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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.


Meeting with a variety of service dog trainers and actual clients, the staff
began to develop a one-of-a-kind comprehensive service dog training
program to better 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.

Two dogs on a bridge surrounded by trees and bushes.

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

A black dog peering up.
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