What are the Service Dog Requirements?

What are the service dog requirements you should know?

Vikki and her three service dogs

Well, first of all, there is NO legal requirement for service dog certification – all those sites that try to sell you such a certificate are bogus!

We have an expert advisor, by the name of Viki Gentilman, who has trained her own service dogs for years and keeps abreast of these matters. 

According to Viki, 

“Yes, you can pay big bucks and get a piece of paper saying your dog is certified but that does NOT make a dog certified (except the company that took your money calls your dog certified). There are a lot of those companies out there.”

Here is a website that lists some of those disreputable companies.

ADA Service Dog Requirements

The ADA or American Disabilities Act provides the overriding law on service dogs at the federal level. The following was gleaned from their website at http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm:

“Under the ADA, a service animal is any animal individually trainedto provide assistance to an individual with a disability…regardlessof whether the animal has been licensed or certified by a state or local government.”

This means, as Viki said, that you do NOT have to have paperwork to prove that your dog is certified. She goes on to say:

“However, your state laws may require you to show that your dog has a special license. This is just like registering your car. You don’t have to PROVE your car is running to get a license plate for it.

It may also be legal for a business to question you about exactly how your service dog is helping you.”

Check here for individual state laws.

What About Proof of Training?

Viki tells us: “There are service dog companies that train dogs for people, then state your dog is certified…but that is often to get your money too – one woman paid $35,000 and the dog was nowhere near trained to her needs

There are good and there are bad organizations out there — in the way they train, the quality of the dogs (health and temperament) and in the cost — from free to the largest price I have heard of, which was the $35,000 mentioned above. 

Some organizations charge you for YOUR training (how to use the dog, commands, care of the dog, etc.) and some don’t charge for it. Some charge for the equipment that you need (special collars/leashes or harnesses, bowls, brushes, etc.) and some don’t.

It pays to really do some homework into what you want from the animal, whether you can take care of the animal properly, and what organization could help you the most. But remember — no matter WHAT the organization SAYS, there is NO service dog certification!”

So What Are the Service Dog Requirements?

There are three basic service dog requirements:

1. If possible, acquire a healthy animal that is less prone to inherited conditions. 

2. Breed does not matter, but temperament, size and strength are factors to consider. You also need to be able to take care of the dog’s exercise, feeding, and grooming needs.

3. Have a thoroughly trained dog so that you will:

  • get help with your specific disability(-ies);
  • get assistance in public as well as in the privacy of your home
  • promote the benefits of service dogs so that laws do not become overly restrictive

Official Service Dog Requirements

Below are the minimum recommendations the IAADP site mentions for how well trained a service dog should

  • Be able to follow the basic obedience commands outlined above
  • Be toilet trained to go in specific places on command;
  • Receive 120 hours of specific training over a 6-month period or longer with many more hours of practice following the training sessions;
    30 of those training hours should be used to teach a dog to follow commands in public without people noticing (i.e., you should not have to yell at your dog to get him/her to obey);
  • Display good manners with no aggression towards humans or other animals;
  • Ignore food within reach, and not mooch for food or solicit petting from people;
  • NOT sniff merchandise or other dogs;
  • Stay calm in all sorts of situations;
  • Have individual training in tasks that help you with your disability(-ies);
  • NOT be trained as a guard or attack dog.

IAADP also has standards for the trainer. Make sure that you:

  • Keep your dog healthy, well groomed with minimal odor, and keep up to date on required shots;
  • Provide humane training with adequate rest breaks;
  • Follow local leash laws;
  • Carry poop/barf cleanup equipment;
  • Remain polite and educate people about what you are doing.

At this point we do not have details about training your own service dog to help with specialized tasks. However, we hope you have learned some things that will be useful.

See more about Viki’s methods on training a service dog here.