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How to Make Your Dog a Service Dog

german shepherd service dog with handler sitting in grass

At USA Service Dog Registration we are often asked how to make your dog a service dog?  A service dog by definition is a dog that helps somebody with a disability.  Service dogs can help with a number of conditions like those listed below.

Following Conditions a Service Animal May Help With

  • Guide Dog
  • Mobility Aid Dog
  • Seizure Alert Dog
  • PTSD Service Dog
  • Hearing Alert Dog
  • Diabetes Alert Dog
  • Migraine Alert Dog
  • Narcolepsy Alert Dog
  • Seizure Response Dog
  • Psychiatric Service Dog
  • Narcolepsy Response Dog

How Do I Make My Dog a Service Dog?

Once your dog is trained to assist with a disability you can register with us to be recognized in our national database, registration is free and you can Register Service Dog Here

Many individuals train their service dog’s on their own, or you can find service dog trainers at this link Service Dog Trainers . The first step is to know what the requirements and laws and access rights for service dogs. Title II and Title III of the ADA defines Service Animal as any dog that is trained perform tasks for the benefit of any person with a disability.  The disability may include physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other emotional disability.

The American Disability Act of 1990 defines service dogs as a dog that provides 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! 

Training Your Service Dog

Many handlers have trained their own service dog to assist with their personal disability. Purchasing a trained service dog or having your dog trained can cost thousands of dollars, therefore many train their own dogs. Training a service dog is time-consuming but very rewarding, it is important to put in enough time to train your future service dog. While the United States has no minimum requirement, international standards suggest approximately 120 hours over six months. During this time when training we also recommend public distraction training, many of our trainers find that stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s very accommodating when in training. It is important to have a service dog “in training” vest on your dog during this time so people know he is working.

Who can benefit from a service dog?

Service dogs are trained to assist individuals with disabilities. These disabilities can be physical, such as blindness, deafness, or mobility impairments, or they can be psychological, such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression. Service dogs can also be trained to assist individuals with medical conditions such as diabetes, seizure disorders, and even cancer.
Service dogs can be of great benefit to people with disabilities by providing them with increased independence, safety, and emotional support. They can alert their handlers to important sounds, such as alarms or approaching strangers, and can help their handlers navigate through crowded areas or open doors.

Service dogs can also help individuals with psychological disabilities by providing a calming and reassuring presence. They can help their handlers manage anxiety and panic attacks, and can even perform tasks such as reminding their handlers to take medication or providing a physical barrier between their handler and the public in situations where the handler feels overwhelmed.

It’s important to note that service dogs are not limited to assisting individuals with physical disabilities. They can provide invaluable assistance to individuals with a wide range of disabilities, and can greatly improve their quality of life.

Choosing the right breed and temperament

When it comes to training your dog to be a service dog, choosing the right breed and temperament is crucial. Not all breeds are suitable for the task, and even within a specific breed, individual temperament can vary greatly.
Firstly, consider the size of the dog and the tasks that they will be required to perform. A large dog may be better suited for tasks such as mobility assistance, while a smaller dog may be more practical for tasks such as retrieving items or providing emotional support.

Next, consider the breed’s natural instincts and tendencies. For example, a hunting breed may have a strong prey drive, which can be difficult to train out of them. Conversely, a breed that has been bred for companionship may be more suited to tasks that require them to be close to their handler.
It’s also important to consider the individual dog’s temperament. Service dogs need to be calm, obedient, and reliable in a variety of situations. Look for a dog that is friendly, confident, and eager to please. Avoid dogs that are fearful, aggressive, or overly excitable.

Ultimately, the right breed and temperament will depend on the specific tasks that you require your service dog to perform, as well as your own personal preferences and lifestyle. Do your research and consult with a professional trainer or breeder to ensure that you make the right choice.

Advanced training for service dogs

Once your dog has mastered the basic training, you can begin advanced training to teach them specific skills required for their role as a service dog. This will vary depending on the type of service your dog will provide.

For example, if your dog is trained to assist people with mobility issues, you may want to teach them how to retrieve dropped items or open and close doors. If your dog is being trained to assist someone with a hearing impairment, you may want to teach them how to alert their handler to specific sounds, such as the doorbell or a fire alarm.

It’s also important to expose your dog to a variety of environments and situations during their advanced training. This will help them become comfortable and confident in different scenarios, and ensure they can perform their duties in any situation.

During advanced training, it’s important to continue to use positive reinforcement techniques. Reward your dog with treats, praise, and affection when they perform the desired behavior. Consistency is key during advanced training, so make sure to practice regularly and reinforce the desired behaviors.

Remember, advanced training takes time and patience. It’s important to work at your dog’s pace and celebrate their successes along the way. With dedication and consistency, your dog can become a skilled and valuable service dog.

Task training for specific disabilities

Task training for specific disabilities is an important part of training your dog to be a service dog. Different disabilities require different tasks to be performed by the service dog. For example, a person with a hearing disability may need their service dog to alert them to sounds such as the doorbell or a fire alarm. On the other hand, a person with a mobility disability may need their service dog to retrieve items or open doors for them.

It’s important to identify the specific needs of the handler and tailor the training accordingly. This will involve selecting the appropriate tasks and training the dog to perform them reliably and consistently. It’s important to remember that task training should only be undertaken by a professional trainer who has experience in training service dogs.

Some tasks that may be trained for specific disabilities include but are not limited to:
– Retrieving dropped items
– Opening and closing doors
– Pulling a wheelchair
– Alerting to sounds
– Assisting with mobility
– Providing deep pressure therapy
– Guiding the handler through crowds or obstacles
– Alerting to medical conditions such as seizures or low blood sugar levels

Remember, not all dogs are suitable for service dog work, and not all disabilities require a service dog. It’s important to consult with a medical professional, if you need a psychiatric service dog recommendation letter click here to determine if a service dog is the right choice for the individual and their disability.

Public access training

Public access training is a crucial component of training your dog to be a service dog. This type of training helps your dog to learn how to behave appropriately in public places, such as restaurants, stores, and public transportation.

During public access training, it’s important to expose your dog to as many different environments and situations as possible. This will help them to become comfortable in any type of setting and remain focused on their tasks.

One effective way to do this is to start with low-stress environments, such as quiet parks or empty parking lots, and gradually work your way up to more challenging settings, such as crowded shopping centers or busy streets.
It’s also important to teach your dog how to ignore distractions, such as other people, animals, and food. This can be done through positive reinforcement training, where you reward your dog for ignoring distractions and remaining focused on their tasks.

Additionally, public access training should include obedience training, such as teaching your dog to respond to commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “heel.” This will help your dog to remain under control in public places and avoid any potential safety issues.

Overall, public access training is a critical aspect of training your dog to be a service dog, and should be done with patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement.


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