service dogs?
My journey into service dog training began when the symptoms of my own disability began to worsen. Many of the recommended treatments proved ineffective for me and I knew I needed additional help. However, as many of us can relate to, asking for help from another person can be challenging at times. Asking a dog, on the other hand, seemed far more approachable to me. I fell in love with service dog training as I started to train my own, and I decided I wanted to make it my career. I was already a professional dog trainer, so it wasn’t a huge jump for me, but I knew I needed to seek out specialized education before fully embarking on the switch. This is what brought me to Service Dog Coach certification.
Tell us about your work training service dogs.
I began training service dogs professionally at the end of 2022. I train service dogs both through my personal business, B.R.A.V.E. Pet Services LLC, and through a national organization called Compass Key Service Dog Training. Through my personal business, I train mostly psychiatric and mobility service dogs. Through Compass Key Service Dog Training, I train service dogs for people with a variety of different types of disabilities. Although I have worked with young children with a facilitator as well as grown adults, I most enjoy working with teenagers.
Tell us about your dog training business.
B.R.A.V.E. Pet Services LLC was founded on November 26, 2018, when I was 19 years old. We were originally located in Leesburg, Virginia, but have since relocated to the Charlottesville/Richmond area. B.R.A.V.E. stands for Bringing Revolutionary and Voluntary Education. We prioritize staying on the cutting edge of science as well as implementing force-, fear- and intimidation-free training methods. Because I specialized in behavior modification for three years prior to starting service dog training, B.R.A.V.E. strongly emphasizes the importance of understanding the behavioral well-being of our dogs. Nowadays, B.R.A.V.E. works almost entirely on service and therapy dog training, which has been my dream for years.
Has offering service dog training had an impact on your business? If yes, how?
Absolutely! Service dog training is now the main service I offer. I deeply enjoy service dog training because it is so incredibly rewarding. Offering service dog training and being able to focus on it full time has made my career so much more enjoyable. I feel as though I am really able to help people in deeply meaningful ways through B.R.A.V.E.
What motivated you to enroll in the SDC course?
When I realized I wanted to train service dogs as a part of my career, I found myself intimidated by the amount of knowledge I would need to obtain in order to do my job confidently. Early in my training journey, I attended a dog training academy with the esteemed Pat Miller. She is the one who recommended I attend the SDC program. I felt that the SDC program was perfect for me because it laid out all the knowledge I needed to get started in service dog training in an organized fashion. It was also very approachable on top of attending college and having a full-time job. I also liked that there are a lot of continuing education opportunities through Cooperative Paws’ other online courses. When I applied and got accepted into the program, I found that it was exactly what I hoped for. Taking the SDC certification course really helped me boost my confidence in my training ability and line me up for success entering the service dog training career field.
What did you like the most about the SDC course?
My favorite part about the SDC course was the video assignments. They allowed me to work through specific skills with my own dog and get feedback on how to improve my technique. I found this to be extremely enlightening. I had worked on a retrieve and hold with my dog in the past with very little success. He could bring me objects, but I could never get him to hold them for an extended duration. Veronica helped me work through this issue! I now have better skills to help other clients who might have similar issues in the future.
What has surprised you about working with service dogs?
I consider myself very lucky to have a strong community to fall back of fellow service dog trainers. I was originally very surprised to find such a supportive group of people in my fellow SDC graduates. I think my sense of surprise came from how toxic the service dog handler community on social media can be, but I am happy to say the SDC community is extremely supportive and welcoming. I was actually connected to my job at Compass Key Service Dog Training by another SDC graduate!
What advice would you give to trainers thinking about getting involved in service dog training?
My advice to others interested in pursuing service dog training as a career is to seek out a quality education from an experienced, reputable trainer before diving in. Service dog training is a TON of fun and I absolutely recommend it, but there is a lot at stake. At the end of the day, we are training a dog to provide important medical support for a person with a disability. This can be life changing when done right, and we owe it to our clients to be well educated in our field. Additionally, getting connected to a community of other service dog trainers is a huge help! As one person, we can’t know everything all the time. So it’s really helpful to be able to tap into a wider body of knowledge when you inevitably hit a road block or have a question.
I highly recommend pursuing further education in contemporary disability studies as well. It has given me a much better understanding of how I can feel empowered as a disabled person and how I can, in turn, empower others with disabilities. In case anyone is looking for a book recommendation to get you started, I really loved Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. For movie recommendations, I recommend Crip Camp, which can be viewed on Netflix!