Service Dogs & Service Dog Training

Written on April 28, 2015

At Specialty Dog Training, we believe in harnessing a dogs desire to work, their amazing love and devotion, and their intelligence. We love working with all breeds, ages, sizes and in all capacities. Our San Diego dog training company teaches pet dogs fundamental obedience commands, we work through basic behavioral issues, improve, manage and alter severe behavioral issues, train Therapy Dogs, we work with and train service dogs (assistance dogs), perhaps our favorite of them all. Training and certifying properly trained service dogs takes an enormous amount of love, time, passion, patience, consistency, ability and skill. Our team at Specialty Dog Training offers those things and more. Our Founder, President and Head Trainer, Graham Bloem, has been training working dogs for 10 of the last 14 years he has been a professional dog trainer. He and our dedicated team at Specialty Dog Training provide elite training programs for service dogs and their owners. We are also commonly asked to place pre-trained service dogs and gladly match our clients needs to one of our talented canines.

Having any type of disability can be very difficult, and working through the challenges of your disability alone can make it ever harder. By introducing a working service dog into your life, you can increase your confidence and begin to do things you weren’t able to do before. Assistance dogs have been helping people for a long time. Service dogs have proven how amazing they are and what they can do to better the lives of people in need. They are often capable of improving symptoms and quality of life beyond our expectations.

At Specialty Dog Training, we primarily train psychiatric service dogs, mobility assistance dogs, seizure response service dogs and service dogs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Any service dog training inquiries outside of these parameters will be referred (when resource is available) to other companies in the area that specialize in training service dogs specifically needs outside of those described above.

We value the opportunity to help you become part of a team with the right service dog. It keeps our cups full, and fuels our passion for dog training, as the goal of every member of our team is to help dogs help people. Having a working service dog is evidence of a mutual bond, a team working and growing together. Many of our graduates say that is one of the best parts about having a service animal.

Please take the time to read about our service dog training program criteria to see if owning a service dog is right for you and if we are a good fit for each other. Once you have read through the following information and you have an interest in potentially enrolling in our service dog-training program, please “click here to fill out our contact form. We will email you to set up a phone consultation within 24 to 48 hours.


Specialty Dog Training requires the following criteria to be followed to train and assist in certifying service dogs/assistance dogs for our clients:


  • A letter of recommendation to the client directly indicating the need for a trained serviced dog/assistance dog. This letter must come from a licensed medical professional and the letter should also state the medical reasoning for this need.
  • Two 1-hour (minimum) phone consultation prior to enrollment to discuss your needs and goals and for our company to explain the process to achieving those goals with a program outline.
  • One of our dog trainers must evaluate your dog should you elect to enroll an existing pet that you own. Your dog must pass our behavioral evaluation and service dog testing criteria in order to be accepted into our service dog-training program. This evaluation is $175.00, however, if you enroll in a training program with us, those funds are credited towards the balance. If you do not have a dog chosen yet, Specialty Dog Training will assist in the process of acquiring a dog best suited for you to fit your specific needs. Our company does not begin the process of acquiring a dog until our client has committed to the program by signing the training agreement and fulfilling the financial obligation of that contract. Our team of dogtrainers will help you find a dog that has a suitable temperament, age, size and potential ability. Depending on your unique needs, we may suggest rescuing the dog from a local shelter, humane society, or breed specific rescue. In some cases, hand picked breeders that follow excellent breeding practices are utilized.
  • If our clients are outside of San Diego County, Specialty DogTraining does require that the client pay all travel and consulting expenses related to their dog and his/her training. We may also require our client to travel to San Diego and stay for a period of time to complete handler training. In some cases we will provide the handling training to you at your location as well.
  • Our dogs in training will have a minimum of 120 hours of hands-on instruction over a period of a minimum of 6 months. No less than 30 of these hours will be devoted to outings in public settings to condition the dog to respond obediently in all environments. The majority of our dogs go through a 1-2 year service dog training program and we perform well over the 120 hour minimum standard.
  • We will not pass any dogs exhibiting aggressive behavior towards people or other animals.
  • Service dogs are not pets, they are working animals that must be trained to be highly obedient and perform their trained task. For this reason, our service dogs are also not allowed to solicit food, attention or petting from other people while working. They may not sniff merchandise, people or dogs while working. The dog must accept loud noises, lights, strange sights, unusual footing and all other real life distractions. Service dogs are not allowed to urinate or defecate in public unless given permission by their handler in the appropriate place.
  • At Specialty DogTraining we can train a vocal response (bark command) to be utilized as an alerting tool only when needed to meet the clients needs in a service dog. This learned behavior is a non-aggressive cue. We do not train or certify service dogs for personal protection or guard dog work.
  • All graduating service dogs will be trained to perform tasks on command (verbal, hand or other specific cue) for the benefit of their disabled handler.
  • All service dogs in our program must pass a CGC (Canine Good Citizen Test), the ADA Public Access Test and a specific task related test. Specialty Dog Training also requires our clients/handlers to pass a verbal or written (depending on client) test on service dog laws, dog handling commands and cues, speaking with the public about their dog and basic medical care for their dog.
  • Please note that our service dogs & service dog training programs start at $25,000.00. We understand this is a substantial investment for you as it is for us as well. We train service dogs for those in need because we love to. Our pet dog programs are far more lucrative for our company and for this reason, we only take on select approved cases and we often have a wait list. A number of our recipients that were not financially able to afford this service on their own created Go Fund Me and/or Indigogo campaigns to raise the needed funds. On the other hand, we don’t dare to put a price tag on the positive life changing opportunity of having a service dog at your side.

**If you are a post 9/11 US Combat Veteran seeing a trained service dog, please contact our charity partner Shelter to Soldier. Qualified candidates receive service dogs at no charge.