How to Certify a Service Dog
Steps to properly certify your Service Dog
Service dogs are not just for those folks that suffer from blindness. These specifically trained canines are now finding their way into the “workforce” to help those that deal with other physical or mental disabilities. Understanding how to officially certify your service dog is an important first step.
1). Adopt a dog with a calm temperament and energy level
2). Train your dog to perform a task to aid with your disability
3). Certify your service dog with Service Dog Certifications
4). Live your life to the fullest
To learn more about service dogs, continue reading. We will also cover a few basic questions regarding Service Dogs and clarify some common misconceptions.
Question #1 – What is a Service Dog?
Unlike an emotional support animal (ESA), the Service Dog is a highly trained canine that provides assistance to those people that suffer from any number of conditions. These conditions can include (but are not limited to) visual and hearing impairments, seizure disorder, diabetes, mobility impairment and mental illnesses such as PTSD.
Question #2 – What Tasks Do Service Dogs Provide?
The Service Dog can be trained in a number of different disciplines. Here are 5 of the most commonly taught tasks that the Service Dog is capable of performing.
- Service Dog Tasks for PTSD – Reminding the handler to take medications, interrupting repetitive behaviors, room search, guiding the handler from a stressful situation.
- Service Dog Tasks for Vision Impairment – Guiding the handler, retrieving objects, obstacle avoidance, finding an exit from a room.
- Service Dog Tasks for Hearing Impairment – Alerting to alarms, doorbells and distant sounds, alerting to people approaching from behind and visitors at the door, alerting to the ring of the telephone.
- Service Dog Tasks for Hypoglycemia/Diabetes – alerting the person to a drop in blood sugar, seeking out another human in case of handler’s collapse, retrieving medications.
- Service Dog Tasks for Depression – retrieve medications, bring an emergency phone during a crisis, provide balance support (needed with some treatment medications) provide unconditional comfort/support.
Question #3 – How to Train A Service Dog
There are some people that try to pass off their family pet as a Service Dog. This can pose a problem for those that really do need the animal. For this reason, there are steps to take to have a legitimate Service Dog. The most important step is proper training. Do not be fooled into thinking you have to train your dog with expensive trainers. You are legally allowed to train your service dog yourself.
Step #1 – Adopt a Dog with a calm temperament and energy level
If you have the means, you can adopt a Service Dog that has been specifically trained for your condition. These can be pricey, but you are guaranteed that the canine will be exactly what you need.
If you do not have an extra $20,000, it does not mean you cannot have a service dog. If you decide to adopt a dog and train him yourself, then be sure to look for a dog that is over 4 months old and has a good temperament. This includes being eager to learn/please, having a calm nature, and exhibiting non-aggressive behaviors. This will make training your dog a much easier process.
Step # 2 – Training your dog to perform a task to aid with your disability
Training your dog to perform the tasks you need him to do will take practice and patience. Be sure to always use positive reinforcement when training your canine and seek out professional help periodically if needed. There are also many great service dog training tips online.
A part of your dog’s training will be to practice his skills out in the public. Start with those areas that allow dogs so you can focus on training your dog in public. Places like public parks or outdoor shopping centers are great places to allow your dog to be comfortable around people and new locations.
Step # 3 – Register your certified service dog
Once your assistance dog is fully trained, it’s time to register him. Although registering your service dog is not required by law, many service dog handlers find this convenient when traveling with their service dog. This is especially true if your disability is not visible. You may order a proper vest, Service Dog ID, and certificate. Some handlers will also order an ID holder so their service dog certification is visible at all times when traveling with their service dog.
Step # 4 – Live Your Life
Now that your Service Dog is there to help you with your disability, you can get back to living your life. There’s no shame in having an assistance animal, so go boldly into the world knowing your Service Dog has you covered.
Question #4 – Where Can my Certified Service Dog Go?
Service Dogs are allowed anywhere their handler is allowed. This includes restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores, and markets. However, there are some areas where your Service Dog may be denied access to. These include;
- Treatment area of an ambulance
- Hospital ICU or other areas where special clothing is required
- Worship services in a church
- Military bases
- Private clubs
Question #5 – What Do I Do If My Certified Service Dog is Denied Access?
Unfortunately, it does happen. You may be denied access to some areas by uninformed people. However, there are ways to handle the situation.
First, remain calm and explain that under the American with Disabilities Act you have a right to your service dog and to bring it into public areas.
Second, if you have a certificate from your service dog registration organization, show the person to prove your dog is legitimate.
Third, ask to see a manager/owner of the establishment. For a larger business, you may want to do a quick search on your phone for a customer service department. Explain the situation to whomever you decide to discuss this matter with in a calm manner.
Fourth, if you are still denied access, you can file an official ADA complaint with the US Department of Justice.
Before you leave the establishment it’s always a good idea to ask for any witnesses that may want to give a statement in regards to your denial.
Service Dogs Are There For You!
Understanding how to certify your service dog is the first step. Your Service Dog is on duty 24-7 making sure you can live a normal life. If you believe you or a loved one could benefit from the help of a Service Dog, learn more about service dog laws.