Posts Tagged ‘service dog training’

If you’re wondering if you can train your own service dog, the answer is, “Yes!” Training your dog is the most cost-effective way of getting a service dog. However, it’s also the most time-consuming. Here are some pros and cons of training your own service dog. 

Pros For Self-Training Your Service Dog

Trainers who are also owners become better handlers for their service dogs. Owners have their own quirks and personalities, as do dogs! There’s a period of adjustment after owners receive program-trained service dogs. 

When you train your own service dog, you and your dog are already accustomed to each other.

The training is personalized with both of you in mind. If problems arise, the trainer-owner is better equipped to problem solve than an owner who didn’t do the training.

Trainer-owners don’t have to spend time untraining behaviors they don’t need. Program-trained dogs are often taught according to a predetermined list of behaviors. Because each owner is different, what works for one owner may be counterintuitive to another. When training your service dog yourself, you can focus on the tasks most important for your needs.

There’s no wait time for trainer-owned dogs. When dogs are trained through programs, the wait time can take years. When you train your own dog, however, you can enjoy the emotional benefits of having a dog while you train. Also, some states recognize service dogs-in-training as actual service dogs. 

Cons For Self-Training Your Service Dog

Service dogs that come from formal programs are bred to be service dogs. Their personality, disposition, even their size are bred to fulfill specific services. When training your own service dog, you have to find these traits yourself. Finding a calm, smart, and eager-to-please dog is more challenging than most people realize. 

Training a service dog is time-consuming, demanding work. According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partnerships, 120 hours of training over six months is the gold standard. Not only is that a tremendous amount of time for a dog—but it’s almost a part-time job for trainers.

Trainer-owners have to have the time and energy to put in the work.

After all the time and effort put into training your service dog, it may not be successful. Some dogs just don’t take well to specific tasks. They may not respond to commands at a satisfactory rate. Trainer-owners must be ready to concede if this occurs. 

Training your service dog by yourself is time-consuming but can build a stronger bond. How to Train Your Service Dog

Now that you understand the pros and cons of training your service dog, you can decide the best path to take. If you choose to become a trainer-owner, there are a variety of sources you can use to help you with the task.

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP)

The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) is a non-profit organization that helps people with service dogs, guide dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and dogs for the hearing impaired. The IAADP offers service dog training references and guides to make training easier. 

The American Dog Trainer’s Network

The American Dog Trainers Network offers a comprehensive set of resources from clicker training to becoming a professional dog trainer. 

Karen Pryor: Clicker Training 

Karen Pryor is the top expert on the use of clicker training for dogs. Her website features clicker training videos, guides, and training topics to help owners train their dogs. 

Finding the Right Service Dog to Train is Key

The chihuahua you’ve had for seven years may be the love of your life, but he may not have the temperament or drive to fulfill the tasks you need. If your mobility issues require a dog to help keep you from suddenly falling, a small chihuahua is not the right sized dog for you. 

Finding an intelligent, patient, and trainable dog isn’t easy. The dog you choose must respond quickly, not be aggressive or dominant, and not be overly protective. Keep in mind that a service dog will be allowed in many public spaces; therefore, you must always keep the public’s safety in mind. Finding an intelligent but docile dog can be challenging. However, it’s key to having a successful service dog.

Many dog owners believe that the dog they currently have as a family pet will make a satisfactory service dog. That’s ideal, but it’s usually not the case. A family dog already has relationship dynamics that can make it difficult for it to be docile and non-aggressive at all times in public.  

Keep in mind that a service dog is much more than a pet. It provides affection and warmth, but must also fulfill specific tasks at every command, which is very difficult for typical pets. Once you find the right dog, you’ll have a much better chance of training your service dog successfully. 

Dogs are great companions, but sometimes they bark—a lot. This can be frustrating and—especially for a Service Dog—poor behavior. But with patience, training and well-timed rewards, you can teach your dog to drop the barking and speak only when it’s appropriate. To learn about what measures you can take to train your Service Dog to stop the barking, read on below.

Stay Calm!

