Interested in Training Psychiatric Service Dogs


New Member
for Veterans with PTSD as well as service dogs for MS.


I was directed here by Snooks the other day. I am currently a trainer at Petsmart (I did a lot of learning on positive reinforcement on my own as I realized the person training me was old school and probably should not be working at Petsmart). I have always wanted to do something to help the Veterans coming back from the wars who are getting neglected by the people who are supposed to care. I saw something about training dogs to help with PTSD and I have been getting more interested in the service dog field.

I would like some tips on things to learn how to train ( I have few already) and how do you think I should go about working with dogs other than my own for this.

I do not feel that I should be advertising myself as a trainer for these things when I have not had much experience.

I have a greyhound his name is Blacktrain : This is him the first day I had him.

and I have trained him in the basics and I will probably start teaching him service tasks as well. My main concern is how to go from here and build this into business non profit or otherwise.

Thanks for any advice,



Honored Member
Staff member
Welcome to the Academy! Not sure what to tell you except that the monthly challenges actually can help a lot with teaching service tasks. Our first challenge was teaching your dog to retrieve a household item--keys, remote, etc. Anything.

Being a trainer already helps---perhaps offer a click-a-trick class specializing in service tasks. Not sure what Petsmart policy says concerning this, but really you're just teaching tricks as long as you don't advertise it as a class teaching service tasks. If you could use Blacktrain as a demo dog performing certain tasks at the front of the store, you could probably get tons of attention. Some of your students or just people in the store might know people who know people...heard it through the grapevine, you know?

One of our members, Yoyopoodle(hasn't been around much lately) actually runs a business that trains poodles for service dogs. Jillian was happy to answer my questions. :) Not sure if this will help you any, but here's her reply to some of my questions.

Sure, I don't have much time these days, but I love to share what I do

I'm not sure whether you mean 'me' specifically, or service dog trainers in general, so I'll answer for both as best I can.

tx_cowgirl said:
Do individuals contact you wanting to train their dog, or do groups hire you to train their future service dogs who are later matched with owners?
I run my own program:

Some people train privately, and others work for organizations... I think it's generally an 'employee' thing, rather than contracting out the services.

tx_cowgirl said:
Do you usually get more of one breed than another, or are they varied?
Lol - my program only uses Poodles, so....

Most programs use mainly Labs and Goldens, though there are some Collies, Poodles, Aussies, GSDs, not to mention plenty of mixed breeds (usually from shelters).

tx_cowgirl said:
At what age do you normally get the dogs?
In my program I will accept puppies from 8-12 weeks, but need to evaluate them not more than a couple of days before they come (to make sure I feel the puppy is in a fine stage of development to leave home). The program is brand new, but I will eventually be breeding my own litters.
I will also accept a dog up to about 2.5 years old, depending on health and temperament.

tx_cowgirl said:
Do you have a set deadline, or are you allowed any time frame since training varies with every dog?
I usually like to have a dog know all 90 commands by around 8-10 months. Obviously, at that age they are still a puppy and need plenty of time to just hang-out and grow-up before they can be given the responsibility of full-time work... so I like to place those older pups with a person/family who will continue to socialize them and keep them on their tasks. Between 18-22 months I have them come back for a refresher and evaluate their personality against the potential clients.
So no deadlines, but certain clients will receive a higher priority based on their disability and it's progressive nature.

tx_cowgirl said:
Did you attend a college or university and get a degree, or do you just have to get certified through a training program?
I went to the Assistance Dog Institute ( and I highly recommend it! Bonnie is an amazing person and I learned soooo much about human and dog psychology, training methodology, how the brain and memory works...

However, there is currently no industry standard that trainers need to meet. I would suggest (at the least) apprenticing at an established organization for a few months before deciding if this is really the career for you - then you don't need to worry about finances, finding clients, training a dog for 2 years to have them flunk for something...
Anyway, welcome! Glad Snooks directed you here. Enjoy the site, and do check out the challenges! :)


New Member
Thanks for all the links.

I did look at that school but I would not be able to have the funds or afford the time off yet.

I will start delving into all the other sources though.