Since 1999, Hunter's Heart has trained thousands of teams around the world. We'll support you throughout the process of selecting a suitable candidate, medical alert training,  public access, mitigating tasks, preparing for certification, troubleshooting problems and maintenance training. 


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About Service Dogs

Service dogs are highly trained dogs that assist one specific handler with their permanent disability, by performing "mitigating tasks". It's up to you which tasks are most useful for you. Many people think of guide dogs for the blind, but there are many additional types of services dogs. 

For example, if you have a severe peanut allergy, a service dog can alert you when there are peanuts in a plate of food you're about to eat. If you are having an anxiety attack, your dog can help to calm you and interrupt self-harming. If your family member has autism or dementia, a service dog can help prevent them from wandering away from your home or finding them when lost. 

Service dogs can also be trained to give advanced warning of medical emergencies by using their sense of smell (known as medical alerts). Medical alert dogs can reliably detect a wide array of medical conditions, including seizures, diabetic hypoglycemia, and migraines.  

Certifications for Service Dogs

In Canada, certified service dog teams have the legal right to "public access" i.e. they are allowed to go to public places where other dogs cannot go, such as restaurants, retail stores and schools. This enables them to assist their handler with their disability while they go about their daily activities. For example, a service dog who detects peanuts wouldn't be as helpful if they don't accompany their owner while eating meals in schools, restaurants or flights. 

In Canada, each province has its own rules for service dogs, which may include testing and certification requirements like Alberta's rules and requirements.

Note that most websites accepting money from consumers to purchase service dog identification are scams! Selecting, training and certifying service dogs is a long process, and online shortcuts are not a valid substitute. 

Our Approach

Hunter's Heart's mission is to strengthen the bond between people and dogs by applying evidence-based protocols that make service dog training fun. 

Science informs us about canine learning, olfaction and how best to teach working dogs the skills which enable them to answer important human questions.

We use rewards-based, force free training. We expect quantifiable, defensible, reliable results at every stage. We believe in training, testing and only then trusting our dogs. Learn more about our Training Approach.

Your Instructor

Your instructor is Dr. Carla Simon, BSc, MD, MBA. Carla is a professional detection dog trainer and Working Dog Chair for the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Since 1999, she has trained professional detection teams (including law enforcement and search and rescue), certified service dogs, certified detection dogs, dogsports champions and family pets that even neighbors love. As a retired physician, Carla offers a deep insight into working with healthcare professionals as well as service dog owners, trainers, breeders, and handlers. She honed her all-breed dog experience as a Behavior Assessor for the Calgary Humane Society and a Canine Good Neighbour Evaluator.  She has bred generations of working dogs and is intimately familiar with selecting working dogs and setting teams up for success at every stage of their careers. 

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Selecting a Suitable Service Dog Candidate

Succeeding as a service dog is not guaranteed. But your chances are better if you select the right dog, that is well-suited for service dog work. For example, a reactive dog who startles quickly, barks excessively, growls and lunges at children, and has a difficult time recovering is not suited to working in public. If you're in the process of selecting a SD candidate, ask us to help you evaluate the litter/dog. 

At the very least, the candidate should be fit, healthy, and health tested (as well as their parents, siblings and offspring). They should be well socialized, friendly, and not aggressive towards people, or dogs. Service dog candidates should not have high prey drive which may result in chasing animals. They should be calm and confident, but not over-the-top excitable. Since most service dogs retire at 9 or 10 years of age, the candidate should be young enough that they still have several years to work, after training is completed.

Evaluation Form for Potential Service Dog Candidates, Canada
Vet Form Alberta

Eye Exam Screening

It's very important to select a healthy dog as your service dog candidate, rather than training for months or years only to find out that they have a health problem that prevents them from working. A great place to start is to get a CAER evaluation by a veterinary opthalmologist, to evaluate your dog's risk for hereditary eye disease. Compared to other health screening exams, the CAER eye exam is relatively inexpensive, requires no anesthetic, can be completed with 7 or 8 week old puppies. Learn more about eye certification at the OFA website. If you're in the Calgary area, Dr. Ramey offers appointments at Calgary Animal Eye Care.

Canine Good Neighbour (CGN) Tests

Many service dog teams start their training with the goal of passing the Canine Good Neighbour Test (administered by the Canadian Kennel Club). It's a 12-step test that demonstrates a dog handler team has the obedience skills you'd want in your neighbour. Canine Good Neighbours have demonstrated good manners at home, in public places and in the presence of other dogs.

