The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs assists clients in training their own dog to be a service dog. Owner Training is extremely challenging, and requires discipline and commitment; it can also be incredibly rewarding and therapeutic. If you don’t already have a dog, we can assist you in identifying and purchasing a prospect to train as part of this program.

About our Owner Trainer Program

  • We can assist you in identifying and purchasing a prospect to train, or you can elect to train your currently owned dog.
  • You and your dog must meet our requirements to become a service dog team. Please thoroughly read our application and training processes for owner trained service dogs before applying. (outlined below)
  • All dogs entering our owner trained service dog program must be in good health, up-to-date on their shots, and must be spayed or neutered at the appropriate age.
  • The puppy or dog must pass an initial temperament and assessment test. 
  • As with all service dogs in training (SDiT), your dog must continue to pass frequent temperament evaluations throughout training and will stay in the training program at the discretion of our trainers.
  • There is no guarantee that your dog will have a suitable temperament to qualify as a service dog as their personalities evolve.
  • To be eligible for this program, you must meet strict criteria, as we maintain incredibly high integrity for our owner trained service dog teams.
  • We require that owner trained service dog teams train with us for at least six months and that the dog be trained to perform a minimum of 3 tasks to offset the owner’s disability.

Process overview

I.  Initial Application Review, Prospect Identification, and Assessments
 (1) Complete the online application ($15 fee) for review by our Executive Director. Upon notification of a favorable application, the next step is to choose a prospect (puppy to train) if you do not already have a dog you are hoping to train. We prefer to guide you in your purchase for your best chance of being successful. There is no guarantee that any dog will successfully complete this training. Service dogs can not show any fear or aggression and must show a desire to work.
(2) We schedule a date to have your dog assessed by one of our trainers to determine suitability for service dog work. The fee for this comprehensive assessment is $225. Our Board of Directors reviews assessment results for final decision. We may request an additional Temperament Evaluation by an independent provider or that you purchase a 1-hour private lesson to determine public access training compatibility.
II.  Training Sessions  Owner Trained teams must attend two sessions per week for at least one year. We require a minimum participation of 85%. While meeting these requirements, we will lend you a branded Exceptional Sidekick training vest.
(1) Group training sessions occur weekly in Newtown, CT, running in a 6-week block, typically with one week off between sessions. The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test will be administered after the successful completion of obedience training at the discretion of our trainers.
(2) Public Access training takes place with groups of service dogs in training at various locations within 30 miles of Newtown, CT. When ready, a Public Access test will be administered to the client/dog team. If public access is not achieved within the initial training process, subsequent training will be recommended if we still believe the team may be successful.
(3) Private training sessions (up to 10) are required for task training to mitigate each handler’s specific needs. The timing of these sessions is completed at a mutually acceptable time and location.

Re-Certification and Follow Up

To keep your handling skills current, you will be required to pass the Public Access Test and prove task training each year after your initial certification in order to continue to use our equipment and support services.
There is no guarantee that any team that starts the training process will successfully complete it.
The final approval is granted at the discretion of our trainers, as you and your dog will be identified as an Exceptional Sidekick team and will be representing our organization. If we feel your dog is not suited for service work, we have the right to end this process at any time.

owner trained service dog exceptional pet logo

TESSD is grateful for the support from The Exceptional Pet. Their generosity enables us to offer our services at a significant discount.