Archive for the ‘Service Dog Tips’ Category

If you’re wondering if you can train your own service dog, the answer is, “Yes!” Training your dog is the most cost-effective way of getting a service dog. However, it’s also the most time-consuming. Here are some pros and cons of training your own service dog. 

Pros For Self-Training Your Service Dog

Trainers who are also owners become better handlers for their service dogs. Owners have their own quirks and personalities, as do dogs! There’s a period of adjustment after owners receive program-trained service dogs. 

When you train your own service dog, you and your dog are already accustomed to each other.

The training is personalized with both of you in mind. If problems arise, the trainer-owner is better equipped to problem solve than an owner who didn’t do the training.

Trainer-owners don’t have to spend time untraining behaviors they don’t need. Program-trained dogs are often taught according to a predetermined list of behaviors. Because each owner is different, what works for one owner may be counterintuitive to another. When training your service dog yourself, you can focus on the tasks most important for your needs.

There’s no wait time for trainer-owned dogs. When dogs are trained through programs, the wait time can take years. When you train your own dog, however, you can enjoy the emotional benefits of having a dog while you train. Also, some states recognize service dogs-in-training as actual service dogs. 

Cons For Self-Training Your Service Dog

Service dogs that come from formal programs are bred to be service dogs. Their personality, disposition, even their size are bred to fulfill specific services. When training your own service dog, you have to find these traits yourself. Finding a calm, smart, and eager-to-please dog is more challenging than most people realize. 

Training a service dog is time-consuming, demanding work. According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partnerships, 120 hours of training over six months is the gold standard. Not only is that a tremendous amount of time for a dog—but it’s almost a part-time job for trainers.

Trainer-owners have to have the time and energy to put in the work.

After all the time and effort put into training your service dog, it may not be successful. Some dogs just don’t take well to specific tasks. They may not respond to commands at a satisfactory rate. Trainer-owners must be ready to concede if this occurs. 

Training your service dog by yourself is time-consuming but can build a stronger bond. How to Train Your Service Dog

Now that you understand the pros and cons of training your service dog, you can decide the best path to take. If you choose to become a trainer-owner, there are a variety of sources you can use to help you with the task.

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP)

The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) is a non-profit organization that helps people with service dogs, guide dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and dogs for the hearing impaired. The IAADP offers service dog training references and guides to make training easier. 

The American Dog Trainer’s Network

The American Dog Trainers Network offers a comprehensive set of resources from clicker training to becoming a professional dog trainer. 

Karen Pryor: Clicker Training 

Karen Pryor is the top expert on the use of clicker training for dogs. Her website features clicker training videos, guides, and training topics to help owners train their dogs. 

Finding the Right Service Dog to Train is Key

The chihuahua you’ve had for seven years may be the love of your life, but he may not have the temperament or drive to fulfill the tasks you need. If your mobility issues require a dog to help keep you from suddenly falling, a small chihuahua is not the right sized dog for you. 

Finding an intelligent, patient, and trainable dog isn’t easy. The dog you choose must respond quickly, not be aggressive or dominant, and not be overly protective. Keep in mind that a service dog will be allowed in many public spaces; therefore, you must always keep the public’s safety in mind. Finding an intelligent but docile dog can be challenging. However, it’s key to having a successful service dog.

Many dog owners believe that the dog they currently have as a family pet will make a satisfactory service dog. That’s ideal, but it’s usually not the case. A family dog already has relationship dynamics that can make it difficult for it to be docile and non-aggressive at all times in public.  

Keep in mind that a service dog is much more than a pet. It provides affection and warmth, but must also fulfill specific tasks at every command, which is very difficult for typical pets. Once you find the right dog, you’ll have a much better chance of training your service dog successfully. 

There’s nothing that dogs love more than being outside in nature, so you may find yourself one day planning a trip to a National Park with your service dog. Before you start your plans, you may want to plan. Knowing the natural environment and what rules and laws apply to your service dog can make your trip less stressful and much more pleasurable in the long run. 

It’s important to know that federal laws prevent restrictions on service animals, even in national parks. However, there may be other restrictions that apply under certain conditions. For example, a service dog may be permitted in a national park but not allowed on trails that may endanger wildlife or other people. 

The Right Gear for Your Service Dog When Visiting National Parks

The type of protection and gear you bring with you can keep you and your dog safe on your journey. Your service dog may be a hero but still needs protection from the weather and terrain. Prepare for the appropriate climate and environmental needs of your service dog.

For example, desert areas are beautiful but can be dangerous if you’re not prepared. Desert trips often require special dog boots to keep your service dog’s paws from burning on the hot ground. Dogs with thin fur or exposed skin may need doggy sunscreen or a covering. Most of all, extra water and food are always necessary for the desert due to the risk of dehydration. 

A winter trip or hike in a national park have their own considerations. Dogs that don’t have thick fur often need extra coverings and boots or may not tolerate the cold at all.

Whenever you take a trip—to a national park or eslewhere—a first aid kit for you and your service dog is always a must. 

Service Animal Permits and Rules in National Parks 

Some national parks may be required a permit for your service dog. These permits allow the park to keep tabs on your presence for the safety of you and your service animal. For example, Yellowstone National Park requires such a permit for service dogs.

Many national parks require service dogs to be leashed, pet food to be stored appropriately, and feces properly disposed of. These rules must be obeyed and are meant to keep visitors safe and to preserve the surrounding wildlife. 

