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Service Dog Training Foundations

Can You Train a Service Dog Yourself?

Do you have a dog that you would like to train to become a legitimate Service Dog? Well there is a good news. You can do it! Yes you can! You have come to the right place to learn about Service Dog Training Foundations; all the important first steps to ensure a smooth road to success.

What is a Service Dog?

For anyone who isn’t quite sure, a Service Dog is a dog that has been individually and specially trained to assist someone living with a disability. The dog’s training directly relates to the person’s disability. This dog is not considered to be a pet; residential tenancy ‘no pets policies’ do not apply. Service Dogs, with their owner, are also allowed on airplanes, and generally wherever the public is allowed to go. As a result, there are so many different types of Service Dogs, just a few examples are: Service Dogs for Anxiety, PTSD, Depression & Mental Health.

Is Professional Service Dog Training Required?

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The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, does not require that Service Dogs be professionally trained by a trainer, school, or organization. If you’re a person who is living with a disability, you have a right to train the dog by yourself.

What Kind of Dog Would Make a Good Service Dog?

Unfortunately, not all dogs would be a good candidate for becoming a Service Dog. Just like people, dogs are individuals, and have individual personalities, characteristics, and genetic makeup. Therefore, some dogs are a naturally good choice. Firstly, what you can do start at the beginning, and keep it simple. Secondly, if your dog can begin to learn some basic things, and it’s going well, then he or she can move on to more advanced things. And yes, even a Yorkie can be a Service Dog.

Characteristics of a good Service Dog Candidate

Any dog that you are considering turning into your Service Dog, needs to have some basic characteristics. Since a Service Dog will presumably accompany you to many different public places, possibly into restaurants and malls, crowded areas including where there may be people unfamiliar with Service Dogs, and children, and may even be on an airplane with you, they do need to be eventually quite well-behaved. Read more: How to Choose The Right Dog to Be Your Service Dog.

Not to worry if your dog is not well behaved at the moment. This can be worked on. Dogs are smart and can learn. You do need to think about what you need your dog to do for you. Since Service Dogs are individually trained to assist someone who has a disability, it’s important to understand that, if your dog is a teacup Chiwahwah, this might not be the best choice if you are needing a dog to assist you with mobility or balance issues, for example. Certain people are going to need larger dog breeds. Certain people will be perfectly okay with a smaller breed.

Take a moment and consider whether the dog you have now, has any of these important traits

  • Your dog needs to be calm, especially in unfamiliar settings. For example, if your dog is uncomfortable or nervous in new environments or when meeting new people, he might not work out as a Service Dog
  • Secondly, your dog needs to be alert, but not reactive. We don’t want your dog falling asleep at every possible moment, but we don’t want him to be hyper, or over-reactive, either, since that would not be helpful to anyone. Somewhere in the middle would be perfect.  
  • Your dog needs to have a willingness to please. While generally speaking, most dogs have this, some simply just don’t. Therefore, if you feel your dog just doesn’t care about you at all, or has other priorities, then this might not work out.
  • Your dog needs to be able to learn and retain information. Some dogs are simply better at this than others.   
  • Your dog needs to be capable of being socialized to many different situations and environments. If this seems difficult for your dog, then he or she might not be ‘the one’
  • In addition, your dog needs to be reliable in performing repetitive tasks. We don’t want the dog to be getting bored, or forgetting what he or she there to do for you, since that is the whole point of having a Service Dog!

Start with a simple foundation set of skills

Let’s get your Service Dog Training rolling. First, keep it simple and begin with the basics with your dog, especially if he or she is not already trained somewhat in these areas.

  • Firstly, work on your dogs house training, which needs to include eliminating on command in several different locations 
  • Practice socialization with your dog with the goal of having him or her remain on task. This is important, for example even when in the presence of new and unfamiliar people, places, sights, sounds, scents, and even other animals.  
  • Teach your dog to focus on you and ignore other distractions 

Dog Training Videos

The American Kennel Club provides many resources for training your dog, including videos.

Founded in 1884, the AKC is the recognized and trusted expert in breed, health, and training information for dogs. AKC actively advocates for responsible dog ownership and is dedicated to advancing dog sports.

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