Training Your Own Service Dog

Training Your Own Service Dog

Sep 28th 2015

A question often asked is, “Can I train my own service dog?” The answer is YES. If you have the understanding and ability to do so, a service dog can be a wonderful addition to your life. 

What exactly is a service dog? The term “service dog” is somewhat a generic word and can have different meanings. In the disabled community the term service dog is a dog that assists the disabled person and mitigates tasks for the disabled handler. The term service dog is also a name used for dogs who work in law enforcement. There are many kinds of service dogs who help the disabled, but in this article we are speaking of the service dog that mitigates tasks for the physically disabled person.

There is a wonderful non-profit organization located in Tucson, AZ. This organization was founded in 1988 by Stew Nordensson (1937- 1999) who was among the first to conceive the idea of teaching people with disabilities how to train their own service dogs. Stew had Cerebral Palsy, a brain injury which affected his speech and muscle control. He was in a wheelchair for most of his life. In spite of such challenges, Stew trained dogs for over 50 years and earned several American Kennel Club degrees– Companion Dog (CD), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) and Utility Dog (UD), which is the highest level of achievement. More to the point, Stew also trained and certified four of his own service dogs! Stew knew that if he could do it, he could teach others how to do the same. He has been an inspiration to everyone involved with TOP DOG–staff, students and volunteers alike. TOP DOG would not exist without Stew Nordensson’s vision, courage and generosity.

If you do not have the means to go to the Top Dog training program, you can purchase the Top Dog Teamwork books and DVD’s. We at have added the line of Top Dogs Teamwork training books and DVD’s to our product line. The training DVD’s are professional videos, which bring the Teamwork books to life, and allow you to see each exercise step by step, and are easy to follow. The DVD’s demonstrate all of the exercises taught in the books. Interviews with people who have taught the exercises help the viewer to understand and visualize the training. There is valuable information on understanding your dog and his or her behavior, excellent training tips on each exercise, and advice for preparing for changes in your life and your dog’s life. Again, these are very professional videos, which bring the Teamwork books to life and allow you to see each exercise step by step. The hope is that more and more people with disabilities will realize they can share the companionship and joy of owning a dog, and with a little work and dedication, they can learn how to make that dog a better behaved friend and companion. The benefits of a service dog are many that can improve the life of the disabled person.