Archive for the ‘Service Dog Tips’ Category

When looking for a service dog, some people will gravitate towards a specific breed or seek out an organization that specializes in training service dogs. So what about dogs that were found as a stray, were abandoned, or surrendered? Are these so-called rescue dogs able to become service dogs? The simple answer is: yes! 

As defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) service dogs don’t need to be a particular breed, obtained from a specific breeder, or found at a training site. Rescue dogs can be just as talented to become service dogs, given that they have the temperament needed to serve their handlers. If they have the ability to be trained and learn the specific tasks needed by their handler, they can earn the title of a service dog.

Show everyone that the rights of your Service Dog should be respected. Get your Service Dog registered below.

What temperament does a rescue dog need to become a service dog?

All service dogs need to have a certain temperament in order to serve their owners. This typically includes:

Have a calm demeanor Be eager to please Possess a strong ability to learn

Service dogs must have no history of aggression, be patient during training, and exhibit no signs of distress. They need to remain under control while out in public, ignore distractions, and continue to follow all directions until their handler tells them otherwise. If a rescue dog displays these specific traits, it may excel in training to become a service dog.

Once training begins and the rescue dog appears stressed or anxious, isn’t able to perform certain tasks, or doesn’t appear to be enjoying its work, it may not be a good fit for service work.

Any dog trained to be a service dog should thoroughly enjoy the job and performing the tasks needed.

Rescue dogs that have a history of abuse or neglect may struggle with training but still may have the ability to learn with extra time and patience.  

What commands do they need to learn?

The tasks that a service dog should learn depends on the handler’s needs. Each disability has different demands, so the service dog’s training has to cater to these requirements. For example, a person with a physical disability may need assistance opening the refrigerator, while a person with a mental illness may need their dog to fetch their medication. Example tasks that handlers may teach their dogs are:

Opening doors Grabbing items for their handler  Guiding their handler through their house and out in public  Detecting an oncoming medical episode Fetching the mail Sensing a panic attack Providing pressure treatment for anxiety  Carrying items up and down the stairs

This is just the beginning of what a service dog can do to assist their handler. Each handler has different needs, which means that no two service dogs will need to meet the same requirements. A handler should be aware of what their dog can do to assist them and implement their training accordingly. 

Train your rescue dog to become the service dog you need. Where to train a service dog?

In order to properly train a service dog, a handler can hire a trainer or train the dog on their own. If a handler decides to use a trainer, they can find a local trainer that specializes in service dog training. Sometimes, these trainers will take the dog for a period of time to teach them everything they need to know, and then return them to their handler upon the completion of their training. Other times, these trainers will work directly with the handler and their dog.

If a handler opts to train the dog on their own, there are many resources that can be used. A simple Google search will find basic training techniques, commonly taught tasks, and effective training methods. Some handlers use YouTube videos to assist with training, while others use books and online articles. For those who use the latter, examples of training books are:

“Training Your Own Full Potential Service Dog” by Lelah Sullivan  “Training Your Own Service Dog and Psychiatric Service Dog Bundle” by Max Matthews “The Ultimate Service Dog Training Manual” by Keagen J. Grace “A Dog Training Manual For People with Disabilities” by Stewart Nordensson

All of the aforementioned books provide valuable tips and advice for training a rescue dog to become a service dog. Whether you choose to train your dog on your own or use a trainer, remember that this type of training will take time, effort, and a lot of patience. However, the effort will pay off once you see your dog providing the tasks you need to help make your daily life just a little bit easier. 

For a person living with anxiety or depression, even the most trivial tasks can feel exhausting. To deal with their mental illness, some take medication or schedule consistent therapy sessions. But it’s not widely known that anyone with diagnosed anxiety or depression also qualifies for a psychiatric service dog.

What is a psychiatric service dog?

A psychiatric service dog is a dog that assists a person with a mental illness with their everyday activities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), these dogs perform tasks for their handlers which relate directly to the disability. These dogs typically accompany their handler both inside and outside of their homes and will spend the majority, if not all day, assisting, alerting, and supporting.

Having a service dog does come with some dismay from other individuals who may not understand the handler’s needs. Thus, some handlers decide to also register their Service Dog in order to make the dog’s purpose more transparent.

Who qualifies for a psychiatric service dog?

Potential handlers must undergo a psychiatric evaluation from a healthcare professional. This may be a:

Physician Nurse practitioner Licensed social worker Psychologist Psychiatrist

The professional will discuss the mental experiences and evaluate the particular symptoms. They will provide a diagnosis that is most closely related to what their patient is experiencing.

A person that is diagnosed with a mental illness qualifies for a psychiatric service dog.

The most common mental illnesses that service dogs can assist with are:

Anxiety Depression Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Disordered Eating Panic Disorder Agoraphobia  Service dogs can help overcome diagnosed anxiety or depression. I have anxiety and/or depression. How do I get a psychiatric service dog?

In order to get a psychiatric service dog for anxiety or depression, these steps need to be taken:

1. Get an official diagnosis.

To comply with the ADA, each individual with a disability needs to have a recorded diagnosis from a healthcare professional. Make an appointment with your general practitioner to discuss your symptoms. Your general practitioner may be able to diagnose you, or they may refer you to a mental health professional. If you already see a mental health professional, obtain written proof of your diagnosis and keep it for your records. Common symptoms of anxiety and depression include:

Feelings of helplessness Loss of appetite Loss of interest in daily activities Stressing or obsessing that is out of proportion to the actual event Feeling nervous Increased heart rate Trouble concentrating  2. Obtain your new service dog.

