Service Dog & Therapy Dog Training

 

This page is to guide handlers wanting to train their dog for Service Dog or Therapy Dog work. There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs. It can be difficult to find accurate information online because the laws around service animals vary by province. The information on this page pertains to Ontario only

A golden dog wearing a yellow harness, lying in leaves on the ground. Image by Dzmitry Dudov

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Service Dog training is offered at The Dog Classroom

For handlers interested in getting a service dog prospect puppy or training their current dog to be their service dog, we recommend a combination of group classes, online courses, and private lessons (depending on handler’s needs).

Because raising and training a service dog is a huge commitment for both the owner and the trainer, we want to be fully transparent so you can ensure we are a good fit before committing to training with us.

  • We believe that Service Dogs should be treated with respect and acknowledged as sentient beings and family members first. We acknowledge that all dogs are individuals and will not push a dog through training if they are not suited to Service Work.

  • We will never recommend or use tools such as prong collars, shock collars (“e-collars”), or choke chains in our program. We will not work with Service Dog teams using these tools due to the risks involved.

  • We are skilled in the use of positive reinforcement to train the behaviours needed.

  • We may recommend a head halter depending on handler abilities. Harnesses are recommended for most dogs.

 

If it sounds like we might be the right fit for you, or you have further questions, let’s connect!

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Here are some frequently asked questions and misconceptions about Service Dogs. It can be difficult to find accurate information online because the laws arounds service animals vary by province. The information on this page pertains to Ontario only

1. What is the difference between a Therapy Dog and a Service Dog?

Generally speaking, a Therapy Dog is a friendly, social dog who provides comfort to many different people. They can be registered through organizations like Pet Partners or St. John’s Ambulance. Therapy Dogs are not service dogs and are not entitled to public access, housing exemptions, etc.

A Service Dog (defined further below) generally provides medical or psychiatric support to one person only. Service Dogs are governed by provincial law.

2. What is a Service Dog?

There is a lot of misinformation online about what defines a Service Dog. Here is the definition from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

"Definition of a service animal

According to the AODA’s Customer Service Standards, one of two conditions must apply for your animal to be considered a service animal:

  • the animal is easily identifiable as relating to your disability (for example, it is a guide dog or other animal wearing a vest or harness)

  • you can provide documentation from a regulated health professional confirming the animal is required due to a disability”

In Ontario, there is no distinction for "emotional support" dogs.

It is also important to note that air travel is governed separately and in many cases, owner-trained service dogs are not accepted on flights.

3. Do I need to order a service dog kit/registration card?

No. Many of these websites are scams and no registration or ID card is required in Ontario. The only documentation you need is a letter from a regulated health professional.

“Under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA, service animals do not need to have certificates or identity cards.

However, you may be asked to provide acceptable documentation. This includes:

  • documentation from a regulated health professional

  • an identification card from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General for people who are blind and use a guide dog”

You can read more about Service Animals in Ontario at this link: https://www.ontario.ca/page/accessibility-ontario-what-you-need-to-know

4. Does my dog need specific tasks to be considered a service dog?

No. In Ontario there is no requirement for any specific tasks to be trained for all service dogs. The tasks you train will be specific to your needs.

5. Do you have a Therapy Dog group class?

Not specifically. Our core program (Puppy Playschool - Beginning with Basics - The Next Step - Branching Out) will cover all the behaviours expected of a therapy dog. We also offer private training lessons which are tailored to your needs.

6. Do you have a Service Dog group class?

Not specifically. For Service Dog training, we typically recommend private lessons or a combination of group classes and private lessons, depending on the handler's abilities and needs.

Recommended Resources

Here are some recommended resources (links, webinars, organizations, etc.) for Service Dog and/or Therapy Dog information