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Service Dog Registration

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Dogs are amazing friends provided to us from generations of interspecies collaboration. Humans have had a symbiotic relationship with dogs since recorded history. We have relied on them to watch our herd, protect our family, and now to assist us with our physical, emotional, and mental disabilities.

Having a dog to rely on for our daily lives is not a new idea, but the services a dog provides us has evolved over time. As our needs have adapted to modern changes, so have our relationships with our best friends.

Choosing to complete your Service Dog Registration can dramatically help improve your quality of life and we are fortunate the Federal Government has strict rules set in place to protect Service Dogs.

Registration of your Service Dog and ordering your Service Dog Certification and Service Dog ID card only helps you travel, live, and fly with ease. If you prefer to explain your rights as a Service Dog handler, we would still recommend carrying a Service Dog ID card as a last resort.

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Service dog with owner watching livestock.
We have relied on them to watch our herd, protect our family, and now to assist us with our physical, emotional, and mental disabilities.

If you are currently ready to make your dog your official Service Dog, you may do so by completing your Service Dog Registration with ServiceDogCertifications.org. You can also get started by clicking the image below. Its better to be well informed so if you are not clear on how to register your Service Dog, keep reading.

Service dog registration guide
6 Steps to Registering your Service Dog with ServiceDogCertifications.org

Service Dog Registration Requirements

Certified Service Dog Registration button

The requirements to make your pet a Service Dog are clear. Unfortunately, there are many confused individuals who are misinformed themselves and continue to spread misinformation regarding Service Dog requirements. Below we will go through the 6 basic steps you need to take to properly complete your Service Dog Registration.

Step 1 – Select your Service Animal

Service Animals can only be a dog or a miniature horse. This is clearly defined by the ADA. Until the ADA changes to add additional types of animals, you can only have a dog or a miniature horse as your service animal. It does not matter the intelligence of your animal or the comfort it provides for you, if your animal is not a dog or a miniature horse, it cannot be a Service Animal. This means that service animal registration is only for dogs and miniature horses.

For example, if you have a cat that provides you with the support and comfort you may need, they still cannot be your Service Animal because a cat is not a dog or miniature horse. The good news is that you are still protected by the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. Your cat can work as your Emotional Support Animal.

An ESA is a type of assistance animals, like a Service Animal, but has different requirements and fewer access rights. For example, you are required to have an ESA letter and an ESA does not have public access rights to restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and other businesses. You can learn how to qualify for an Emotional Support Animals here.

ESA Registration banner
Emotional Support Animals require an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional

Step 2 – Complete Basic Behavior Training

We all have to learn to crawl before we can walk and the same thing is true for your Service Dog prior to registration. Below are basic tasks your Service Dog must be able to perform, at your direction, with ease.

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Down
  • Stand
  • Spot
  • Leave it

We recommend completing the basic training yourself and potentially with the assistance of a dog trainer. Even though its possible to purchase a fully trained Service Dog, the bond that you develop training your Service Dog yourself cannot be understated. By training your Service Dog to understand even basic commands, you can both develop a deeper trust and understanding with one another. If you are lucky, your Service Dog may be able to assist you for two decades so investing the time to creating that bond is priceless.

Trained service dog sitting with seniors.
Training your Service Dog creates a lifelong bond.

Step 3 – Identify a task for your Service Dog

Service Dogs exist to aid in your disability. The purpose of your service dog is to enable you to live a more full and wonderful life despite your disability. In order for your service dog to do so, you must first be honest with yourself and even work with your doctor or therapist to determine what sort of tasks your Service Dog should provide for you. Here are a few examples –

  • Pick up or retrieve house hold items for mobility disabilities
  • Apply pressure across your body or lap for anxiety or depression
  • Disrupt by pawing your hand or by getting your attention for self harm practices
  • Barking or signaling to provide alert for a spike in insulin for diabetes or for physical reactions to anxiety

Unlike basic commands which we recommend learning to train your dog yourself, for more challenging commands, you may decide to utilize the aid of a dog trainer for task training. You are also welcome to train your Service Dog to perform the task yourself as well, do what is best for you.

Service Dog applying pressure therapy as a task.
Service Dogs should be able to perform their task anywhere their handler needs help.

Step 4 – Train your Service Dog to perform their tasks

Once you have determined the specific task your Service Dog can help you with, the next step is training.

