We admire brave K9 police units and military dogs who work alongside their handlers. Service dogs deserve the same level of respect. Not only are they loyal companions, they are also trained to provide invaluable services to disabled individuals. While you can train most dogs to do a variety of tasks, it takes many hours of training for a dog to become a recognized service dog.
If you think your dog has what it takes to shine, the team at Union Lake Pet Services is here to explain the steps to achieving the prestigious title of service dog.
The Steps to Becoming a Service Dog
There are a few qualifications that you need to understand before embarking on service dog training recognized by the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Is my dog well suited for the role? You may be surprised to learn that all dogs, regardless of size or breed, are eligible to be service dogs. The important aspects of whether a dog can be a service dog are temperament and training. You must understand your dog’s breed and personality first. Some dogs are just more adept at becoming a working member of society and are more trainable. Your dog must also be in good health and have had obedience training and socialization.
- What type of service will my dog provide? There are many types of tasks trained dogs can provide. This is why you must determine what services your dog will be trained to do and for whom. Some options for assistance dogs include services in the areas of psychiatric disabilities, mobility issues, blindness, PTSD, seizure alert, and medical alert, among others. A service dog is different from a therapy dog with much higher expectations.
- Do I need a trainer? Now that you have a good understanding of the traits of a potential service dog, finding a trainer is the next step. A good source of finding a local trainer is through the USA Service Dog Registration site or through online searches. Read reviews and speak with former clients for their input. You can also provide the training yourself, since the ADA does not require you to use a certified trainer.
- How long does it take to train a service dog? You can expect to spend several weeks training your dog to perform these complex tasks. International service dog training sets the standard of at least 120 hours of training over the course of 6 months. This also takes into consideration the complexity of the training. At least one-fourth of those hours should done in a public setting, with multiple distractions that will challenge your pet’s progress.
- When is my dog ready to be an active service dog? There is no formal certification required by the ADA. However, you will need to pass a public access test, meaning that your dog must perform the tasks they trained for in public. Organizations like AKC, the National Service Animal Registry, and the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners offer these tests and certificates as proof that your dog is up for the challenge.
The steps to getting your dog leveled up as a skilled service dog is laborious but incredibly meaningful. These dogs perform daily tasks and skills that enable their handlers to live a quality life. If you think your dog would be a great fit as a service dog or therapy animal, we commend you for considering.
While your friends at ULPS don’t offer service dog training and certification, we can help assess your bestie’s disposition, breed, and skill level and provide more information on the next steps. We do offer many other types of training including therapy dog training. Do you have more questions about service dogs? Call us and we’ll do our best to advise!