Can You Train Your Own Service Dog?

Yes you can, if you’re located in the U.S. The ADA does not require professional training by a certified dog trainer for your dog to be considered a Service Dog. With that being said, it’s important to know the laws and the minimum training standards that it takes before your dog can legally be called a Service Dog.

Owner- Training a Puppy or Adult Dog?

It’s recommended for owner- trainers to start with a puppy, although many people have had great success rescuing older dogs from shelters and training them to be their Service Dog. Rescuing an older dog usually takes a little more time since most of these dogs come with some baggage. The best approach with an older dog is to have a trainer assist you. They can help teach you exactly how to train your dog and how to break any bad behavior that its acquired over its lifetime. Training a puppy is like starting with a clean slate.

How long does training take?

With a puppy, it typically takes about 6-12 months to learn the basics like sit, down, heel, come, etc. Once a dog or puppy has learned the basics then they’re considered a candidate who’s ready to start learning specific tasks & jobs.

It’s not recommended to start taking a dog out in public for training until they are 12 months or older. It’s hard for dogs this young to stay focused and you want to make sure the training is fun and not stressful. If you do take your dog out in public, for training, while he’s under a year old, make it light, in short bursts, and fun. Also have lots of treats on hand.

Be mindful of your local laws when it comes time to bring the dog out for public training. Some states don’t give Service Dogs in Training (SDiT) the same rights as an active Service Dog, meaning they might not be allowed to accompany you in dog/animal restricted areas.

Your dog may be ready to graduate from ‘Service Dog in Training’ to ‘Service Dog’ once he’s mastered the basics and has been performing the tasks & jobs specific to your disability with a 90% success rate while in public for about 6 months which usually takes about 2 years of training.

What are the minimum training requirements?

– Must have mastered the basic commands “Sit”, “Stay”, “Come”, “Heel”, “Down”
– Must be able to perform tasks specific to the person’s disability on command
– The dog must be able to perform the tasks in public and in any situation
– Cannot be aggressive towards others or protective of handler
– Cannot be trained to display any aggression or to guard or defend
– Cannot be trained to attack or hunt
– No inappropriate barking or whining
– Must not jump on others or solicit any type of attention
– Must not sniff items or people while on duty
– Able to handle loud noises, strange smells and sights, and bright/flashing lights without reacting unless it’s on command or to help the handler in certain situations
– Ignores food on the floor and food offered by others
– Is calm on a leash
– Must be potty trained
– Dog must be up-to-date on all vaccines and free fleas and rabies
– As a handler or trainer, you must know your local Service Dog laws
– As a handler, you must clean up after your dog