A service dog is an animal that is trained to perform specific tasks to assist people with disabilities. Service dogs bring independence and companionship to those in need, and provide incomparable help in everyday living for those with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities.
Having a dog as a companion brings forth so many joys, but it can also bring its own unique set of challenges. For those of us with special needs, having a canine companion to help us with daily tasks can make a world of difference, and this is where it becomes an extraordinary bond. If you’d like to turn your beloved pet into a service dog, follow this step-by-step guide.
This guide will outline what a service dog is and how to go about getting your pup registered, trained, and certified. We’ll also review the legal considerations of having a service dog and what to expect during this process.
Let’s get started!
How To Make My Dog A Service Dog: Step By Step Guide
- Determine if Your Dog is Suitable for Service Work: The best way to do this is to start by having your dog evaluated by a qualified professional. A veterinarian or experienced animal behaviorist can assess the physical and mental characteristics of your dog and provide advice on whether your pet has the right temperament to engage in service work.
- Get Necessary Training: If you decide that your dog is suitable for service work, then it’s time for training. There are many different types of service dog training, and you’ll want to consult with a trainer to develop an individualized program that meets your dog’s individual needs.
- Get the Proper Certification: Once you and your dog have gone through the necessary training, then it’s time to get the official documentation from a legitimate certifying organization. This will certify your dog’s status as an official service animal.
- Undergo Proper Accreditation: After you receive certification, the next step is to have your service dog accredited. There are many different organizations that provide accreditation services, and it is important to choose one that is reputable and has a strong record of providing quality accreditation.
- Maintain the Status: Finally, once you receive accreditation, it is important to keep your dog’s status current to ensure that your pet is recognized as a legitimate service animal. This includes regular proof of certifications and other necessary paperwork. This will ensure that your pet remains in compliance with the law and is eligible for the necessary accommodations.
What Is A Service Dog?
A service dog is a type of assistance dog specially trained to perform tasks that assist and/or benefit an individual with a disability and are directly related to that individual’s disability. Examples of tasks that service dogs can provide for people with disabilities include but are not limited to guiding individuals who are visually impaired, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the sound of alarms, ringing phones, etc., providing stability and assistance with mobility for individuals with mobility impairments, calming and providing emotional support, retrieving items, providing assistance with daily tasks such as opening doors, etc.
What Are The Requirements for Getting A Service Dog?
- Establish a disability: The first step towards obtaining a service dog is to establish that you have a qualifying disability. Service dogs are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can only be provided to those with disabilities that have been officially documented. This might include physical, mental, sensory, or emotional impairments.
- Obtain certification: After your disability has been documented, you must obtain certification that outlines your condition and how a service dog will be able to help you. This certificate is not only required for service dog training but also as a way to prove your status as a service dog handler.
- Find a reputable trainer: Once you obtain certification from a doctor or healthcare professional, you must find a reputable service dog trainer to help you with your training needs. You need to be sure to inquire about the training and certifications of any potential trainers and make sure the trainer is aware of your specific needs.
- Obtain the necessary supplies: Some service dogs can require special supplies. This might include a special vest, a leash, and even a special diet. It is up to you to make sure these items are obtained so that your service dog can do its job efficiently.
- Pay the costs: Service dogs can be expensive, depending on the type of animal, breed, and training it requires. Make sure to factor this into your budget when considering this option.
- Prepare your home: Your service dog may require special accommodations at home. Such accommodations may include ensuring the animal has its own space, as well as training the rest of your family to respond in a certain manner when interacting with the service dog.
How To Train Your Dog To Be A Service Dog
- Establish basic obedience. All service dogs should have the basic manners and obedience that come with standard dog training. This includes good leash manners, and basic commands such as sit, stay, come when called, and leave it. They should also be familiar with being handled, groomed, and examined by strangers, as well as different environments.
- Practice desensitization and counterconditioning. Although service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks, they can’t be expected to be able to perform in any environment. Regularly expose your dog to different situations so it learns to stay relaxed and focused in moments of stress. This can be accomplished through desensitization and counterconditioning.
- Teach task commands. Teach your dog specific tasks to help with tasks necessary for performing its job. For example, a service dog for a diabetic could understand commands like “alert” (to alert the handler when blood sugar is low or high), “retrieve” (to retrieve a snack or medication), and “block” (to prevent the handler from accessing things they shouldn’t, like sugar).
- Check the dog’s temperament. Service dogs should be calm, patient, and willing to work. They should be comfortable around people and animals, and shouldn’t show signs of aggression or anxiety.
- Get the dog certified. Once your dog has received appropriate training and you are confident that it fits the criteria of a service dog, it will need to get certified. This involves a vet check, obedience and task certifications, and other requirements set by the particular organization that will certify it.
How To Register Your Dog As A Service Dog for Free
- Contact your local service dog organizations. Many organizations assist owners with the process of registering a service dog for free. To find organizations in your area, search online for “service dog” and your city or state.
- Gather the necessary documents. Before you can register your dog as a service dog, you must provide proof that your dog has passed a temperament test, has been spayed or neutered, has up-to-date vaccinations, and is currently healthy.
- Submit your application. Once you’ve gathered all of the required documents, you can fill out an application with the service dog organization of your choice. Some organizations may also require an in-person interview or other forms of evaluation.
- Have your dog officially registered as a service dog. After you receive approval, you can begin registering your dog as a service dog. Most organizations will provide you with an official identification card and/or vest for your dog. Be sure to keep copies of all of your paperwork to prove that your dog is a legitimate service dog.
