How to choose a trained dog

As with any important purchase, it is essential to know what you are getting when buying a trained dog. The term “Due Diligence” has become common in the real estate investment arena. However, it applies in many other areas, including the choosing of a trained dog. Whenever we set out to make a purchase of something we are not knowledgeable about, it is wise to do our ‘due diligence’ and avoid being prey.
The internet is a wonderful place to find information and locate organizations. However, just because an organization or business is on the net and has a nice looking site does not make them reputable. Check and verify everything you find there. Ask for references and then also check them. Rarely would someone use an individual as a reference that would say bad things about them, but it is wise to check anyway and determine also if there is a reciprocal reason for the good reference.
Check to make sure the business is official and check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints. You can even use a search engine to check for complaints – just put in the business name and add complaints and see what you get. Then take all of what you have gathered and see how the pieces fit together. If there are complaints, are they reputable or simply mean spirited?
Ask for a copy of the purchase contract as well as a copy of general policies regarding a dog. Will you own the dog or will they retain the right to take the dog back? What is their policy for returns? Find out what the guidelines are to do business with them. How long have they been in business – what is their success ratio – what is their background with regard to service dogs and service dog training? What type/style of training do they use with the dogs? How are the dogs housed and socialized? Are there health guarantees and certificates of vet exams?
You are purchasing a dog that you will entrust with your life. Don’t let emotions over-ride good judgment in your choice.

How to choose a trainer

Just as above, you will need to check on a prospective trainer. Whether or not you get a started dog or one you will work with and train yourself, there will be training involved. Find a trainer that is familiar in the field of service dogs and particularly in the arena you need the canine skills to assist you. Look for a trainer that is certified to prove they have a background in canine learning theory as well as the practical ability to work with and train a dog. Check on the experience the trainer has under their belt.
As the training of a service dog is critical and needs to be motivating, do think about the style of training you are comfortable with. Dogs trained with correction based methods often have a short working career. They aren’t motivated to continue the work because they were trained through force. Force and correction based training does not promote the motivation to work. Methods using positive reinforcement create a motivated dog that enjoys working and these dogs tend to work for their lifetime.


After checking on all the different facets of the possible deal, compare and keep your eyes open. Due diligence may save you money and grief. In brief outline, check:
Buying a dog
Verification of organization
Policies, contract
BBB complaints
Google or internet search
Certification, credentials
Training style, philosophy

—Rita Martinez