The ADA doesn’t have requirements for where you get your dog. You may purchase a dog from a breeder, from a site that trains service dogs, or you could rescue one from your local shelter.

When selecting a dog, be sure to look for one that has the temperament needed to be a service dog. They must be calm, patient, eager to please, a fast learner, determined, and have no history of aggression. Without these particular traits, your dog may struggle and become distressed and unhappy. 

3. Train your service dog to complete tasks relevant to your particular symptoms.

The ADA requires that all service dogs must be trained to perform tasks that will assist you directly with your mental illness. Service dogs for anxiety and depression may complete the following tasks:

Detecting panic attacks before they happen Providing grounding and physical stimulation during panic attacks  Fetching medication and water   Accompanying their handler outside  Fetching a phone during emergencies 

In addition to being task trained, service dogs must also pass a Public Access Test in order to demonstrate the necessary skills for any public setting they may be faced with.

Start your new life

A person with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness could greatly benefit from a service dog. These dogs can help individuals navigate through their day-to-day lives, and provide the extra support needed for them to feel more comfortable. With the support of a psychiatric service dog, a person has the potential to live a happier, more fulfilled life.

The public holds service dogs in high esteem. Service dogs have the honor of being welcomed into areas that are not usually open to other animals. Being able to enter these locations allows service dogs to fulfill their essential duties of helping their handlers.

For all service dogs to be able to execute their duties, the public’s trust must be maintained through the vetting of service dogs. Any dog can enter service dog training, regardless of breed or age. However, unless they have a certain set of characteristics, they might not do well. In addition, service dogs usually wear a vest in public for easy identification.

A public service test for service animals provides a standardized method to gauge how safe a service dog can be in public situations.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires a service dog to be trained or be able to execute an essential life task that its handler can not do for themselves because of a disability.

Due to numerous requests from dog owners with disabilities, International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) has listed minimum training standards to fulfill the ADA requirements regarding training. If successfully trained, these standards guarantee that every service dog is safe to go almost anywhere, regardless of who or where a service dog was trained.

Test Expectations 

Below is a list of PAT test requirements for service dog handlers. The training can be done through a professional trainer or by the handler themselves. The following commands are for service dogs, which are “On-Leash.” They can be executed through hand commands, voice commands, or a mix of both.

Controlled Unload Out of a Vehicle

Before coming out of a vehicle, the service dog does not immediately exit the vehicle. The service dog waits to be released out of the car.

After release and exiting, the service dog must then await instructions quietly. It cannot ignore any commands, move around, or be off lead. The service dog should be able to unload from a vehicle safely and calmly.

Approaching a Building

After a service dog unloads calmly from a vehicle, the dog should not continue immediately on its own towards a building.  It should remain in heel until it receives further directions to proceed.

Upon moving toward the destination, the dog does not become distracted by traffic or noise or show any showing. The service dog must be relaxed and calm. If the trainer stops, the service dog should also stop.

A disabled handler training the service dog. Controlled Entry

When the service dog reaches the building, the dog should remain relaxed and focused. The dog should not be easily distracted or seek attention from others. The dog should not wander away, push forward, or strain against the leash, but instead, calmly walk alongside its trainer.

Heeling Through a Building

Inside the building, the service dog should walk with the trainer in a calm and controlled way. The service dog should always be no more than one foot away from the trainer, and be able to adjust to changes in speed and turns quickly. The service dog should be able to calmly follow its trainer through crowded areas full of obstacles without becoming anxious or seeking attention from others.

Six Foot Recall on Lead

The trainer should be able to sit a service dog and walk away to a distance of six feet, then call the service dog.

The dog should respond immediately, without ignoring the command or being distracted by the public. The dog should return to its handler by approaching in a calm a deliberate manner, without any detours or stalling.

Sits on Command

The service dog must immediately respond to every sit command, needing no more than two prompts. 

A handler training their own service dog for the public access test. Downs on Command First Down:

After your service dog follows the down command, food is dropped onto the floor. The service dog should make no effort to go down to the food or sniff at it. Controls may be provided to keep the dog at the down position. But the dog should not need excessive management. Your service dog should not attempt to go for the food or try to smell food.

Second Down:

Another down is called, and an adult or child approaches the service dog. The dog should remain in the down position and not seek attention. If the child or adult attempts to pet the dog, the service dog will stay in place. The trainer may provide corrections to the service dog.

Noise Distraction

The service dog should be aware of any noises nearby, but not show any signs of anxiety or aggression towards sounds. Although the dog may be startled, the service dog can recover promptly and continue in the heeled position. The service dog should not begin growling or shaking at the noise.

Inside a Restaurant 

When the trainer is eating at a table, the dog should remain under the table or, if too large, should remain near the handler. If the dog is a smaller breed, it can be placed in a seat next to the trainer–but the dog must lie down. Throughout the meal, the dog should remain calm and should not need much correction. 

Off Lead

The trainer is asked to drop the lead while walking with the service dog, and the dog should be aware that the lead was dropped. The trainer should be able to keep control of the service dog until the trainer is able to regain the lead. The main purpose of this exercise is to ensure the dogs’ awareness of the lead and the handler’s ability to maintain control of the dog should the lead be dropped. 

A service dog’s off-leash training for public access. Controlled Unit 

When the trainer exits the building the dog should not display anxiety or aggression at the sound of vehicles or change in scenery. 


The Public Access Test maintains the integrity of the service dog institution by ensuring the safety of the public, the service dog, and the dog trainer. By vetting every service dog through this process, every dog handler understands what the expectations are for a dog to become a service dog.