What Does Training Involve?
Training may be completed by yourself, a friend, family member, or a professional trainer and organization. It takes at least six months and can take over a year to properly train a Service Dog. Full-time professionals may be able to train a dog faster. Be prepared to spend at least 30 hours of training in a public setting so that the dog will learn to behave well in public. You are 100% responsible at all times for the behavior and control of your Service Dog.
Not all states grant rights under the ADA to Service Dogs in training. Owners are responsible for being aware of the laws applicable to them and their Service Animals, whether they are in training or have completed the training process.
Documenting the training of your service dog is important. While not required by law, you may find it valuable to write down the details of your dog’s accomplishments and keep an accurate record of training. Taking the time to create scrapbooks is a very good way to remember the puppy and show the future owner as well. They always appreciate seeing the dog as it grew up.
The Public Access Test
The best way to evaluate a team's readiness finish formal training is a Public Access Test. The International Association for Assistance Dog Partners and Assistance Dogs International each offer one. Keeping a video recording of the dog passing the test may be valuable in the future.
Leave An Excellent Impression
Owning and using a Service Dog is a privilege for disabled individuals who use a dog to help them complete specific tasks that they would have difficulty performing on their own. It also comes with great responsibility.
Service Dog teams have been granted their rights based on their excellent behavior. Displaying good social behavior is important at all times.
These are considered poor behaviors
• Aggressive behavior toward people or other animals
• Begging for food or eating table scraps
• Petting from other people
• Sniffing merchandise or people passing by
• Hyper behavior
• Urinating or defecating in public, unless the command is given
Controlling the Animal
Service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times, unless it interferes with the work or the owner is not capable of using these items. The individual must then maintain control of the animal using their voice.
A person with a disability can only be asked to leave with their dog if the dog is out of control or the dog is not housebroken. When there is a reason to ask a service animal to be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability an opportunity complete their trip without the dog.
The dog should be clean and groomed at all times. It is extremely important to look professional at all times. Some Service Dog handlers feel that a vest or I.D. is helpful, even though it is not required by law.
Be prepared for people to watch and judge you and your Service Dog while in public. Make sure the opinion they form will make access easier for the next Service Dog team they meet.
Project "Puppy Love" A Girl Scout Gold Award Project by Meghan Kelly