It’s important that you don’t yell at your dog. They just think you’re both barking! Even though tolerating the barking, for the time being, is stressful, try to stay upbeat and carry on with your training.

Understanding Dog Behavior

Try to figure out why the dog is barking. Dogs don’t usually repeat behavior they don’t get rewarded for. What is your dog getting out of barking? Is it your undivided attention because you keep telling them to be quiet, or because you keep throwing treats in the hopes they’ll pipe down? If so, you may be making things worse.

One solution is to ignore your dog when they bark. Don’t look at them, don’t talk to them, don’t pay any attention at all. If they’re crying because they’ve been put in a crate, just turn your back and walk away. Yes, that’s hard, but it will help your dog learn better behavior. 

Pay attention to when the dog stops barking. As soon as that happens, you should give the dog a treat. Now they’ve been rewarded for quieting down. Over time, increase the amount of time the dog has to be quiet before getting a treat.

If your dog barks at a stimulus, such as someone at the door or when passing other dogs, you can try to desensitize them. Enlist the help of a friend with a dog for this exercise. Have your friend and their dog stand somewhere out of view, and start feeding your dog treats. Then have the friend walk by with their dog and continue feeding yours. After they’re gone, stop feeding the treats. Now your dog has been rewarded for being quiet around another dog, even if they were distracted by the food!

Teach Your Service Dog to Speak

Yes, you want your Service Dog to stop barking, but teaching them to bark on command actually helps with this. You can say “speak” and wait for the dog to start barking, then give them a treat. If they don’t start, wave a toy or treat around to get their attention and instigate the barking. Ideally, you want one bark, not repeat barking.

After your dog gets good at speaking on command, you can teach them to be “quiet.” Start in a quiet room without distractions. First, tell the dog “Speak,” then when they’re barking, tell them, “Quiet,” and offer a treat. Later, you can increase the amount of time they have to be quiet before getting the food. Then you can move on to practicing with distractions, such as when the postal carrier comes, or someone knocks on the door.

Remember, never reward barking when you didn’t tell your Service Dog to speak.

Reward your Service Dog with a healthy treat. Incompatible Behaviors

Another method that may help is distracting the dog with some incompatible behavior. For example, when that postal carrier shows up, you could throw a treat onto the dog bed and command, “Go to your bed.” Once the dog is in the habit of going to their bed for a treat, practice opening the door for a friend. If the dog stays put, they get another treat. If they get up, close the door immediately. Keep repeating this exercise until the dog is good at staying on their bed when the door is opened. Then you can work on having your friend ring the doorbell. If the dog stays, they get a treat. 

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

Give your Service Dog a Purpose

Keep your Service Dog busy and teach them they are here to serve you. Equip your dog with a Service Dog vest and wear a Service Dog Registration Id yourself. Although the vests and ids are not required by law, they could provide your dog with a sense of authority. Teach them that once the vest is on they are “at work”. Your Service Dog will have a purpose and can concentrate on the tasks needed to serve you, instead of barking uncontrollably.

As a side-effect, service dog vests are also a courtesy to bystanders by visually communicating that a dog is working in an official capacity. Others might understand not to interact with your Service Dog, therefore eliminating more reasons a dog might start to bark.

Use Up Some of That Boundless Dog Energy

Sometimes dogs bark because they’re bored and don’t have anything fun to do. Remember that your Service Dog needs daily physical activity! Regular exercise can leave them tired enough to sleep instead of barking incessantly. Depending on your disability, make sure that you or someone you trust takes your Service Dog for walks or play—don’t just go out long enough for them to take care of business. A certified Service Dog needs to stay buoyant and vigilante. Appropriate training and healthy activities will keep your Service Dog in high spirits and allows them to give you the undivided support you need—without any unnecessary barking.

The ADA defines a Service Animal as a dog that is trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. A disability can be a physical disability, but also includes disabilities in the form of a mental illness that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as depression, severe anxiety or PTSD.

If you believe you would benefit from having a service dog, you may find the information below helpful. This is not limited to seeing-eye dogs as commonly believed!

What are the Service Dog Requirements?

