Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Questions about Service Dog training? We have answers!

Aside from our Aunt Mabel’s meatloaf recipe, would you believe that most of your questions are about dogs? Here are some of our most commonly asked questions to save you a stamp (or email).  If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us.

What is a service dog?

A service dog is a working dog specially trained to assist a person with a disability. Service dogs help people overcome limitations caused by their disability and increase their independence and quality of life. 

The Good Human Service Dog Training Program is designed to exceed the service dog training requirements defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What is the difference between a service dog, a therapy dog, and an ESA?

Service Dogs are trained to perform specific tasks and can be with their handler in public anywhere a civilian is permitted, with few exceptions.
Therapy Dogs are dogs who go with their owners to volunteer in settings such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. Therapy Dogs are not trained for specific tasks and are only permitted in facilities where they are working and dog-friendly establishments.
Emotional Support Animals’ qualifications are based on their owner’s need for emotional support. ESAs may be trained for specific tasks, but their primary function is to provide comfort. The Fair Housing Act mandates “reasonable accommodation” to allow ESAs in housing.

If you are instead interested in getting additional training for your ESA, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for information.

What service tasks can you train a dog to do?

For a dog to be considered a Service Dog under the ADA, the tasks it is trained to perform must be directly related to their handler’s disabilities. We consider tasks to be disability-mitigating responses to cues that are intentionally given. You can find a list of the many service tasks we train here.

Because one person’s disabilities can differ from another, every task we train is thoughtfully customized to support the handler’s individual needs.

Can you tell me about your service dog training program?

We would be happy to! Our program is divided into phases, detailed below:

Readiness Assessments – There are two parts to this: the human and dog parts.

  • Initial Virtual Consultation. During this consult, we will explain our Service Dog Training Program, what to expect throughout the training, and all the requirements needed to get started. We will begin formulating a plan for service task training with you. And we’ll answer any questions you may have. If you are still interested in training a service dog after this consultation, and we believe you are a good candidate, we will move forward!
  • Dog Assessment – During this in-person assessment, we will determine if your dog is suitable for service dog training. You may find more info about our assessment here. Service Dog Program Readiness. (scroll to The Dog Half). If any concerns arise in this assessment, we can determine if these issues could be resolved through private training sessions.
  • Dog Acquisition Assistance We can help you navigate the world of dog selection and assess a potential candidate before acquisition. The bulk of responsibility for the search for a dog remains with the client; we are here to provide resources and feedback on dogs proposed by the client. We can’t guarantee that any dog we help you find will succeed as a fully certified service dog.

Phase 1. Advanced Skills – Once you complete the assessments and documentation, we can begin training! We start the program with the foundation skills you might learn in a group dog training class. Most common dog behavior issues (like jumping, pulling, barking, etc.) are discussed in detail and overcome in these essential lessons. As your dog builds stronger behaviors with positive training methods, we will work on adding distance, duration, and distractions. 

Phase 2. Service Task Training – Once you and your dog have completed Phase 1, we start training the service tasks. We require that the dog learn at least three service tasks that directly mitigate the handler’s disability. You can read more about service tasks here. Please note: We do not train guide dogs for the blind or for heavy mobility tasks such as pulling a wheelchair. 

Phase 3. Public Access Training – The skills you’ve already learned in Phase 1 form the foundation of public access training; we’ll refine them in public and distracting places, so you and your dog can go confidently out in the world as a certified team.

Certification: This is when your dog gets the vest! And we celebrate a job well done and the many benefits a well-trained service dog can provide. Cheers!

Ongoing Support: Our relationship doesn’t end at certification. We’re available for refinement lessons and to help you train any new skills, you may need. And we’ll see you again next year for recertification.

How long does it take to complete your program?

The length of training is different for every dog, and many factors need to be considered, such as the dog’s age, trainability, cue/skill sets they need to acquire, and level of commitment of the owner/handler. Training typically takes more than one year to complete depending on these factors.

How does certification work?

Although no formal certification or registration requirements for service dogs exist, a dog must be under the handler’s control and adequately trained to qualify as a service dog. People with disabilities have the right to train their own dogs and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

Good Human has developed a program that exceeds the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) Summary of Standards. Our certification is our word. When you and your dog complete our program, we confirm that you are ready to go out in the world confidently and safely in public settings as a Good Human certified team.

How is having my dog trained through Good Human different than getting a dog through a non-profit service dog organization?