Despite misleading information that you must purchase a Service Dog, the ADA explicitly permits you to train your service dog yourself. As discussed earlier, you may seek support from a local trainer or even send your Service Dog off to boarding school. It all depends on your needs and the severity of your disability. For example, if you require a Service Dog for a mobility disability, your Service Dog may need more specific training that could be provided by a dog trainer who specializes in Service Dog training.

Training should start in a comfortable and safe environment and you should gradually test your Service Dog’s ability to focus on their task in public spaces. We recommend starting in places that expect a dog to be there, such as a park. You may not want to rely on your Service Dog to perform a task for you in a stressful place, like an airport or restaurant, before they are ready.

Service dog sitting in a restaurant.
Your Service Dog should sit on command, even around food.

Your Service Dog should be well trained to identify and aid in your disability even before you bring them out with you in public.

Step 5 – Learn about your ADA Rights and Registration requirements

The ADA is clear that a store employee or even government employee is only permitted to ask you two questions regarding your Service Dog.

  1. Is that a Service Dog?
  2. What service does your Service Dog provide?

The ADA does not require any of the following –

  1. Disclosure of your disability
  2. Explanation of how the task works
  3. Explanation of how the task aids in your specific disability
  4. Demonstation of the task

Once someone of authority enquires if your dog is a Service Dog, below are basic tips you may want to follow.

  • Present your Service Dog ID card and inform them of the task your Service Dog provides
  • Have your Service Dog sit politely next to you while you talk
  • Do not allow people to pet or distract your Service Dog in public
  • Do not engage in hostile conversation with strangers about your Service Dog, it is better to walk away
  • Do not fight an ignorant employee, instead ask to speak with a manager
service dog registration button

Since Service Dogs are well trained and permit people with disabilities to have access to normal life, a Service Dog has public access rights to places such as:

  • Restaurants – inside or on the patio (even if they have a no pet policy)
  • Grocery stores – only dogs that aid in medical alert (such as diabetes) are permitted to sit inside the cart
  • Beaches – regardless of whether or not dogs are permitted
  • Air travel – despite their age, weight, or breed
  • Hotels – you are not permitted to leave your dog unattended
  • AirBnB and Rideshares such as Uber and Lyft
  • Universities – in the dorm, university apartments, and around campus
  • Office or work place
Man and woman walking their service dog on the beach.
Service Dogs are granted access to all beaches in the US regardless of local no dog policies.

You are always solely responsible for the actions of your Service Dog. If your Service Dog poses as threatening or causes a disturbance, you can be asked to leave, even if it is a registered service dog. For example, if you are in an airplane and your Service Dog is growling, the airline employee can ask you to de-board the plane and would not be in violation of the ACAA or ADA. However, if your Service Dog is prompted or bothered and barks, that is permitted. The ADA specifically calls out that it is normal and acceptable for a Service Dog to bark when disturbed by others.

What should you do if you are with your Service Dog and are denied access?

  • Share your Service Dog ID card and explain your dog is not a pet and therefore must be granted public access
  • Patiently and politely wait to speak with a supervisor if the staff is misinformed and continues to deny access
  • Record the incident and report to a higher authority, such as the US Department of Justice

Step 6 – Decide if you need a Service Animal Registration ID or Vest

Service Dog Registration, ID cards, and identifiers such as a vest is not required by the ADA. This does not mean they are not useful. Unfortunately, people are often unaware of Service Dog rights and may request to see your Service Dog ID card. You are always welcome to inform them of ADA regulations, but if your disability prevents you from engaging in such conversations, you may decide that registering your Service Dog and presenting an ID card is the best option for you.

Regardless of what people say, there is no right answer. You do not need to take a stand every time you travel with your Service Dog, but you also do not have to register your Service Dog if you prefer to educate and engage ignorant people.

If you decide having a Service Dog ID card on you at all times will allow you to feel more comfortable traveling with your Service Dog in public places, you may reference the link below.

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About the Author: The writing team at Service Dog Certifications is made up of folks who really know their stuff when it comes to disability laws and assistance animals. Many of our writers and editors have service dogs themselves and share insights from their own experiences. All of us have a passion for disability rights and animals.


  1. Maritza Morales says: January 23, 2020
    • Linda F Bryant says: April 24, 2024
  2. Vonda Lenger says: November 10, 2019

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