Client (Handler/Dog Team) Certification

A young woman sitting with her service dog with his 2 front paws up on her lap. The dog is a black labradoodle

Succeed and thrive with your dog by your side! 

Benefit from one-on-one support and guidance in training your service dog. 

Atlas supports people with disabilities wanting full participation in the training of their service dog. Atlas clients are paired with Atlas Team Facilitators who will meet with them twice a month for at least six months before being eligible for their Public Access Test and Atlas certification. 

Atlas’ program is focused on the more difficult training skills required of a service dog once foundational obedience training has been completed.  

Training focuses on disability tasks, public access, and gaining confidence as a service dog handler overall. Each client is set up with their own training plan, tailored to their needs and abilities.

In order to enter our program, you must:

  • Already have a dog
      • Who is at least 14 months old
      • Who has no temperament issues and can pass Atlas’ obedience assessment 
      • Has no unresolved behavioral issues 
      • Has passed their AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test 
      • Is ready to begin working in public 
  • Have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act 
  • Commit to using positive, non-aversive training methods 
  • Live in a location we serve

Please read through our Obedience Checklist to see if your dog is ready for our program.

cartoon dog sitting

Benefits of Atlas Team Certification

Affordability

Our program is only $700 for 6 months of customized hands-on training and support when you are in one of our service areas.

Confidence

Know you and your dog can work at your best in public and challenging settings as our program is designed to meet or exceed all international standards for service dog certification.

Knowledge

Learn how to train and work with your dog with hands on support from our experienced team facilitators as well as benefit from our series of online client courses.

Support

You have access to Atlas as well as our network for ongoing support.

Legitimacy

Upon certification, Atlas provides vests, ID cards, and other materials to help you present yourself as a professional team.

Learn More About Our Program

Read our Atlas Certified Team Program documentation to find out how it all works.

Review our Client Application Readiness Checklist to see if you are ready to apply.

Atlas serves people in areas across the US. Explore our interactive map for the locations of our trained Team Facilitators who are ready to support our clients. Most work within a 1 hr radius of where they live, or you can come to them. We are adding support for additional locations regularly. Contact us at info@atlasdog.org to find out more.

We encourage you to read the FAQs as well as the above program documents.

Ready to Apply?

To begin your journey with Atlas, you will first fill out a shorter pre-application. If we determine that you might be a good fit for our program, we will send you a full application to fill out. When you are ready to apply, simply click the link below which will take you to our online pre-application. You can save your progress and resume at any time. 

Feel free to contact info@atlasdog.org if you have any questions.

FAQ

There is no requirement in the United States to have any type of certification or paperwork for your service dog. However, many organizations such as Atlas offer certifications and many handlers chose this route as a confirmation and validation of their hard work. 

Atlas certification means that Atlas has confirmed through testing, training, and documentation that: 

  • The dog and handler can work safely and appropriately in public places 
  • The client meets the requirements of the American with Disabilities Act 
  • The dog and handler have been trained to work effectively as a team and the dog has specially trained skills that directly mitigate limitations of the client’s disability 
  • The dog is healthy and able to do the work 
  • The dog is being treated well, and all the dog’s needs are met (including food, health, exercise, and companionship) 
  • The dog and handler team are trained to recognized international standards 
  • The client uses only positive, non-aversive training methods in compliance with Atlas’ Training Policy 

Atlas strives to keep costs to our clients as low as possible. In most cases, our fees total $700, broken down as follows:

Application fee: $25

Evaluation: $100 (Evaluation is performed by an Atlas Team Facilitator Lead. This includes temperament and obedience testing.)

Training fee: $450. This is the standard fee for six months of training with an Atlas Team Facilitator (equivalent to $75 per month of training). If you need more than 6 months, we add $75 per month. Additional fees may apply If you need more involved disability skill training or live further than an hour’s drive from your Team Facilitator.

PAT fee: $125, which also covers the cost of the vest and ID card.

You do not need to supply any documents to fill out the pre-application. 

When we send you the full application, you will need to submit a Letter of Medical Indication from your medical or mental health provider, a veterinary health form from your veterinarian, your CGC certificate, and videos demonstrating how your dog walks on leash, reacts to other dogs, and reacts to body handling.

See our video submission guidelines.

The CGC is a 10 skill test that teaches good manners to dogs and responsible dog ownership to their handlers. 

CGC is open to all dogs–purebred and mixed breed. There are no age minimums or limits for participating in the Canine Good Citizen program.

To qualify for our program, we ask that your dog pass  their CGC within a year of applying. You do not need it to pre-apply but will need to submit proof of CGC  if/when you fill out your full application. 

No. Our model is for people who wish to and can be actively involved in the process of training their own dog. We recommend you either contact one of the non-profit foundations or programs who specialize in providing fully trained dogs or contact an Atlas Certified Trainer or other trainer in your area to see if they offer extended boarded training.

Through our Assistance Dogs Set in Motion™ program however, we offer a hybrid model of started training and owner training where we raise a puppy until the dog is one year old and then transfer the dog over to the client.

Yes. The veterinary health form we ask you to have your veterinarian complete as part of the application process must include a statement that the dog has been spayed or neutered.

As of November 1, 2022, Atlas is an ADI Candidate. It will be a minimum of two years before we can apply for ADI member accreditation.

Part of our mission at Atlas Assistance Dogs is to provide financial aid for individuals with privately owned dogs that need assistance dog certification. We presently have a small scholarship fund that will offset part of the certification fee for applicants. We are continuing to work toward a scholarship program that can provide additional aid.

While we strongly recommend our Atlas Certified Trainers, you may work with any private or group trainer of your choice, or you may work on your own without a trainer. We highly encourage you to look for a trainer or resources that use force-free methods as this is how we train!

Another good option is our Teams Set in Motion course.

Atlas’ client certification program is for people who already have a dog. However, consider our Service Dog Selection Specialty course or hiring an Atlas Certified Trainer to help you in dog selection.

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