Clients of Good Human gain significant benefits that many reputable non-profit service dog organizations do not offer:

  • Work with the dog you already love. Good Human teaches clients to train their privately-owned dogs, assuming the dogs are good candidates. 
  • Training your own dog through Good Human Dog Training costs less than purchasing a program-trained dog.
  • Your dog, trained through Good Human, will have the same access as a dog program-trained dog.
  • We use only the least invasive, scientifically and ethically sound training methods.
  • Our clients are involved in each step of the training process. The skills you learn from Good Human will be an investment in your relationship with the service dog you have now and every dog that shares your heart and home.
  • We will customize your dog’s training to your needs and disability. 
  • There are generally no wait times with Good Human. Most non-profit organizations have lengthy waiting lists (sometimes a few years) to receive a dog.
  • Non-profit organizations typically receive many applications, but very few individuals are accepted because a limited number of dogs are available.
  • We do not require our clients to fundraise for our organization.
  • After reviewing and completing our Initial Consultation and Dog Assessment, we can accept many clients and start right away!

Is Good Human affiliated with an ADI-recognized organization that would provide certification?

Assistance Dogs International (ADI) is a worldwide coalition of not-for-profit programs that train and place Assistance Dogs. Good Human Dog Training is not a member of or affiliated with ADI. While we follow ADI’s training and access guidelines, we are not eligible for accreditation as a for-profit business.

ADI membership is a consideration if you plan to travel overseas with your service dog, as some countries require this. We recommend contacting your desired organization to determine their process and whether or not they certify privately-owned dogs. 

What are the requirements for the service dog program?

We follow the guidelines and protocol laid out by Assistance Dogs International.

To be eligible for the Service Dog program, a HUMAN must:

  • Have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Have support from their licensed healthcare provider for using a service dog
  • Commit to using positive, non-aversive training methods
  • Be actively working to improve their quality of life and pursue independence
  • Be physically and cognitively capable of participating in the training process
  • Be in a stable home environment, and have a support network
  • Live in an area serviced by Good Human Dog Training (determined upon application) or be willing to drive to lessons 
  • Note: Anyone under 18 will need the approval of their guardian or parent to go through our program. That guardian must be present during all interactions and copied on all communications.

To be eligible for the Service Dog Program, a DOG must: 

  • Be at least six months of age (we can point you to classes in your area!)
  • Be in good physical health. and have all required vaccines
  • Be appropriate for the desired service tasks required by the handler
  • Dogs should have attended at least one puppy class
  • Be able to work comfortably in a distracting and stressful public environment
  • Be in a stable home environment and have no conflict with other pets
  • Complete and pass Good Human’s Readiness Assessment

What documentation do you require for the program?

To start training, we require the following:

  • a signed Service Dog Training Agreement
  • Homeowner/Leaseholder Agreement to share information with the homeowner/leaseholder that the dog is entering a service dog program
  • Emergency Contacts who may agree to provide support and house your dog, in the event of an emergency
  • your dog’s vaccination records and documentation of a negative fecal test 

Before beginning any service task training, we require the following:

  • Medical Necessity Form completed by one of your licensed healthcare providers
  • Veterinarian Health Check Form completed by your vet
    • Generational reports from your dog’s breeder or x-rays reviewed by your vet

Could I do partial training without completing the certification?

Yes! We are happy to help you train your dog in advanced skills and service tasks without completing the public access portion of the program. You and your dog would not have legal protection as outlined by the ADA. This type of training can be an excellent option for those who do not need much support outside the home, do not go out of their homes often, or have a dog who cannot complete the public access portion of our program.

Couldn't I just buy a service dog vest online?

Anyone can purchase a vest to give the public the impression that their pet is a service dog. Our service dog training program ensures that dogs are highly trained and assessed, so they can mitigate the disabilities of their owner in public venues and have a handler that thoroughly understands how to work with them.

Once I complete the program, can my dog go anywhere with me?

Trained service dogs are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can be with their handler in public anywhere a civilian is permitted, with few exceptions.

Is my dog guaranteed to become a service dog?

There is no guarantee that any team that starts the training process will successfully complete it.  There are many variables to service dog training, such as the handler’s time and availability to do follow-up training, the cues/skills required, the dog’s age and level of socialization, the dog’s genetic disposition, and so on. We will promptly tell you if your Good Human trainer feels that the dog is not suited for service certification.

We CAN guarantee that your specific training program will be individualized and intensive enough to give you and your service dog candidate the highest possible chance for certification.

Will you work with dogs of any breed, age, and size?