‚ÄčThe test is non-competitive. It assesses the handler and dog's relationship, together with the handler's ability to control the dog. Dogs are evaluated on their ability to perform basic exercises as well as their ability to demonstrate good manners in everyday situations, without the use of food rewards.

CGN testing is a good foundation for all dogs (including service dogs, detection dogs, therapy dogs and well-behaved pets). Having said that, passing the CGN test is not a guarantee that the dog will never bite, or that the dog could be a service dog. 

To pass the CGN test, you must pass all 12 components:

  1. Accepting A Friendly Stranger
  2. Politely Accepts Petting
  3. Appearance and Grooming
  4. Out For A Walk
  5. Walking Through A Crowd
  6. Sit/Down and Stay In Place
  7. Come When Called
  8. Praise/Interaction
  9. Reaction To A Passing Dog
  10. Reaction To Distractions
  11. Supervised Isolation
  12. Walking Through A Door/Gate

During CGN tests, teams are not allowed to use food rewards, and only specified gear is allowed (e.g. buckle and martingale collars are allowed but not head halters or pinch collars).

Download CGN Participants' Handbook
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FAQ: What's the Difference Between Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs? 

Therapy dogs are different from service dogs in important ways. Therapy dogs help many people, while service dogs exclusively help their handler. Because service dogs perform tasks to mitigate their handler's disability, it could be dangerous for them to stop working to  leave their handler and focus on other people. 

While service dogs help one handler/owner, therapy dogs help many people. Therapy dogs are not legally granted public access e.g. restaurants/schools, but they are invited by a facility to visit people and provide comfort. One day they might be greeting anxious passengers at the airport, and the next day they'll be helping residents of an assisted living facility, or shelter for domestic violence. If you're interested in volunteering with your therapy dog in Calgary, contact PALS (Pet Access League Society)

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Public Access Training

The next step after completing advanced obedience training is working towards public access.

Certified service dog teams are entitled to access public places where other dogs cannot go, such as restaurants and retail stores. This allows them to assist their handler throughout everyday situations such as eating, travelling, and working or going to school. 

Please note that even after being certified as a Service Dog, if the dog is creating a disturbance in a public place, they can be asked to leave! 

Service dogs are trained to ignore the general public and focus exclusively on working for their handler. They should be calm and confident, unruffled by crowds of people, without soliciting attention, sniffing, urinating or barking. 

Keeping 6 months of training logs is a best practice before and after certification. 


How Can We Help You?

Many families that could benefit from service dogs lack the resources to purchase a fully trained service dog, and we're increasingly being asked to help train owner handled sniffer dogs and service dogs.

At this time, Hunter's Heart has no puppies or fully trained detection dogs for sale. We offer private and small group lessons to help prepare your owner-trained service dog candidate throughout the learning and assessment process:

  • Selecting the best¬†puppy from a litter, based on the specific skills and work they will perform
  • Socializing your puppy
  • Puppy raising, including field trips to diverse environments
  • Selecting your 3 mitigating tasks
  • Introducing target odor to your¬†medical detection dog
  • Foundation obedience training
  • Passing the CGN test (required for many therapy dogs and a good preliminary step for service dog training)
  • Advanced¬†obedience training, including how to gradually reduce food rewards
  • Indication training, troubleshooting and generalization for sniffer dogs
  • Public access training, including troubleshooting problems and getting back on track ASAP
  • Preparing for testing and handling for certifications
  • How to maintain your training: after certification, we'll help you to design an efficient weekly maintenance program
  • How to notice stress and address holes in your training and brush up on your weak areas, so you maintain your proficiency.¬†
Download Public Access Test Form, Canada
Hunter's Heart Waiver
Download Alberta Veterinary Form
Download AB Medical Form with Mitigating Tasks


To start training your service dog candidate, we offer group classes and workshops as well as private lessons. 

Hunter's Heart Service Dog classes are in Calgary on Wednesday nights. Our monthly Service Dog Workshops are Saturday afternoons. Register at the Beast Boutique:

[email protected]
Classes are at: 4 ‚Äď 6115 4 St SE Calgary, AB T2H 2H9

Unsure¬†about the process? Email [email protected]¬†to arrange a free 15-minute zoom consultation.¬†

Email Hunter's Heart Scent Detection
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