I want to learn how to make my dog a service dog. Have you found yourself saying this? If so, you’re in the right place. There are plenty of services out there that promise to make your dog into a service animal, but not all of them are real. Fortunately, we’ve done the research for you to ensure that you can acquire legitimate service dog certification — without spending a fortune.
Before we get into the process of making your dog a service dog, let’s look at the service dog requirements outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
ADA Service Dog Requirements
First and foremost, it’s important to define the terms “service animal” and “service dog.” According to the ADA, only dogs have been recognized as service animals since 2011. Therefore, a service animal is a dog that has been trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
This is a very important distinction, as service animals and emotional support animals are very different. It is much easier and cheaper to acquire an emotional support animal for mental health issues like anxiety or depression. To make your dog or other pet an emotional support animal, you simply need to speak to your doctor or licensed therapist and attain a recommendation letter for an emotional support animal. Once you have this recommendation letter in hand, your pet is officially considered an emotional support animal.
However, the service dog requirements are far more stringent. This is because service dogs must spend a lot of time training to provide assistance to people with disabilities. Some dogs are trained to assist those with mobility issues, while others are trained to help those with vision or hearing problems. Therefore, the type of service dog you require will depend on the nature of your disability.
This means that you generally need to start preparing when your dog is a puppy. You don’t have to start training during the first year, but it’s still a good idea to start teaching your puppy good habits. Once they’re 2-3 years old, the real training can begin.
How to Make My Dog a Service Dog
If you want to save a lot of money, you can choose to train your dog yourself. A service dog does not have to be trained by a professional. That said, service dogs require very specific kinds of training that you may not be able to provide on your own. Thus, it’s usually a good idea to at least consult a professional dog trainer before you begin.
Alternatively, if you choose to pay someone to train your dog, be prepared for steep costs. Training costs for service dogs can vary anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000. It will depend on the age of your dog, the type of training they require, and the rates of the trainer. As a result, many people choose to do some or all of the training on their own.
There is no set requirement for the amount of training a service dog receives. However, a good rule of thumb is 120 hours of training over a six-month period. While you want to train your dog to be calm and docile, a significant portion of the training should be dedicated to specific tasks that your dog will need to do on your behalf. For example, if you have mobility issues, you may need to train your dog to assist you with walking, standing up, and sitting down.
It’s important to note that training a service dog also requires you to manage your dog’s interactions with other people and animals. More specifically, you will need to train your dog to conform to the following criteria:
- No aggressive behavior (with people or animals)
- No unsolicited sniffing
- No begging for food or affection while working
- No hyperactivity in public
- The ability to tolerate new public environments
- No excessive barking
- No going to the bathroom in public unless instructed to do so
ADA Service Dog Registration
Contrary to popular belief, you are not required to attain certification for your dog to be recognized as a service animal. As long as your dog is trained to assist you with your disability, the law recognizes them as a service animal. You may still encounter landlords, property owners, and others who request documentation, but legally, people are only allowed to ask two questions in relation to your service animal:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Nonetheless, you may still find people who are ignorant of the law and will therefore ask that your dog have a vest, badge, or documentation. Thus, while you are not required to show any kind of service animal certification, it could make your life a lot easier.
So, once you or your pet’s trainer feel that your dog is ready to become a service animal, you can request certification from any number of third-party companies, like Service Dog Certifications. However, according to the ADA, the documents and certifications issued by these companies do not grant any additional rights or provide legal proof that your dog is a service animal. Thus, you can save on the costs of acquiring certification if you don’t want the extra expense.
The Bottom Line
There is technically no process for ADA service dog registration, nor is there an official service dog registry. You simply need to ensure that your dog is properly trained to assist you with specific tasks that you could not do on your own due to a disability. You do not have to show any paperwork or attain any documentation.
However, as previously stated, you could still run into some people who will want you to show proof that your dog is a service animal. Therefore, getting certification through a third-party company could make your life a little easier in the future. Finally, you might want to get the help of a professional when training your dog, so you should be prepared for the costs.
If you’d like to learn more about the legal rights of service dog owners, check out the ADA’s guidelines and answers to frequently asked questions. Additionally, if you’re in the market for a trained service dog, be sure to check out our guide on how to get a service dog!