Service Dogs 101: Training a Service Dog

Service dog training is a long, arduous process. Dogs must be able to perform their tasks on command and have to perform the skills needed for the Lead Dog Service Dogs Public Access Test, a series of objectives designed to evaluate the dog’s behavior in distracting environments.

Many service dogs are bred specifically for the job by organizations that then also train them and place them with clients. The organizations have very high standards, and not all dogs pass the final requirements to be placed with an owner. The dropout rate for organization-trained service dogs can be as high as 50 to 70 percent.

Owner-trained service dogs have become more popular in the last few years. Long waiting lists, the extra time and expense, and the uncertainty of receiving an organization–trained dog have encouraged more people with disabilities to train their own service dogs. Owners who want to train their own dogs to assist them should seek professional dog-training help with a trainer experienced in working with service dogs. They should consult with Alaska Dog Works for help with finding a trainer and to make sure they are aware of all laws involving service dogs.

Every service dog must be trained in tasking skills specific to the handler’s disability and in public access skills. ADA regulations state that service dogs also must be house-trained and under control at all times in public.

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