Service Dog’s Have A Storied History. Is Your’s Legit?

Service Dogs are great animals that are trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. This work includes guiding people who are blind, alerting people, pulling a wheelchair, reminding a person to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an attack, and other duties.

The history of service dogs goes back to World War I. Service dogs have helped many individuals with disabilities gain a safer and better quality of life. In 2011, a revision to the American with Disabilities Act excludes animals whose sole service is to provide comfort or emotional support. While these comfort dogs are special and are providing great relief for people they do not qualify as service dogs. A legitimate service dog must be trained to perform a specific task related to a person’s disability.

Does a professional have to train a service dog? No, as long as a dog is trained to perform a specific task, is not a nuisance and realizes the handler is in control at all times then a canine can qualify to become a service dog. Some of the specific behaviors of a qualified service dog include: command obedience, remaining calm and under control when exiting a vehicle, remaining in a heal position, and not let noise distractions keep them from perform their duties.

There are many companies out there that will certify your dog as a service dog. When choosing a company to certify your service dog one needs to look for a few things. First, you would want to find a company that has been in business for a long time. These companies have a greater understanding of the laws and can give you advice and direction. They will also be able to tell you if you dog does indeed qualify to be a service dog. The company should list the requirements of service dogs. They should state that by proceeding to purchase a service dog kit you, the handler, assure that your dog fulfills the requirements to become a service dog. Next, you would want to look for a company who has a phone number and will support you and your canine should you need anything. When looking to get a service dog certified you need to do your research and choose a company who has experience. Some negative comments about reputable companies are from people who have tried to make a service dog out of a pet and they blame the company when they are exposed.

Service Dogs have benefited countless lives over the years. When certifying your canine to be a service dog make sure you do your research and be sure there is true need for you to have a service dog.

4 Replies to “Service Dog’s Have A Storied History. Is Your’s Legit?”

  1. I would like to know how a company knows a service dog can alert his owner to an oncoming medical problem? For instance, my dog can tell when I’m about to have a migraine, and this helps to get the medication in time to prevent a full blown attack which is absolutely debilitating.

    How to find ‘companies’ to certify validity? What sort of companies?? Won’t a vet or a doctor report do?

    1. A service dog can be trained to alert a handler suffering from migraines by noticing changes in behavior ex. yawing, mood, diet, speech, hyperactivity & changes in body chemistry that they can pick up through their razor-sharp sense of smell. Well just like your service dog alerting to these early symptoms (prodrome) of a migraine which usually occur 24-48 hours before the onset. Some dog’s do this naturally and if the sufferer is intent on learning the change in their behavior one can learn to recognize it and modify it through training if needed. The above mentioned task performed is a perfect example why a service dog & handler are protected under Federal Law from performing on call. When training your own service dog there are a few Training Standards for public access and this is a good one we like to use that was put together by ADI(Assistance Dog’s International).
      Minimum Training Standards for Public Access

      1. Amount of Schooling: an assistance dog should be given a minimum of one hundred twenty (120) hours of schooling over a period of Six Months or more.* At least thirty (30) hours should be devoted to outings that will prepare the dog to work obediently and unobtrusively in public places.**

      2. Obedience Training: a dog must master the basic obedience skills: “Sit, Stay, Come, Down, Heel” and a dropped leash recall in a store in response to verbal commands and/or hand signals.

      3. Manners: a dog must acquire proper social behavior skills. It includes at a minimum:

      No aggressive behavior toward people or other animals – no biting, snapping, snarling, growling or lunging and barking at them when working off your property.
      No soliciting food or petting from other people while on duty.
      No sniffing merchandise or people or intruding into another dog’s space while on duty.
      Socialize to tolerate strange sights, sounds, odors etc. in a wide variety of public settings.
      Ignores food on the floor or dropped in the dog’s vicinity while working outside the home.
      Works calmly on leash. No unruly behavior or unnecessary vocalizations in public settings.
      No urinating or defecating in public unless given a specific command or signal to toilet in an appropriate place.
      4. Disability Related Tasks: the dog must be individually trained to perform identifiable tasks on command or cue for the benefit of the disabled human partner. This includes alerting to sounds, medical problems, certain scents like peanuts or situations if training is involved.

      5. Prohibited Training: Any training that arouses a dog’s prey drive or fear to elicit a display of aggression for guard or defense purposes is strictly prohibited. Non aggressive barking as a trained behavior is permitted in appropriate situations.