- Follow the applicable laws. Once your dog has been registered as a service dog, it is your responsibility to abide by all applicable laws, including those pertaining to access rights and other public place restrictions.
How To Get My Dog Certified As A Service Dog For Anxiety
- Speak to your doctor and get a medical note or prescription regarding your dog as a service animal to treat your anxiety.
- Make sure your dog has received all necessary vaccinations and obeyed municipal laws regarding pet ownership, if applicable.
- Contact a service animal training professional who has experience working with anxiety-based service animal candidates.
- Follow the service animal training program developed by your professional.
- Participate in a formal certification process to gain approval for your dog as an anxiety-treating service animal. That may vary depending on your state but generally involves a combination of tests to evaluate your dog’s temperament, obedience, and response to stressful scenarios.
- Secure any desired public access documents (i.e., a service animal vest or tags) for your dog from the certifying body. These documents serve as proof that your dog is a certified service animal.
How To Make Your Dog A Service Dog for Flying
- Contact your airline and get their requirements about service dogs. Most airlines require that you provide a form from a doctor or mental health professional that verifies that this animal is medically necessary and should be treated as a service animal.
- Train your dog to meet the service dog qualifications, which will vary by airline. Some of the minimum qualifications include: following all basic obedience commands, walking on a loose leash, and avoiding excessive barking or whining in public.
- Get your service dog certified. You will need a letter from your doctor or mental health professional, along with proof of vaccinations and a signed behavior agreement to be allowed to have your dog as a service animal on public transport.
- Call your airline prior to check-in. Let the airline know that you have a service animal that will need to accompany you on your flight. Make sure to bring documentation with you when you arrive at the airport, such as the certification letter and vaccination records.
- Take your dog through the security check. The TSA guidelines require that service dogs remain in their handler’s control at all times while going through security.
- When you arrive at the gate, let the airline know you have a service animal. The airline might ask you to step aside when the service animal is being secured in the cabin. The airline isn’t allowed to charge you extra for transporting your service animal.
How To Make My Dog An Emotional Support Dog
- Visit your veterinarian and get a note from them stating that your dog is in good health and is suitable for being an emotional support animal.
- Contact your local animal control and register your dog as an emotional support animal.
- Look into obtaining an ESA certificate or tag for your dog.
- Find a responsible trainer or behaviorist who is knowledgeable about working with animals with emotional support needs.
- Create a routine that meets the emotional needs of your dog, such as providing them with regular exercise, plenty of love and affection, and mental stimulation.
- Make sure to keep your dog’s emotional support animal certificate or tag with you when taking them in public places. You’ll often need to present it if asked by someone in authority.
- Follow the rules of public access requirements for your ESA. Make sure to always clean up and behave appropriately anywhere you take your pet.
- Consider finding counseling or therapy that will help you and your pet promote better emotional health.
Things to Watch Out For When Making Your Pet a Service Animal
- Ensure Your Pet Is Well-Trained: Before registering your pet as a service animal, make sure he is fully trained and able to handle situations without becoming overly excited or stressed.
- Have the Right Documentation: Depending on your region, you may need to present a note from a doctor to prove your need for the service animal.
- Research Local and State Laws: Research the laws in your area to make sure you know what restrictions are in place for service animals to ensure you’re following them.
- Prepare for Travel: If you are planning to travel, make sure you have the necessary certificates for any airlines or other forms of public transport.
- Register Your Pet: Get your pet’s ID tag and have your pet registered as a service animal with an ID number.
- Have an Emergency Plan: Have an emergency plan in place in case your pet has an injury or illness. Make sure you’re familiar with the vet’s contact information as well as any emergency organizations that help with service animal health care.
- Stay up-to-date on Vaccinations: As with any pet, make sure you stay up-to-date on your pet’s vaccinations and other necessary health care.
Q. Can I train my dog myself?
A. Yes, you can train your dog yourself, as long as you have the time, patience, and knowledge to do so.
Q. What commands does a service dog learn?
A. A service dog can learn a variety of commands such as sit, stay, heel, down, come, wait, and off. They may also be trained to perform specific tasks such as retrieving items, helping with balance, opening and closing doors, and providing medical alerts.
Q. Where can I make my dog a service dog?
A. You can obtain a service dog for your dog through a qualified organization that specializes in providing service dogs to individuals with disabilities.
Q. How easy is it to make your dog a service dog?
A. It is not as simple as just making your dog a service dog. Service dog designation requires that the dog be professionally trained to provide specific assistance to an individual with a disability. Therefore, it is not an easy process.
Q. How long does it take to make my dog a service dog?
A. It typically takes at least six to twelve months to adequately train a dog to become a service dog.
Q. How much to make my dog a service dog?
A. The cost of making your dog a service dog will depend on various factors, including the type of service needed, the amount of training required, and the supplies necessary to achieve certification.
Q. How do I prove my dog is a service dog UK?
A. In the UK, there is no specific legal certification or identification process for service dogs. However, the best way to prove that a dog is a service dog is to provide documents from the individual’s doctor or another medical professional that provide evidence of a diagnosed disability and explain how the service dog is trained to assist the individual in relation to their disability.
Making a pet into a service dog can be an involved process. It requires dedication, patience, and a great deal of effort. By following the steps outlined above, you will be able to make your pet an official service dog. Each step should be taken seriously and followed correctly. If in doubt, speak to your vet or an animal behaviorist for advice. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not a process that can be rushed, and you should be prepared to invest the necessary time and effort to ensure your pet is properly trained and becomes a loving and reliable service dog.