Training a dog to become a service animal is available to individuals that have a disability. If you are interested in having a service dog, below are requirements to be aware of:

A person is eligible for a service dog if they have a physical, emotional or mental disability A service dog must be well mannered at all times A service dog must be trained to perform specific tasks that aid in a disability If it is not obvious what service the dog provides, the handler must be willing to answer two questions about their service dog. Optionally, it can help for service dogs to be clearly identified with accessories.  How does My Dog Become a Service Dog?

We have identified 5 simple steps to help you understand how your dog can become a service dog.

Identify and Understanding What Type of Dog You Have Find a Trainer You Trust or Train Your Dog Yourself! Train Your Service Dog Pass a Public Access Test Consider Service Dog Certification and Registration

Service dogs are an important part of the assistance animal family and serve an important function in our community. Dogs that fulfill trained tasks to assist individuals with disabilities that require their support are allowed access to public places when accompanying their handlers.

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

Any dog breed can be 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 adept at providing a different type of service. It is important to note that under ADA rules an establishment cannot discriminate against a service dog solely because it is a certain breed or size.

The breed of a dog may inform you about some characteristics of the dog and common breed-related instincts so you can watch out for them, but each potential service dog should be assessed for their unique behavioral patterns, strengths and weaknesses to see if that particular service dog would be appropriate to assist you.

You should also be aware of your dog’s condition to ensure 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 strain to a service animal’s health and also to ensure the dog is up to the tasks it will be trained for. 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. However, you are not required to work with a trainer and may train your service dog yourself. Many people are not aware that service animal tasks can be trained in the comfort of their own home!  In the United States, there are no required ADA certifications for service animal training. The community is self-regulated and certain organizations promote minimum 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. Some sources recommend that at least 30 of those hours be time spent in public to help train the dog for moments of distraction and when surprises come their way.  

The most important thing 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, reminding the handler to take their medication, scouting a room for someone with PTSD, 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*. 

* This is our affiliate disclaimer, in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s guide (FTC), and to avoid any misunderstanding to visitors of our website. We may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you – if you decide to buy any of the products, software or services we refer to and promote on our website.  The opinions expressed are of our own independent reviewers & writing staff, commissioned to provide helpful information & their unbiased opinion.

Step 4: Pass a Public Access Test

In addition to training your dog to perform tasks that assist with your disability, it is important for a service dog to be able to comport itself appropriately in public.  Various organizations set standards for when a service dog is ready to accompany their handler in public. Below is a quick list of a few important criteria for your service dog to pass:

No aggressive behavior towards people and other animals. Cease sniffing behaviors unless released to do so. No solicitations for food or affection while on duty. No over-excitement and hyperactivity in public. Able to tolerate novel sights and sounds in various public settings. No unruly behavior or excessive barking. No relieving themselves in public without being given a specific command.

Once your dog is properly trained, your next step is decide how you prefer to identify your service dog.

Step 5: Service Dog Certification and Registration

In the United States, service dog certifications and service dog identifications are not a requirement. Staff at a public establishment cannot require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service dog, as a condition for entry.

Certifications, IDs and registrations do not convey any rights under the ADA and government organizations do not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal. Unfortunately, staff at many public establishments will still insist on IDs or other tangible proof of service dog status.  For convenience, privacy, and to set proper boundaries with strangers, some service dog owners find it helpful to own documents and accessories that can help signal that their dog is a trained service dog. This will help prevent situations where you are met with hostility or confusion when traveling with your service dog. Electing to carry a custom Service Dog ID card and Service Dog Vest may be helpful tools for you and your service dog to navigate public spaces. 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. Under ADA rules, staff at a venue may only ask two questions if it is not apparent what the service dog is trained to do: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

After you verbally confirm that your dog is a trained service dog, reasonable accommodations must legally be 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 rules so you know what rights you have as the owner of a service dog, and when third-parties are violating your rights. To register your service dog for your own convenience, you may click on the link below.

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, have access to no-pet apartments, are exempt from breed or weight restrictions. Click here to learn more about ESAs.

If you are looking for a Service Dog for a mental or emotional issue, you may be interested in a Psychiatric Service Dog.