      6. A Trainer’s Responsibilities: Trainers function as ambassadors for the assistance dog movement. This includes a disabled owner trainer, a provider’s staff or a volunteer with a puppy or adult dog “in training.” It also includes an assistance dog partner or able bodied facilitator helping a disabled loved one to keep up an assistance dog’s training. At a minimum, you should:

      Know pertinent canine laws (i.e. leash laws and public access laws)
      Ensure the dog is healthy, flea free and the rabies vaccination is up to date
      Take time to make sure your dog is well groomed and free of any foul odor
      Show respect and consideration to other people and property.
      Use humane training methods; monitor the dog’s stress level; provide rest breaks.
      Carry clean up materials. Arrange for prompt clean up if a dog eliminates or gets sick.
      Be polite and willing to educate the public about assistance dogs and access rights.
      * The 120 hours of schooling includes the time invested in homework training sessions between obedience classes or lessons from an experienced dog trainer. ** Eligibility for Certification from a provider who supports ADI’s Minimum Training Standards for Public Access may require you turn in a weekly training log to document your dog received a minimum of 120 hours of schooling over a period of six months or more. (See Sample Training Log)

      PUBLIC ACCESS TEST

      How will you know when your dog is ready to graduate from an “in training” status to the status of a full fledged assistance dog with whom you are entitled to have public access rights?

      An excellent tool for evaluating a team’s readiness to graduate [e.g. finish up formal training] is the Public Access Certification Test (PACT) which can be found on the website of Assistance Dogs International at http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org The ADI Public Access Certification Test was developed over 15 years ago as a consumer protection measure by the ADI Team Testing Committee, which included input from both providers and IAADP Partner members. Overall, the goal of the test is to discover whether or not a particular team is ready to go places out in public without trainer supervision. The safety of the dog, the handler and the public were the main considerations in developing the specific exercises for testing the team.

      This test creates a level playing field, since it does not matter whether it is a guide, hearing or service dog team being tested or who trained the dog. What matters is the team’s performance. Every ADI program is required to administer this test before graduating and credentialing a team.

      Disability mitigating tasks or work are not critiqued during the test. However, to establish a dog’s eligibility to take this test to become an assistance dog, ADI programs would ask for a demo in advance of at least three service dog tasks, three hearing dog sound alerts or a series of tasks known as “guide dog work.” To document the dog performs tasks in the home such as seizure response work, alerting to an attack of hypoglycemia late at night or fetching a portable phone or beverage, a program may ask the client to submit a video tape of the task(s).

      The Public Access Test evaluates the dog’s obedience and manners and the handler’s skills in a variety of situations which include:

      A. The handler’s abilities to: ( 1 ) safely load and unload the dog from a vehicle; ( 2 ) enter a public place without losing control of the dog; ( 3 ) to recover the leash if accidently dropped, and ( 4 ) to cope calmly with an access problem if an employee or customer questions the individual’s right to bring a dog into that establishment.

      B. The dog’s ability to: ( 1 ) safely cross a parking lot, halt for traffic, and ignore distractions; ( 2 ) heel through narrow aisles; ( 3 ) hold a Sit-Stay when a shopping cart passes by or when a person stops to chat and pets the dog; (4 ) hold a Down Stay when a child approaches and briefly pets the dog; ( 5 ) hold a Sit Stay when someone drops food on the floor; hold a Down Stay when someone sets a plate of food on the floor within 18″ of the dog, then removes it a minute later. [the handler may say “Leave It” to help the dog resist the temptation.] ( 6 ) remain calm if someone else holds the leash while the handler moves 20 ft. away; ( 7 ) remain calm while another dog passes within 6 ft. of the team during the test. This can occur in a parking lot or store. Alternatively, you could arrange for a neighbor with a pet dog to stroll past your residence while you load your dog into a vehicle at the beginning of the test.

      *** It is highly recommended the test be video taped to document the team passed it.

      CERTIFICATION is not required in the USA. Many states lack programs willing to certify dogs that did not go through that program’s training course. The DOJ decided to foster “an honor system,” by making the tasks the dog is trained to perform on command or cue to assist a disabled person, rather than certification ID from specific programs, the primary way to differentiate between a service animal and a pet. It opened the door for people to train their own assistance dog, usually with the help of an experienced trainer, if a program dog is unavailable.

      Testers: If you are not enrolled in a program or taking lessons from a trainer willing to administer the Public Access Test and provide ID on successful completion of the test, it is worthwhile to find a trainer who would administer The Public Access Test. You could recruit a local trainer certified through The National Association of Obedience Dog Instructors ( http://www.nadoi.org) or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. ( http://www.ccpdt.org ) ,or an obedience class instructor, or a Canine Good Citizen test evaluator. Trainers usually will charge a fee for their time. You might ask a colleague, in a pinch, to video tape the test and score it, for scoring is self explanatory. Have the tester sign and date it, then keep the test with your training logs in case of an access dispute someday.

      AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test: Another way to document you have made an effort to train your dog to be safe around other dogs and people while working out in public is to pass what is known as the “CGC” test. Many obedience training centers offer the test to handlers who take their six week “Canine Good Citizen” class after a six week Beginner obedience class. Others may offer it once or twice a year to members of the public who want to earn that credentialing. ADI urges owner trainers to at least train an assistance dog to the point where he or she can pass it with flying colors. Those who pass receive an impressive looking Certificate signed by the AKC evaluator. The Therapy Dogs International (TDI) Test, sometimes offered the same day, is basically the same test, but an assistant will typically push a wheelchair around and/or an IV pole while the dog goes through the different exercises to ensure the dog is able to work calmly in a hospital or nursing home setting.

      DEFINITIONS
      What is a Task?
      A task is a certain desired behavior or set of behaviors the dog is trained to habitually perform in response to a command or a particular situation such as the onset of a seizure, which cues the dog to perform a task. The task must be related to your disabling condition, helping you in some way.

      What is meant by “individually trained”?
      A dog has been “individually trained” to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a disabled individual when the dog is deliberately taught to exhibit the desired behavior or sequence of behaviors by rewarding the dog for the right response(s) and communicating, if only through silence, when the dog has made the wrong response in a particular situation. A task is learned when the dog reliably exhibits the desired behavior whenever needed to assist his/her partner on command or cue. An example of work that is individually trained would be that performed by a guide dog, who takes directional commands, goes around obstacles in the team’s path, halts to indicate a curb or some other change in elevation and refuses the “Forward” command in specific situations that would result in injury, such as an automobile entering the team’s path. Examples of individually trained tasks include retrieving a phone, providing deep pressure therapy during a panic attack or providing balance support on a staircase to prevent a fall.

      What is NOT an individually trained task?
      Spontaneous behavior a dog occasionally exhibits such as licking someone’s face or barking does not qualify as a “trained task” under ADA even if it accidentally or coincidentally has a beneficial result. While everyone enjoys the emotional, social and safety benefits that a dog’s presence can provide, those benefits do not constitute trained tasks that would transform a disabled person’s pet into a legitimate Service Dog under ADA.

      Why are individually trained Tasks so important?
      Trained tasks that mitigate the effects of a disabling condition are the legal basis for granting access rights to disabled handlers under the Americans With Disabilities Act. An assistance dog with this special training is viewed as assistive technology / medical equipment, not as a pet. Businesses have the right to ask a disabled person, “What Tasks does your service animal perform?” This question can be asked if there is any doubt about the dog’s legal status and whether to impose their restrictive pet policies. An acceptable answer might be, “my service dog is trained to get help for me in a medical crisis by ____________.” (Fill in the blank as to the specific task) You do not have to reveal your disability in formulating your reply.

      Businesses also have the right to exclude any animal, including a service animal, who threatens the health or safety of other people through aggressive or unruly behavior. An assistance dog can also be evicted for disruptive behavior that interferes with a business providing goods or services. The DOJ used the example of a dog barking in a movie theater.

      Task examples:
      Traditional Tasks performed by Guide, Hearing and Service Dogs. Click Here.
      Task examples: Tasks for Service Dogs for Persons with a Psychiatric Disability.
      Any dog who is protection trained, attack trained or one who exhibits aggressive behavior in violation of Minimum Training Standards for Public Access is NOT eligible no matter what disability related tasks or alerts the dog is said to perform. If a dog later displays aggressive behavior and cannot be rehabilitated within a reasonable time period, ethically, that dog should be retired as unfit for duty outside the home, as the dog does not qualify as an assistance dog under our Minimum Training Standards for Public Access. Non aggressive barking as a trained behavior will be acceptable in appropriate situations.

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      SAMPLE TRAINING LOG & instructions below, how to fill in a Log
      TRAINING LOG

      Owner Trainer’s Name:

      Dog’s Name:

      Breed:

      Gender:

      Age:

      Week of: ____________________Hours( on Site) + ( Outings)

      Health:

      Problems:

      Outings:

      Socialization:

      Obedience:

      Service Dog Tasks:

      Manners:

      Comments:

      How to Fill In Your TRAINING LOG
      Owner Trainer’s Name:

      Dog’s Name:

      Source: Rescue? Breeder?