Dogs are eligible for our service dog program at six months old. Puppies should have appropriate socialization and a solid foundation as early as possible. We can recommend great puppy programs in our area and help you find a puppy class local to you if needed.

As long as your dog can pass our Readiness Assessment, is in good health, and is appropriate for the service tasks required, we will work with them. We do not recommend starting with a dog older than four-years-old, depending on the breed. For dogs trained in any scent detection work, we recommend training begins with a dog younger than 1-year-old.

P.S. We also train people of any breed, age, and size!

What methods do you use to train?

We strive for learner-centered, minimally stressful, and thoughtful training sessions with all species. We only use gentle methods based on the most current dog training and behavior science. Positive reinforcement is the most humane way to achieve these attributes, and it works faster than other training methods because it increases the odds of the dog learning the skills required.

Can you train my dog for me?

Teamwork makes the dream work!
We believe the bond between a service dog and their handler is one of the most important aspects of training. This close bond makes it possible for the dog to joyfully learn to recognize and respond to their handler’s physical and physiological state.

We’re part of your team too! We will give you the skills to train your own service dog using only the least invasive, scientifically, and ethically sound training methods. And, if you get stuck on a particular behavior or skill, we can help!

We offer day training for those local to Winston-Salem, NC.

What if I don't live close to you?

We have options!

  • If you are not close to Winston-Salem, NC, and are willing to travel, we’re happy to discuss potential training options.
  • Many clients outside our immediate training area have successfully utilized an outside trainer to provide assistance in training advanced skills while working with Good Human.
  • We have an intensive, online course that will minimize the need for in-person training.
  • We can use virtual lessons in between in-person sessions. This is a great option for service task training!

How much does it cost?

The costs associated with training a service dog are variable depending on the behaviors the dog is being trained to perform, the previous training the dog has had, and the amount of time the owner/handler can devote to training practice. Most dogs require 1-2 years to become a service dog and be fully trained in public access skills.

Because each dog and client is different, we cannot give an estimate without getting to know you and your dog. Payments are scheduled throughout training to help make the program affordable to as many clients’ budgets as possible.

Is the cost for training tax deductible?

Possibly! Costs associated with the purchase of a dog, training costs, veterinarian bills, food (if prescribed by the veterinarian), and other expenses may all be tax-deductible! Please consult your insurance company and tax professional for additional information.

I don't have money for training. What are my options?

Good Human’s Service Dog Training program is paid for by the lesson; there are no upfront costs. We also offer learning opportunities that may be more affordable than the in-person option.

Service Dogs are considered necessary medical equipment so check with your health insurance company. You can use the tax-free funds from a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to pay for the costs of buying, training, and maintaining a service dog.

Many of our clients have successfully funded their training through online fundraisers, donations from their community, or sponsorship from non-profit organizations.

At this time, we do not offer scholarships. If you are unable to pay for training and are unable to fundraise, we can direct you to a non-profit organization that may better fit your needs.

My child would benefit from a service dog. Can you work with us?

We train dogs for clients of all ages. While there are no age requirements for handlers, there are special considerations when training dogs for children not old enough to be active in the training process. We’re happy to discuss these considerations to determine if our service dog training program is a good fit for your child.

Can you train my dog for planes, trains and automobiles?

Yes! We begin with fun and easy exercises to get your dog used to traveling on public transportation or airplanes. If you would like to fly with your dog, your Good Human trainer can take a short, round-trip flight to teach you and your dog the appropriate procedures. The cost of this training consists of the airplane tickets (yours and your trainer’s), plus an hourly rate for the training.

If you are planning to travel internationally, please let us know. Some countries have certification and quarantine requirements for service dogs.

Will you train dogs for protection?

Nope. Training a service dog for protection or perceived aggression is not considered a task and is not covered under the ADA.
Further, it does not align with Good Human’s dog training methods and training philosophy.

You can train dogs, sure. But tell me about your leash-side manner?

The best dog trainers are people trainers. We’re good at both!

The laws of learning also apply to all species, including humans. We know that people learn best through fun and success. Training a service dog can be challenging enough without the trainer adding to the stress. We will make training as agreeable as can be by breaking down behaviors and tasks into small, easy steps.

If you are an anxious learner, we also have methods to facilitate learning in people.

What’s your #1 dog training tip?

Catch your dog doing it right! Too often, we focus on what they do wrong. How often do we ignore our dogs when they quietly lie at our feet or play with one of their toys? We don’t notice because it doesn’t bother us. However, the minute the dog grabs our shoe or comes over to hassle us, they get all our attention.
Reward the behavior you like, and you will get more of it!