A Guide to Making Your Dog a Service Animal
Service Animals > The Training Process
In our last two posts, we explored the dangers of misclassifying your dog as a service animal, and what exactly service dogs do. While the benefits of canine companionship are obvious, service animals require a lot of forethought and training to become eligible. In this post, we’re going to cover the basics for guiding you into making your four-legged friend your trusted service animal. While you go through the process, secure your pet with a Canine Liability policy.
What kind of dog is best for this role?
Any breed can be qualified to become a service animal. However, German shepherds, golden retrievers, Labradors, and border collies are often chosen due to overall temperament and trainability.
Evaluating health and age.
Ideally, your dog will not have diabetes, arthritis, or any other major health issue. Your dog should be fixed to minimize behavioral issues and also be old enough to focus and learn quickly.
Some dogs are aggressive while others are submissive, and in many cases this isn’t “good” or “bad”— it’s not that simple. The right temperament for a service animal is a very narrow margin between these two poles. If your dog is calm, cool, and collected, but also alert and responsive, chances are she’s a good fit for service work. It can be helpful to know about your dog’s typical breed characteristics. If you have a mixed-breed pooch, a reputable doggy DNA test can help you understand their heritage better, explains Rover.
Finding a reputable trainer.
Service dog training isn’t a government-regulated occupation, but finding a reputable trainer is possible. Ask for recommendations within the community to ensure your dog is getting the training he needs.
Up to 120 hours of training are required to become a service animal. The main techniques include:
- Heeling is the most difficult to teach. It’s more than “come here” or “sit.” It’s about maintaining relative position to the handler (human partner) regardless of how the handler moves.
- Proofing is the most time-consuming, as it requires training the dog to tune out all distractions and constantly be on command.
- Tasking, or learning the specific task they’ll be performing, is what most people think will be most difficult. After surmounting the other two concepts, this is often the easiest. Tasks include providing guidance or sensing a medical alert.
Videoing the progress of your dog is critical. This means showing that your dog can heel on command, not defecate or urinate unless told to, doesn’t exhibit any aggressive behaviors, and can curb his excitement.
Documenting his training and registering him with the United States Service Dog Registry can prevent anyone from questioning your dog’s ability and your need for him. The ADA has placed strict safeguards to protect handlers and their service dogs, but it’s worth it to go the extra mile.
There are many reasons a dog may bite, and it’s not always 100% preventable. In addition to financially protecting dog owners from dog bite claims, our Canine Liability Policy also covers other injuries to people, including scratches and fall injuries caused by dogs and injuries to other animals. Please contact us today for more information at (407) 865-7477, ext. 101.