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Custom Canines Owner Trainer Academy (CCOTA)  is a unique and innovative program offered to individuals living with disabilities who wish to train their own service dog. Students will be guided through a customized training curriculum with Custom Canines service dog instructors offering mentoring, coaching and advocacy for each dog and student team. 


The CCOTA curriculum will be offered in a one-on-one training format. Our curriculum requires the completion of at least six months of training to qualify for service dog certification. Your canine trainee will be required to perform at least three tasks to mitigate your disability. Each training session will be conducted by a service dog instructor educating owner-trainers on public access, proper service dog etiquette, basic obedience and task-specific training. Participation in these training sessions is required to maintain enrollment within CCOTA. Upon meeting all requirements of our curriculum and your individualized training plan you will have to pass the ADI public access test in order to become a certified service dog team.

Curriculum includes:

  • A customized training plan designed to help you meet your training goals with your canine trainee.

  • Support and advocacy of a reputable service dog training organization.

  • One-on-one instruction with service dog instructors.

  • Training manual and other information to support your training plan.

  • Public access testing and certification upon completion of curriculum requirements.

  • Upon certification, you will receive a CCOTA ID card and CCSDA patch for your dog's vest or harness.

  • Alumni support for the working life of the service dog team.


  • You must have a medically substantiated disability.

  • Students must possess the desire to work with and train their own service dog, and have a realistic plan of use for such dog.

  • Proof of Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification for canine trainee.

  • A comprehensive temperament evaluation of your dog by CCSDA prior to application.

  • A completed owner trainer application with all supporting documentation. APPLY NOW

  • Proof that canine trainees are current on all vaccinations including: DHLPP, Rabies and Bordatella.

  • Proof that canine trainees are current on heart worm and flea/tick preventatives.


  • Fees and tuition must be paid in full prior to scheduling training sessions with CCOTA instructors.

  • All students and graduates must agree to and abide by Custom Canines policies/standards.

  • Canine trainees are required to attend training sessions with their recommended service dog equipment.

  • Students are required to submit monthly progress reports and training logs.

  • Respect for others, including instructors, CCSDA staff and other students, is expected.  Failure to maintain appropriate conduct may result in expulsion from CCOTA.

Prior to certification:

  • Students must complete a minimum of six months within CCOTA.

  • Canine trainees must be spayed/neutered prior to certification.

  • Students may be required to provide proof of required health clearances ensuring the dogs physical soundness depending on what tasks/service the dog will provide to the handler. (example: guide dogs or mobility service dogs must provide hip and elbow clearances.)

Tuition and Fees (all tuition and fees are non-refundable):

  • Application fee (Required) - $75.00

  • Tuition for 6 months of enrollment (Required) - $1500.00

What to expect after certification:
We will follow-up with you monthly for the first six months and then every three months for the remainder of the first year to ensure that the partnership standards you reached at certification are maintained. As a new handler, you will be required to have your dog re-certified annually. 


Should you and your canine partner need follow-up training throughout the time you are together, our staff will arrange to work with you on any questions or concerns you might have in a prompt and professional manner.


This may include additional follow-up visits to your home to work on specific tasks or dog behavior, contact by phone, email, or video conferencing.

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Frequently Asked Questions


What style of Training do you use?

CCOTA supports all methods of training.  You, as the owner-trainer, will determine the best training method and style that works for you and your canine trainee.  Our instructors will educate and support you in this endeavor, offering advise and assistance as needed.


How long does the training take?

Owner-training your service dog is highly individualized.  There are many factors that determine        the length of time it will take to complete your training and certify as a working, service dog team. 


How much does it cost?

Please look HERE for additional information on our tuition and fees.


What if I can’t afford the tuition for CCOTA?

Because CCOTA is a program of Custom Canines Service Dog Academy, you may initiate a fundraising campaign to cover your tuition and equipment recommended for your canine trainee.  We have fundraising ideas that can help you start a successful campaign. Contact Us for more information.


I am not located near your center.  Can you still help me?

You are required to attend, in person, at least two training sessions per month.  Our training center is located in Madison, WI.  If you’re unable to attend classes in person, we may be able to refer you to a trainer in your area.


What happens if I need support after I certify through CCOTA?

CCOTA staff is always available to offer support via phone, video-conferencing or in-person when possible. If you have moved out of our service area, and need in-person follow-up or support you would be financially responsible to cover expenses for our instructors time and travel.


Is my dog guaranteed to be a service dog?

NO!  There is no guarantee that your dog will certify as a working service dog. 

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