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Nationwide Personal Service Dog Training 

Compass Key Service Dog Trainig
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About Us

Our Story


Our original staff members all volunteered together at a non-profit service dog organization. As volunteers working with in-training service dogs in public, they received numerous requests from individuals wanting their own personal dogs trained. An idea began to develop to start a company with various types of dog training. In 2012, Compass Key (formerly PAWS Training Centers) locations began in Wilmington, NC, Southeastern PA, and Seattle, WA. Although they had initially thought the majority of clients would want obedience training, they quickly realized the great need for service dog training for privately owned dogs. There were so many organizations that would breed dogs for service dog placement, but there was such a desire for clients to use their own pet dog they had already bonded with or have the option to select a dog breed for training. They met with many service dog trainers and clients to develop a one-of-a-kind comprehensive service dog training program to meet the needs of each unique client/dog team. In 2018, PAWS Training Centers rebranded with a new name: Compass Key, to better support the mission of providing "Compassionate direction for you and your dog". Our vision continues to spread throughout more locations of the country.

Service Dog Training - Compass Key

Our Training Philosophy

Compass Key trainers are committed to using the most up to date training methods that are backed by academic research and based in the least intrusive, minimally aversive methods. We teach using positive reinforcement, reward-based training, and do not use positive punishment methods or tools.

We believe in protecting the positive nature of the human-animal bond, and do not use training methods that would damage the important bond developed in a service dog-handler partnership. One tool we use to guide our training methods is the Hierarchy of Dog Needs, created by Linda Michaels.

Compass Key trainers have a wide range of backgrounds with different degrees, certifications, and specialties. Our company also encourages and supports continued trainer education to promote gentle, effective, fast, and fun ways to train dogs using the most up-to-date information and sound, scientifically based methods. As a result, our trainers know how to create a training plan for you and your dog that centers your dog’s needs while honoring the human-animal bond, resulting in a meaningful and lasting partnership with your service dog.

To view our specific training methods statement, please click here: Training Methods

Client Stories

Our clients readily invite us into their lives and their homes. They share their daily dog struggles with us and we embark on our training mission. Because we work with every dog the same way we would work with our very own, we grow bonded with each one. For stories from the homes of our clients click here: Client Stories

Compass Key Store

Interested in purchasing Compass Key apparel?  Feel free to visit our company store here: Compass Key Lands End Business Apparel

Join Our Team

Interested in becoming a service dog trainer with Compass Key?  Click here for more information: Join Our Team

Our Story
Our Training Philosophy
About Us
Our Services

Our Services

Assistance Dogs - psychiatric, mobility, diabetes, medical alert service dogs




Compass Key provides personalized training for service dog teams based on individual needs. Our trainers have experience working with children, adults, and families training their own dogs to create successful dog/handler teams. We specialize in a personalized approach that focuses on how your partnership with your service dog will help you overcome the challenges you face in your home and in public. We use positive-reinforcement methods to teach the behaviors that are necessary for dogs working in public settings, and to train the specific tasks you need from the canine partner in your life.

Service dogs increase freedom and independence by providing assistance in everyday life. Service dogs can improve the lives of people with a wide range of disabilities, whether physical, neurological, or psychiatric. We train service dogs to mitigate symptoms of many disabilities such as: autism, anxiety disorders, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, hearing impairment, multiple sclerosis (MS), narcolepsy, post-traumatic stress (PTS or PTSD), severe allergies, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). We also often customize tasks for a specific client’s needs.

To learn more about the process and cost of personal service dog training, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions.


The following are examples of the most common disability skills we teach:

Mobility, balance, and retrieval service dogs - Compass Key
Emotial support service dogs - Compass Key


- To people approaching

- As a response to your name or someone trying to get your attention

- For specific sounds, such as alarms, ring tones, sirens, or vehicles backing up

- For specific smells, such as smoke or gas

- Go seek help from someone else when you are having a medical emergency

- Press a medical alert button for designated

emergency contact

- Wake-up alerts


- Apply or receive deep pressure therapeutically

- Cuddle on cue

- Interrupt repetitive movements or compulsive behaviors

- Lead to uncrowded area or place to sit down

- Respond to an anxiety or panic attack

- Interrupt nightmares or night terrors


- Allergens /  triggering odors

- Low blood sugar levels

- The presence or absence of people in a designated area or location


- Get personal items and bring to you, such as keys or cell phones

- Carry items for you

- Deliver payment to store clerk or receive and carry merchandise for you

- Open and close doors, cabinets, drawers or appliances to bring you something from inside

- Bring medication to you at a designated time


- Act as a positional buffer – behind, in front, looking the opposite way, or circling

- Turn on and off lights, including turning on the light for you before you enter a room

- Open and hold doors

- Provide bracing for you to stand up or steady yourself

- Tug or hold clothing, socks and shoes to assist with dressing and undressing

- Pull to assist manual wheelchair propulsion

- Target away from walking out into a street or other dangerous areas

- Offer a signal that allows you to politely excuse yourself from the company of others

Medical Alert Service Dogs - Compass Key
Assistance support service dogs - Compass Key
Detection service dogs - Compass Key

Types of Service Dog Training

Training your Own Dog

Compass Key recognizes that there are many great organizations that provide service dogs to those in need.  Sadly, the number of applicants for those organizations far outnumber the dogs that are ready for placement.  This often creates very long wait times for individuals to receive their service dogs. 


There are many people who have, or are willing to find, a dog that could be trained as a service dog to fill a need with their family. Compass Key creates a customized training plan to teach your privately owned dog all the necessary skills to mitigate your/your loved one's disability. We also help teach the people who benefit from this assistance, so the dogs can be used to their fullest potential.  

To learn more about the process and cost of personal service dog training, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions.

Dog Search

Compass Key specializes in training privately owned dogs for service dog work.  Since not all of our clients own a dog with the right temperament and trainability for training, we periodically have dogs available for purchase that have already been taught foundational skills.  For more information, click here: Available Dogs

Types of SD Training
Training your Own Dog
Dog Search
FAQ & Cost
Staff & Locations

To get started fill out our contact form below!

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