      Breed or Mix:

      Gender:

      Age:

      Week of: … , hrs Total Hours(3.5 hrs on Site) + (4.5 hrs Outings)

      Health: Make a note if you gave Heartworm Preventative this week and /or used monthly flea control like Advantage or changed Flea & Tick collar. Make other notes, such as “treated ear infection.” Anal gland scooting….had vet empty? Did you change diet? Progress on new diet or digestive upsets? Treated hot spot? Trimmed nails? Blowing coat? Improved on car sickness?

      Problems: Are there any particular problems distressing you? Has there been improvement on any of the problems mentioned in previous logs? (e.g. Barking at other dogs, becoming over excited in the presence of other animals or fearful of getting into the back seat of the car, or refuses to potty outside of his backyard or won’t use other footing except grass, etc.)

      Outings: 1 Hour Mon. Canine Good Citizen (CGC) class, Trainers ( your name, instructor’s name )
      45 min. Tues. Bank – inside w/permission, parking lot work too; Trainer – (yr. name)
      1 hr. 15 min. Thurs. Petsmart; Trainers – ( your name, assistant’s name)
      1 ½ hr. Saturday Petsmart, more work on dog distraction issue, Trainer – ( your name)
      Socialization:
      What novel sights, sounds, smells, taste or touch, footing, was the dog exposed to in an urban, suburban or rural environment in different kinds of weather? (e.g. a band in a park, a parade, a mounted policeman, Little League game, strangers in ethnic garb, potty in street near curb?) Did the dog improve when exposed to something that caused signs of stress earlier, such as an elevator ride, dog barking at him from behind a fence, working near an escalator, climbing a staircase or when asked to potty on different types of ground? What needs more work? (e.g. walking near heavy traffic, motorcycle revving up, garbage truck, approaching a mirror, screaming kids on schoolyard playground, holding a Sit Stay during a thunderstorm,etc.)
      Obedience:
      Where did you practice basic commands? (e.g. house, garage, neighborhood, outside shopping center). Any progress? What needs improvement? (e.g. out of sight Stays or Heel w/halt instead of Sit for balance or wheelchair work.) Practice Public Access Test exercises….holding Sit or Down when adult or child pets the dog or someone drops food on the floor or puts plate down by dog or passes with a shopping cart. Practice Stay or Come with a dropped leash indoors, outdoors in safe area. Have assistant tease dog at a distance with food, smooching, say “Hi, puppy, puppy” or bounce a ball while you keep him focused on you in a Sit or Down Stay. Advanced – practice Stay in public rest room, under table in restaurant, in stores in sight, you out of sight around a corner. Off leash heeling, Downs, recall indoors, outdoors in safe fenced area.
      Service Dog Tasks:
      What did you introduce this week? What progress has dog made on various tasks, like fetch the phone? Beginner, intermediate or advanced stage? Any setback? Where did you practice?
      Manners:
      Which manners were a priority this week? What improved? What needs more work? For example: Say please [with Sit Stay] for Supper, for Exiting house….expanded from 30 seconds to one minute! Enter, exit, riding in a car – improved. Lie quietly on side for nail grinder, grooming – needs work! Watchdog suppression – needs work! Jumping on visitors – needs work. Honor system – respecting “Leave It” edict re: bowl of treats on end table, 24/7….3rd week, also leaves bowl of treats on kitchen counter alone! Paw on knee – rarely tries this dominance behavior anymore. Licking self in public – only needed one correction this week, an “uh uh” with my disapproving glare at him. Doesn’t do it at church anymore or in grocery store. No sniffing other dogs while “on duty” at obedience class or in neighborhood – needs more work.
      Comments:
      Anything unusual, worrisome, cute, exceptional? Did you read a book, see a video that helped with training? Reason for not practicing this week (e.g. sick, injured, family funeral, or dog neutered and must be kept very quiet for two weeks? etc. ) Overall progress….fair? Good?

  2. Thanks for the reply.

    I should have asked if it were good enough that the dog could already, naturally, alert to an onset of migraine…. In this case would a doctor’s or vet’s report, or certificate up to date be viable?

    Are there exceptions to training if the animal is small and calm, obedient to the owner? Apart from alerting to the onset, where the animal uses its paws and chin to rest on the owner, to alert in time for the owner to take medication? In this case where no harm can be done by the small animal, would this not be an exception to the training?

  3. Hello,

    I appreciate the info, but hardly any of this applies to my 5lb dog. I carry him in my bag or just carry him, as he’s too small to be put down among the people’s feet. Carrying him means he is always close enough to me to warn me.

    Looks like I’ll just have to keep him next to me as usual, and explain how he can alert me. Hope they will understand then. Otherwise, I’ll just not be able to go into some places.

    I thought there would be different rules for an animal this small. Can a ferret be trained as a service dog?

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