Service dogs serve as guides for people with disabilities and sometimes as animal ambassadors in retirement homes and schools. Getting your own dog certified as a service dog will open up a realm of possibilities, since you'll be able to take it places where "normal" pets aren't allowed. Service dogs carry a great amount of responsibility, though, and therefore require training. If your dog is obedient and intelligent, it might be a good candidate for service dog training.
Things You'll Need
- Dog training tools
- Service dog application
Test your dog for physical and mental requirements. Service dogs should be tested for physical soundness, using hip and elbow X-rays, eyesight tests and general health tests. Service dogs should be tall enough to reach light switches and the tops of counters or tables. They should be able to pull wheelchairs with a person in them, or help someone who has fallen. The dogs should be friendly and confident. They cannot be aggressive. If your dog passes all these mental and physical requirements, move on to the training requirements.
Test or train your dog to follow specific commands. These include controlled unloading from a vehicle, controlled approach to a building, controlled entry into a doorway, and heeling when walking through a building. Your service dog should never stray farther than six feet from you, should sit and lay down on command, maintain the sit or down position until it's released, and maintain focus through any noise distraction. While in a restaurant, a service dog should lay under the table. If you drop your dog's leash, the dog should remain with you until you retrieve the leash. See http://www.servicedogsamerica.org/certification/index.html for specifics on these requirements. If you don't know how to train a dog, buy a book with instructions or hire a professional to help you. Your dog will have to pass these tests in front of a registered official to become a service dog.
Once your dog can and will pass these tests, contact your local service dog organization (in Idaho, http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/stusidguidedoglaws.htm) or a nationwide licensing organization (http://www.servicedogsamerica.org/certification/index.html) to schedule the tests and file an application for your service dog.
Tips & Warnings
- Retrieving breeds (e.g. labrador retrievers) make the best service dogs, as retrieving is one of a service dog's natural responsibilities.
- Puppies are usually bred and raised to become service dogs. Organizations generally hesitate to certify pets as service dogs, because they haven't been raised in that capacity.