When it comes to service dogs, then we tend to become used to seeing certain breeds given specific jobs or tasks to complete. So how do you make dogs service dogs?
We know they need to go through extensive training to get to the position of effectively qualifying as a service dog.
But how does it all actually happen? What does the dog need to do to become a service dog? What are the actual requirements?
Well, it should come as no surprise that the road to becoming a service dog is one that is very well established. So, let’s go through what needs to happen.
But before we do, a quick note.
If you plan on trying to turn your dog into a service dog, then understand that this does not happen overnight. It requires a lot of effort, and there is every chance your dog will not even qualify.
That does not mean your dog fails. Becoming a service dog with the ability to help individuals in very specific ways takes so much time that only a percentage of dogs have the skills to do this.
The Key is Training
The key with all of this comes down to one thing, training. Now, even here you have two options. You can either train the dog yourself, or you can seek to get a service dog that has already been trained.
Out of the two options, getting a service dog already trained will certainly prove the easiest method.
Trying to train a dog to the level required to become a service dog is not easy. It takes a lot of time, patience and dog training skills. You want to get the dog to act and react of course, in the way you want them to at the appropriate moment. But it’s not all about training any dog.
Train Yourself, Or Not?
But let’s begin by addressing the issue of whether or not you should train the dog on your own, or hire someone to do it for you.
Training a dog to become a service dog is not easy. It takes time, and these trainers are skilled at what they do.
It can cost a small fortune to train a service dog, and there are no guarantees they will even pass the test.
Focus on finding a trainer via referrals, or with a number of good reviews. See where the reviews come from and if you can verify them.
If you can, then go ahead and hire them, but prepare yourself for bills that could run into thousands.
Consider Their Personality, Ability and Temperament
The reason why certain breeds work better as service dogs often comes down to their temperament.
A dog that tends to come across as loud and excitable is not the best option. But also, you must think about what the dog can help with.
As an example, let’s say you need a dog that can pick up things from the floor and place them on your lap. A small dog, in that situation, is not the best option.
Also, you should know that out of all the different dogs entering training to become service dogs, between 55% and 70% of them do not make the grade. Why?
The majority of times it’s all thanks to their temperament not coming up to the standards expected of a service dog.
Anticipated Qualities of a Service Dog
To help you understand if your dog could potentially turn into a service dog, then you should know about these anticipated qualities.
Now, not every service dog has each quality at the outset. Instead, training helps develop these qualities over time.
- The ability to remain calm when faced with new situations or environments
- The ability to learn new commands quickly
- Able to adapt to new situations
- The ability to focus on the needs of the owner
- The ability to repeat the same actions over and over
As we said, these qualities can develop through training. However, it does help if the dog has them as a foundation that others can then build on.
Development of Training
For a dog to then become a service dog, you must begin by making sure they have basic skills. That means you start with making sure your dog is housetrained. Without this, you have nothing to work on.
A dog must show an ability to take on these simple commands. It is only after that when you can then start to develop other aspects.
Once housetrained, you need to spend a considerable amount of time socializing your dog. That takes on different aspects.
First, they need to have wonderful socialization skills with other dogs. In fact, they need the ability of not reacting to other dogs and to effectively ignore them.
This is crucial when working as a service dog. They cannot end up feeling phased by anything going on around them. Their sole focus has to remain on the needs of their owner.
Also, you must socialize them with other humans. Yet again they should not react to anything going on, and they must have the ability to avoid distractions.
Finally, taking them into various situations and environments is also crucial. This means they can cope with different noise levels and external stimuli, and do so without getting into problems.
Once your dog has basic training, you can then move onto teaching them to perform different roles more specific to the disability of the owner. As service dogs can help in so many areas, it does mean we have too many options to list here.
However, trainers of service dogs know the exact tasks that each dog needs to perform to help that individual. If you wish to train your dog on your own, then knowing this list is beneficial.
This is where the length of time it takes for a dog to then evolve into a service dog will differ. A dog trained to help someone who is blind needs to perform different tasks to those helping an individual with diabetes.
That is why trying to train a dog yourself becomes tough. Sure you can teach any dog basic skills and commands, but this involves something else happening at a whole other level for the dog.
If concerned about costs, then look at teaching your dog basic skills before hiring a specialist to help in this area. They can take the foundation you created, and then work with that to ultimately turn your dog into a fully-fledged service dog.
For a dog to qualify as a service dog, they need to meet certain standards. Not just any dog will do, as is shown by the fact so many fail training.
But this also brings us to the question of certification.
Now the ADA, which means the Americans Disability Act, does not actually require any form of certification or proof. That comes as a surprise, but don’t take that too many any dog can operate as service dogs.
However, a number of programs do exist that provide certification. This does help show a dog has attained certain standards for a service dog. It does also provide some confidence in their ability to work and to help individuals in need.
The Final Requirements
As we have covered various aspects, it can make sense to look at the final requirements for a dog to become a service dog.
First, there are no actual requirements for a service dog to have some form of registration. Some municipalities may suggest it, but there is no enforcement or mandatory registration in place.
So, if your location demands it, then you do not have to obey. Also, certification is not mandatory.
However, it does give you confidence that the dog has shown it has the ability to perform the required tasks, and do so to a satisfactory standard.
Training is something that can take a couple of years to complete. It all depends on what the dog needs to do, and the multitude of tasks it needs to complete.
Keep in mind your dog may not even get to the point where it can complete training. Only a small percentage of dogs have the correct ability and temperament to finish training, and to then go on and become a wonderful service dog.
And that is how to make a dog into a service dog. It’s not an easy process, and it does take some time.
That is why service dogs start training as a puppy to then ensure they can work as service dogs for a number of years.
Even though you have a couple of options regarding training, it will often work out better when you can get a dog through official channels.
That means the hard work of training them has been done for you, and you can then simply enjoy the benefits that this dog brings to your life.
A service dog can provide you with a new lease on life. So, if you feel one could benefit you, then go for it. You will simply enjoy how things can change for you from that moment on.