With a little preparation you can visit any national park with your service dog, like Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Caping Your Service Dog

Although you won’t be required to cape your dog at a national park, it’s still a good idea to do so. By placing an easily identifiable service dog cape on your canine, a park ranger can spot your dog right away—even through binoculars. It will keep your dog safe, inform park employees, and show other park goers that your service dog is on the job. 

Service Dog Vest Size Chart National Park Access Pass and Your Service Dog

A National Park Access Pass is an excellent option; it gives you free, lifetime admission to national recreation sites, including all the National Parks Service parks. The pass is available to citizens and permanent U.S. residents who have a permanent disability or activity limitations. The disability does not have to be 100% but does need to impede on a significant life activity, such as grooming, working, learning, or speaking. Although the Access Pass itself is free, a processing fee of ten dollars is required. 

For people with service dogs, an Access Pass identifies you as a service dog owner to National Park Service employees and allows you to be with your service dog without disputes. An Access Pass not only provides free access to National Parks but ensures that your service dog can remain by your side with fewer interruptions. 

Denial of Access of a Service Dog in National Parks

Because the general public is allowed access to national parks, you and your service dog are also allowed access. Unfortunately, you may encounter a park employee who might be unfamiliar with federal disability laws, and they may deny you and your service dog access. If you’re denied access to a park because of your service dog, you can file a complaint here.  

Enjoying the National Parks With Your Service Dog

Your disability doesn’t prevent you from enjoying the National Parks, especially if you have a service dog. However, your service dog is also your responsibility. You may come across other visitors, as well as park employees, and so your service dog must remain well-behaved at all times. What’s more, parks commonly require leashes on service dogs, both for the dog’s safety and wildlife safety. But with a little planning, you and your service dog can explore the great outdoors safely together. 

Trying to determine if a dog is a service dog can feel like a game of Twenty Questions, but there’s only really two questions a business owner is allowed to ask: 

Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

As cryptic and frustrating as that sounds, these parameters are present for good reasons. They protect the personal privacy of the service dog’s handler. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights and privacy of individuals with disabilities, thus also protecting the right of a service dog to perform their task. In short, owners of service dogs have federal rights. Because of these federal protections, the public should be aware of the appropriate way to verify a service dog. 

What is a Service Dog? 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is trained to complete a task directly relating to their owner’s disability. A service dog is not a pet but a way for a disabled person to overcome their disability. Because service dogs affect their owners’ health and welfare, they’re allowed into areas where pets aren’t typically welcome. Some examples of service dog tasks are:

Alert people with hearing impairments. Identify impending seizures. Help people with mobility problems.  What Can You Ask a Service Dog Owner? 

As stated prior, there are two questions a business can ask a service dog owner when trying to verify a service dog:

Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Though other questions may seem relevant, they can be considered intrusive and discriminatory. Here are a few examples of questions that may seem pertinent but infringe on privacy or are discriminatory. 

What kind of disability do you have?  Can your dog demonstrate what it does for you?  Do you have documents to prove that your dog is a service dog?  Why does that dog need to be with you in here?  Would you be okay without the dog with you? 

The ADA laws do not require service dogs to be registered, certified, or wear identifying gear such as a vest or ID tag. Therefore, asking for identification or documentation would not establish whether a dog is a service dog. 

To verify a service dog, there are only two questions allowed. Asking about the owner’s disability infringes on their privacy. Where is a Service Dog Allowed? 

Federal laws allow a service dog to go wherever their owner goes. This includes hotels, stores, movies, restaurants, airlines, and anywhere else typically accessible to the public. For example, service dogs can live with their owners in “no-pets allowed” housing due to the federal Fair Housing Act. Service dogs can also travel with their owners in the cabin of airplanes because of the Air Carrier Access Act. These federal laws also exempt service dog owners from any fees for housing, lodging, and travel typically applied to pets. 

When Can You Ask a Service Dog to Leave? 

Almost all service dogs are well-behaved and exceptionally trained, but they’re not always perfect. There are instances when service dogs may be removed from the area. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations states that there are two reasons a service dog can be asked to leave the premises: 

If the service dog’s owner is not able to command the dog, and the dog is out of control.  If the service dog isn’t properly housebroken or if the dog urinates or defecates in an inappropriate area. 

If a service dog does not behave appropriately in public and is required to leave the area for any of the above reasons, the dog’s owner must be allowed to remain without the dog. If the service dog damages property, the business may charge the service dog owner for cleaning after the fact. Surcharges that usually apply to pets don’t apply to a service dog. Additionally, businesses can’t segregate service dogs and their owners from the rest of their patrons. 

A real service dog is always under its owner’s control and does not deviate from its tasks. Misrepresentation of Service Dogs

Although there is no federal law that penalizes fraudulent service dog owners, many states have laws against the misrepresentation of a service dog. Nevertheless, people still attempt to pass their pets as service dogs. Service dogs undergo hundreds of hours of training.

Well-trained service dogs are usually not disruptive, unruly, or aggressive. When interacting with the public, service dogs remain focused on their work. They receive training to avoid interactions with others unless necessary because distractions can be dangerous for their owners.

Service dogs do noble and vital work for people who have disabilities. It’s essential to verify service dogs correctly, to adhere to federal laws, and to respect the work that they do.