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Service Dog Requirements

01 February, 2017

How Does My Dog Become a Service Dog?

Training a dog to become a service animal is available to everyone! First step is to know what the requirements and laws are for service dogs. Title II and TitleIII of the ADA defines Service Animal as any dog that is trained perform tasks for the benefit of an person with a disability. This may include physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other emotional disability. Below is a general overview on service dog requirements and how to train your dog to go from your household pet to becoming a service dog. Service dogs are an important part of the assistance animal family and serves an important function in our community. Based on the ADA’s ruling in 1990, dogs that provide a professional service to individuals with disabilities that require their support will be allowed access to public places when accompanying their handlers. This is not limited to seeing eye dogs as commonly believed! 

Step 1: Identifying and Understanding What Type of Dog You Have

Any dog breed is suitable for service work! From Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Bully Breeds, Poodles, Huskies, etc. All types of dogs are eligible to become services dogs, each potentially providing a different type of service. Service dog laws do not include dog breed restrictions or weight discrimination. If you don’t know the breed of your dog, you can require a simple dog DNA test. This may give you more information about the behavioral patterns of your dog and can provide you with higher accuracy of breed-related instincts.

You should also be aware of your dog’s health conditions to confirm that the age and health of your dog is suitable for the job. It’s important to understand your dog’s condition to prevent adding strains to a service animal’s health and also to its handlers condition(s). It is also important to test your dog’s personality type to see if he or she has a good temperament for service work. Dogs who are aggressive or easily scared may not work as service dogs until their public temperament improves. 

Step 2: Find a Trainer You Trust or Train Your Dog Yourself!

People often search for a reputable trainer that they trust to train their service dog. You can either adopt a trained service dog from a reputable trainer or bring your dog to a trainer. Did you know that you can train your dog yourself under service dog laws? Many people are not aware that service animal tasks can be trained at the comfort of their own home!  In the United States, there are no required ADA certification for service animal training. The community is self-regulated and includes minimum government regulated standards for training. If you find that you would rather train your dog yourself, you are not only welcome to it, but it can also help increase the bond between you and your service dog. 

Step 3: Training Your Service Dog

Most of your time will be spent here. Putting in enough time to train your future service dog is a crucial step. While the United States has no minimum requirement, international standards suggest approximately 120 hours over six months. We also recommend that at least 30 of those hours should be time spent in public to help train the dog in moments of distractions and any surprises that may come their way. 

The most important task for you to teach your service dog is tasking, or learning the specific skill they will be performing to help assist with your disability. Some tasks may include sensing a medical alert, tactile stimulation during a panic attack, or grounding/blocking in public areas.

For additional training support and guides, we recommend Secrets to Dog Training. They provide a simple yet comprehensive guide to dog training so you can successfully train your own service dog. 

Step 4: The Public Access Test

Once you feel your service dog is trained, it’s time to put them to the test!  Below is a quick list of the most important criteria for your service dog to pass:

  • No aggressive behavior
  • Cease sniffing behaviors unless released to do so
  • No solicitations for food or affection
  • Over-excitement and hyperactivity in public

The Public Access Test is provided by the ADI via PDF form for your convenience. 

Step 5: Certification and Equipping

In the United States, service dog certification and service dog identification is not a requirement. Unfortunately, many public employees and places will still require it.  For your own convenience, it’s good practice to present documents that can help show that your dog is a trained service dog. This will help prevent situations where you are meet with hostility when traveling with your service dog. Electing to carry a custom Service Dog ID card and Service Dog Vest might be a simpler solution for you and your service dog. You may also choose not to carry the ID card and stand your ground on principle when you encounter people ignorant of service dog rights. 

After you verbally confirm that your dog is a trained service dog or documentation is shown, reasonable accommodations must be legally made for service dogs. Service dogs provide help for those facing a physical or mental disability so they are granted access into public places such as hotels, restaurants, and malls. It’s important to understand these steps to help you or those around you.  Good luck! 

Get your custom Service Dog ID Card and Certificate

Unable to train your dog as a service dog?

You may be interested in an Emotional Support Animal instead. ESAs do not require specific training and have access to airplanes and no-pet apartments. Click here to learn more about ESAs.

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