How to Make My Dog a Service Dog
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), a disabled person has the right to have and use a Service Dog.
According to the ADA, a person is defined as disabled when he or she has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” If you are uncertain if you suffering from a disability, you may consult your doctor or your therapist.
Disabilities your service dog may assist with –
If you suffering from a disability and are interested in making your dog into a service dog, you have come to the right place! The information below will help give you the guidance you may need to make your pet dog into a service dog and provide additional information on living and traveling with your service dog.
Step #1 – Train your dog to provide a task as a service dog
In general, a Service Dog has to be well-trained. They need to follow basic obedience commands and perform their trained task for your disability. Basic obedience skills are the first step to training a Service Dog. This includes the commands such as:
Service Dogs are required to become a ‘good citizen‘ and display good manners in public. This means no jumping, begging for food, sniffing, barking or any other behavior that takes the focus off of their handler.
Once your dog has mastered these basic and important skills, your next step is to train your dog to perform a special task. Training your dog to perform a task for your disability will take time, patience and the know-how to get the job done. If you have limited knowledge in training a canine, you may have to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer. You can seek help from a local trainer or a trainer online.
The dog trainer can give you the steps to training your dog in any task-orientated area. Once you have the knowledge, you can practice the task with your dog throughout the day. Plenty of praise and rewards will help your dog want to continue to learn and soon you will have him performing the jobs you need him to do when asked. If you don’t want to train your service dog yourself, you can look for a local organization that will specifically train your dog for assistance work.
Once your dog is trained to provide a service for your disability, your next step is to decide how you would like to identify to others that your dog is a working dog and a not a pet.
Step #2 – Register your service dog as an assistance tool
Once your dog is fully trained, it may be in your best interest to have him registered. Although not required by the ADA, many communities maintain voluntary registries that can help identify your dog as a service animal. For example, the New York MTA recommends that all Service Dog handler’s carry a Service Dog ID to help identify your service dog to MTA employees. If you are interested in registering your service dog, you may start by clicking on the link below.
Once your dog is registered, you can order them a service dog ID card, service dog certification, and even order a service dog vest. Although it is not necessary to register your dog as an assistance tool, it will make matters easier for you when you are in public places that don’t usually allow animals.
When you are out in public with your service dog, you should know that by law, owners or managers of businesses cannot ask you about your disability. They may only ask if your dog is indeed a Service Dog and if so, what task(s) the dog performs for your disability.
If you are taking your canine to work, your employer must make reasonable accommodations for your service dog. This could include breaks for you to take the dog outside to relieve himself, water/food bowls, extra space if a larger breed, etc.
Once you have trained your service dog and have made the decision on how you want to identify your service dog, you and your service dog are ready to seek housing accommodations, if needed.
Step #3 – Live with your service dog
Service dogs have special housing rights that are not granted to normal pets. If you make your dog your service dog, you are permitted by Fair Housing to live with your Service Dogs even in the following conditions –
- Your landlord/HOA does not allow for pets
- Your landlord/HOA does not allow specific breeds such as Pitbulls, Dobermans, or Great Danes.
- Your landlord/HOA has a weight limit (a service dog can be over a 100 lbs)
Since your Service Dog is permitted in no-pet buildings or apartments they need to practice maintaining their good behavior at all times and in shared spaces. This can be a challenge not only for your service dog, but for you as well. This means they cannot run around off leash in the lobby or bark at people walking by. Remember, your service dog is not a pet and therefore is granted special housing access rights, but that also means your service dog is held to a higher standard. If you want your dog to become your service dog, it is your job to make sure your service dog is well behaved at all times.
If your landlord can show your service dog is not well behaved and poses a threat to others, your landlord may be able to deny access to your animal. However, please note that your landlord and HOA are not allowed to request the following:
- For you to prove your disability to them
- For your service dog to “show” them the task
- To disclose any sensitive medical information
Once you and your service dog have settled into your routine at home, you may be ready to start traveling with your service dog.
Step #4 – Travel with your service dog
Service dogs are also allowed to travel and fly with their handler. This means they can ride on public transportation, travel with you in taxis, and even fly with you on planes.
To make your dog a service dog, you have to take the extra step of keeping your service dog familiar with different types of transportation methods. This can be a stressful process, but is a step you cannot skip over. Your service dog needs to be exposed to different situations so when they encounter them, they can stay calm. For example, we recommend short travel trips on a plane or the bus so your service dog can learn to maintain their composure when flying with you through turbulence or on a bus or train when it is crowded and bumpy.
When you are ready to fly with your service dog, be sure to book your flight in advance and let the airline know you will be traveling with a service dog. Airlines do have specific regulations and seating for those traveling with Service Dogs such as:
- Service dogs must be seated on the floor
- Service dogs cannot block the aisle
- Service dogs cannot be seated in an emergency exit row
Some parts of the world, like Hawaii, have stricter policies when it comes to animals. Check to see if your final destination requires a quarantine period to protect local habitats, especially for international destinations.
When you are traveling with your service dog, you may also want to have all of your documentation with you at all times. We recommend carrying your service dog certificate. This is especially helpful if your disability is not visible.
Are you thinking about taking a cruise? Not all ships will allow animals, so be sure to find out if your ship will accept Service Dogs and their policies for having one aboard. You may not be allowed to bring your service dog if you are traveling to islands that have a protected habitat.
Follow these four steps on how to make your dog a service dog and don’t let disabilities stop you
Don’t let your disability keep you from living. Make your dog your Service Dog and enjoy your new life.
If you are ready to register your service dog, click on the image below.