Making Your Dog a Service Dog

Service dogs provide an invaluable service to people with various disabilities. Perhaps you already have a canine companion that you would like to turn into your official service dog. Do you know how to get this accomplished?

First of all, it is important to determine whether you need your dog to be classified as a service animal or an emotional support dog. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service dog is defined as “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.” Some of these disabilities include muscular dystrophy, blindness, deafness, epilepsy, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

One might wonder what type of tasks are included. Some service dogs detect low blood sugar in diabetics, and others know when their owners are about to have a seizure.

Defining a Service Dog

On the other hand, what is not included in the definition of a service dog is a dog that simply gives you comfort when you are feeling anxious or afraid. These equally wonderful dogs are known as emotional support dogs.

When you have an emotional support dog, you are not granted the same rights as owners of service dogs are given. This includes having access to public places. However, your emotional support dog may live with you in your house, even if your landlord doesn’t allow you to have pets. Your emotional support dog may also board an airplane with you. However, he can’t go into places such as supermarkets or restaurants with you.

Again, if your dog performs a specific task for you, he or she is a service animal. If your dog is there for emotional comfort, it is an emotional support dog.

Service Dog Etiquette

When you venture out into public with your service dog, people have the right to ask you only two questions. The first question is, “Do you have a service dog because of a disability?” The second question is, “What task is your service dog trained to perform?” What is not allowed is for people to ask you what your own personal disability is, and they also can’t ask you to have your dog demonstrate what task he does for you.

How to Make Your Dog into a Service Dog

Certain dog breeds may be better predisposed to work as service dogs than others. There is no breed restriction, saying that one breed can and another breed can’t be a service dog. With that being said, if a dog is hyperactive or overly sociable, he or she might not be the best choice as a service animal. Also, an aggressive dog would not be a good choice as a service dog, as he may be too easily triggered by animals or other people.

To make your dog a service dog, he or she will need to go through training. This can be professional training, or the owner may choose to train the dog themselves. Professional training is highly recommended, as it tends to produce a more successful outcome. Although there is no specific requirement as to how many hours the dog must be trained, the standard is 120 hours over a six-month period. Ideally, at least 30 of those hours should be held in public locations.

It is not a requirement that your dog wears identification so that others know he is a service dog. With that being said, it is highly recommended. Registering your service dog is not required. However, dressing your dog in special harnesses tend to be very helpful in public locations. This helps strangers to know that they should not try to pet your dog, as he is busy performing a task for you.