Abby Hill, CPDT-KA

We emphasize positive, reward-based methods to make dog training fun for both dogs and owners.

What is a Service Dog, Therapy Dog, and Emotional Support Animal?


Service dogs are individually trained dogs that perform tasks for people with disabilities. They can  help many people with different disabilities such as alert to high and low sugar levels for diabetics, help pick up keys for people with limited mobility, reminding people with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calm a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing many other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We are proud to support and train all of the dogs from The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs


Therapy dogs are very different than service dogs. Therapy dogs are pets that help to comfort people besides their owner while service dogs work specifically for their handlers, not others. Therapy dogs are great at making short visits with people that need the comfort of a dog. Therapy dogs typically visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and libraries.


An Emotional Support Animal is a pet that provides therapeutic benefit to a person with a mental or psychiatric disability. In order to be prescribed an emotional support animal by a physician or other medical professional, the person seeking the animal must have a verifiable disability. The biggest difference between an emotional support animal and a service dog is in the training. Service animals are trained with very specific skills and are granted full public access.  Emotional support animals do not need specific training.






Emotional Support Dogs

Handlers’ rights to be accompanied by these dogs in establishments open to the public
are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dogs must be temperamentally sound to tolerate a wide variety of experiences, environments and people.

These dogs may live with their disabled owners in housing with a “no-pets” policy in place.











Dogs visit hospitals, schools, hospices and other institutions to aid in psychological or physical therapy.



Handlers encourage these dogs to accept petting and socialize with other people while they’re on-duty.

Dogs are individually trained to perform tasks or do work to mitigate
their handlers’ disabilities.

Petting, talking to or otherwise distracting these dogs can interfere with their job
and pose a serious danger to the dog and handler.

Dogs’ primary functions are to provide emotional support, through companionship, to their disabled owners.

Subject to state laws regarding dog licensing and vaccination.

These dogs enjoy plenty of  off-duty time, during which they rest, take part in fun activities and get to act like a regular, pet dog.





















What we do:

The Exceptional Pet can help disabled owners train their own service dogs. When owners have an appropriate dog and a verifiable disability we can work together to get the dog/handler team working at a top level. Our goal is to help people with disabilities live the life that they want to live. If you have a dog that you would like us to evaluate for service work we can sit and discuss your needs and your dog’s ability to help you.


What to Expect:

-We recommend bringing your dog through at least 3 different sessions of group classes and be able to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test, AKC Community Canine Test, and the AKC Urban CGC Test before we begin the service dog training.  Once your dog is reliable with all of these skills we can begin Public Access Training and also Service Dog Skill Training.


It is very important to know that many dogs are not appropriate for service work.  Your dog needs to be confident and well behaved in public in order to be a service dog.  If your dog is anxious, nervous, reactive, fearful, shy, timid, overly excitable, ill, painful, unreliable, or anything other than stable and healthy, we will not be able to train your dog as a full public access service animal.

If your dog is not suited for public service dog work they might be better suited to help you in your home but not in public.


We work closely with The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs.  Once we decide that your dog is ready for service work to begin, The Exceptional Sidekick will administer a Public Access Test and you will graduate as an Exceptional Sidekick Team.


Owner Requirements:

-  A minimum of 10 years of age with a disability other than loss of vision.

-  Treating physician has to have diagnosed you with a qualifying disability.

-  For Psychiatric Service Animals, you have to be under the care of a psychiatric professional for at least one year.

-  Financially able to take full responsibility for a dog, including, but not limited to, dog food and veterinary care. Costs such as annual vaccinations, additional veterinary needs, dog food and dog toys may run upwards of $1,000 per year.

-  Able to physically take full responsibility for a dog, or have someone designated and able to address this responsibility.

-  Able to demonstrate through the application process that a service dog would assist in daily living tasks and help the applicant maintain or increase independence.

-  Able to attend all team training requirements.

-  Yearly follow-up interviews will be required with someone from the The Exceptional Sidekick follow-up staff.


We train to the standards of Assistance Dogs International. It is imperative that you train your dog to the highest level.  Poorly trained service dogs are not only dangerous but also make it difficult for other people with disabilities to live safely with their service animals. We promise that any dog graduating through our program will be a wonderful ambassador for service dogs everywhere.


For a complete breakdown of costs and to see a basic timeline, CLICK HERE.





3 Simm Lane, Newtown, CT  06470

Certified Dog Traininer and Aggression Specialist for Fairfield County, Connecticut:  Newtown, Brookfield, Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, Wilton, Ridgefield

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