A service dog is a special dog that was trained to handle specific tasks in helping people with
disabilities. The dog will be assigned to a particular individual. The two will create a team, yet both of them must meet some criteria in order to get qualified. Learning how to make your dog a service dog can be a little challenging. The first and most important thing to do includes becoming familiar with local and national laws.
Sometimes, the dog might require a certification. In other cases, proper training is more than enough. Keep in mind that such a process is relatively long, so it is definitely worth ensuring that you can actually succeed.
Ways to get a service dog
There are a few different ways to learn service dog training, whether you want it for you or a loved one. It also makes no difference what kind of disability you suffer from. First, you can sign up for one, but you should expect a waiting list and a hefty price-tag. The type of disability that you have may also impact the cost and amount of time to wait.
Second, you can buy such a dog, but you will need to pay for the dog, its training and the trainer’s time. Finally, you can train your own dog. A service dog can go into any place with you, including places where dogs are not allowed, like cinemas or libraries. The size and breed are irrelevant too. All in all, most people focus on German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers because they are very smart. Besides, the general idea is to get a dog with the right temperament, interested in working and calm. When it comes to the training part, you have two options. You can hire a trainer or you can teach the dog yourself, depending on your available budget and time.
Identifying the dog’s character and personality
Before moving on with self training, you will need to be sure that your dog has the optimal personality. Keep in mind that most puppies can learn such things, yet it is still wise to double check upfront. First of all, your dog should be extremely calm. No unexpected situations should make it uncomfortable, even though there will be a lot of annoying moments for it while training. Second, the dog must easily get along with people, including strangers. Other animals should not cause any unusual behaviors either. Finally, find a dog that is not overprotective or aggressive.
Neutering the dog
Most service dogs are spayed or neutered between 4 and 6 months. Doing so typically results in a more relaxed and calm dog, which is crucial for its training. If you have a female, it will become nervous during its period and it will attract male dogs. If you have a male, it will try to find females in heat, leading to irritability, frustration and changes in training times.
In addition, not neutering your dog may lead to protective and territorial problems, not to mention its need to mark its territory. Their level of aggression decreases as well, making it easier to train.
Simple obedience training is a first step
Simple obedience training is not so complicated if you use the right techniques. You need to teach your furry friend to sit, lie down, stay and come. You know you are successful when the dog follows your commands in
- nine out of ten cases. Feel free to use gestures too, but also read a few tips upfront. Other than that, ensure that your dog is willing to walk by you in a disciplined manner. There are specific tools to help learning service dog training, such as clickers.
You should start obedience training with the dog in a leash. With time, you should train them in-off leash behavior, but remember that almost everywhere pet dogs and service dogs are expected to stay on-leash in public.
Making the difference between being friendly and being calm
Aggressive dogs do not behave well in the presence of strangers. Overcoming this kind of behavior is a must. But overly friendly dogs do not make good service dogs either. Instead, your furry friend should ignore everyone and everything except you and tasks it is being used for.
An exception to that would be that if you have an illness or disability that requires some type of human assistance, your service dog should be trained in finding that person. This feature is uncommon, but exists.
Agility is a plus in the process
Having an agile dog is not a main requirement in figuring how to make my dog a service dog.
- However, it is clearly a plus and fortunately, you do not have to push too hard either. There are rare situations when you might need a little agility. Improving physical stability is one of the best parts of agility. Your dog will also gain some confidence in its own force, leading to more courageous actions. There are a lot of fun games you can try in the process, only to keep the dog active and running.
Socialization is the key
Despite most misconceptions, socialization is a more comprehensive process. It does imply taking your dog to all kinds of new places, but it also means interacting with plenty of strangers, including animals. Once again, greeting is contraindicated, so try to implement this kind of behavior into your dog’s mind. Socializing your service animal is an ideal opportunity to teach them not to interact with other people.
Introduce your dog to everyday factors
There are a lot of everyday environmental factors your dog might get in touch with. The more familiar it is with such things, the easier it becomes to ignore them and avoid unexpected moments of curiosity. Cats are very common, as well as food around trash bins or directly on the ground. People talking to the dog must be ignored too, as well as moving vehicles (including bicycles). Your dog must learn to focus on you only.
Training your dog for the required tasks
Each disability comes with some special needs, so identify three basic necessities you want the dog to handle. For example, you might want the dog to pick your keys up if you drop them by mistake, bring your wallet or ensure that there are no intruders in your house. If you believe that playing with you in your lonely moments is a main requirement to learn service dog training, you are wrong. Therefore, it does not count. This educational part must be customized according to your necessities. Look for some tips regarding your problem and search online for people, forums or discussion boards gathering individuals in the same category.
Obtaining a certification
If you travel outside the United States, you should check their policies for service animals.
Fortunately, as of February 2015, federal law in the United States does not require any special certifications for service animals. Although you are probably familiar with the vests and jackets that many service animals use, doing so is also not required.
Business owners are only allowed to ask you the following questions about your service dog:
- Do you need the dog because of a disability?
- What work does the animal provide?
In addition, there is an enormous difference between a pet that makes you feel better, an emotional support dog and actual service animals. An un-trained pet may make it easier for you to be in public,as will an emotional support animal. However, due to their lack of training, they are not considered to be a service animal and as a result, their use in public will be as limited as that of any other un-trained animal.
Even if you have documentation from a physician or psychiatrist of the need for a comfort or therapy dog, federal law does not provide them with the same benefits that a trained service animal has. You should still check with your state, as you may have additional protection under state laws. It is also crucial to remember that misrepresenting a dog as a service animal, regardless of how easy it might be to do so, is illegal.
Finally, a service animal can improve your quality of life immensely. Regardless of the reason you need it, it is crucial to check into your options for finding or training the perfect dog.