Minimum Training Standards for Service and Assistance Dogs
While not required by law, having proof of completion of these or other similar Minimum Training Standards and a Public Access Test (explained below) for Service and Assistance Dogs in the form of a professional training certificate or video recording may be helpful if challenged on the validity of your Service or Assistance Dog.
Certain types of Service Dogs, such as Psychiatric Service Dogs, will also require a doctor’s note for airline travel and access to other public areas. Registration with the United States Service Dog Registry is for identification purposes only, similar to wearing a vest, and is not proof that a dog has been trained properly.
Warning: Simply having a disability is not enough to qualify a pet as a Service or Assistance Dog. Those who pretend that they are disabled, or that their pet is a Service Dog so that they may gain entry to areas where the public is normally allowed to go, enter restaurants, fly in-cabin, stay in a hotel, apartment or condominium — or test the boundaries of what is legal or ethical are breaking federal law. There are legal options for traveling and living with your dog which you should consider. If you are unsure whether or not you qualify, please learn more before proceeding.
Under the law, training may be completed by yourself, a friend, family member or professional trainer or training organization. It takes about six months to a year (120+ hours) to properly train a Service or Assistance Dog. A full-time professional trainer may be able to train a dog more quickly. Be prepared to spend at least 30 hours of training in a controlled public setting so that the dog will learn to behave obediently and unobtrusively in public. Please remember that you are 100% responsible at all times for the behavior and control of your Service or Assistance Dog, even during training.
Our mantra is document, document, document. We highly suggest keeping a notebook or a blog as a log or record of your training dates and accomplishments. It will not only serve to help you during the training process but will also serve as a useful paper trail for your Service or Assistance Dog.
Note that all states do not grant the privileges of the ADA to Service or Assistance Dogs who are in training. Owners who have Service or Assistance Animals in training may register with us online, but are personally responsible for obeying all applicable laws.
Your dog must obey basic verbal and/or hand signal obedience commands such as Sit, Stay, Come, Down and Heel. When off leash, your dog must come when called.
Tasks or Work Related to a Disability
Many disabled people have pets. A Service or Assistance Dog is distinguished from a pet by the specific work or tasks they have been trained to complete. A Service or Assistance Dog is individually trained to complete identifiable work or tasks that it's disabled owner has trouble completing for him or herself.
In other words, simply having a disability is not enough to qualify a pet as a Service or Assistance Dog. While it is illegal for someone to ask about your disability, they may ask what tasks or work your dog has been trained to complete.
Those who pretend that they are disabled, or that their pet is a Service Dog so that they may gain entry to areas where the public is normally allowed to go, enter restaurants, fly in-cabin, stay in a hotel, apartment or condominium — or test the boundaries of what is legal or ethical are breaking federal law. There are legal options for traveling and living with your dog which you should consider. If you are unsure whether or not you qualify, please learn more and consult a local trainer or training organization.
What does it mean to be individually trained?
Individual training is the process by which a dog is specifically taught a behavior or task through rewards, praise or corrections. Methods may include using treats, clicker training or praise. Natural dog behavior such as protectiveness, barking, licking or comforting an owner are not considered appropriate tasks under the ADA, even if those actions help the disabled owner.
What are work or tasks?
Work or tasks are chores or behaviors that a Service or Assistance Animal performs, on command or cue, to help a disabled person with something that they can not easily do for themselves.
Work or tasks must also be quantifiable in some way, such as fetching a medicine bottle for someone who is having a seizure, opening doors or drawers for someone who has physical mobility issues or alerting on glucose levels for a diabetic.
Examples of some things that would not be an appropriate physical task would be simply providing companionship, guarding, protecting or even tasks performed merely for convenience such as fetching the morning paper.
Your Service Dog must be able to complete at least two important tasks or work that are directly related to your disability. You must be prepared to explain these if someone asks.
Passing a Public Access Test
The best tool for evaluating a team's readiness to graduate or finish formal training is a Public Access Test like the one available at Assistance Dogs International. Keeping a video recording of your animal passing the test may prove valuable in the future.
Simply registering with us does not qualify an animal or an individual as a Service or Assistance Dog Team or provide any special rights, legal or otherwise. Registration is for personal identification purposes only, similar to an online resume or providing a vest for your dog. Registration or membership with any organization is also not required.
Your Dog's Behavior
Owning and using a Service or Assistance Dog is a privilege, covered under the law, for disabled individuals who use a dog to help them complete specific tasks or work they would otherwise have difficulty performing on their own. It also comes with great responsibility.
Service and Assistance Dogs teams have been granted their rights based on their excellent behavior, politeness, public conduct and the necessary, beneficial and functional tasks the dogs perform for their disabled owners.
You and your Service Dog must be on your best behavior and display excellent social skills at all times.
- No aggressive behavior toward people or other animals; no biting, no snapping, no growling, no mounting, no lunging and/or barking;
- No begging for food, eating table scraps, or petting from other people;
- No sniffing merchandise or people who pass by;
- No overly excited or hyper behavior
- No urinating or defecating in public unless given a command/signal to eliminate in an appropriate place.
Please remember to be confident, polite, courteous and respectful at all times, even if you encounter someone who is unfamiliar with the ADA. Be prepared to explain what tasks your dog is trained to complete to help manage your disability. You do not need to explain your disability. Keep in mind that the impression you leave with someone may be their only experience with a Service or Assistance Dog team.
If we receive proof you or your animal are not behaving up to our standards, we reserve the right to remove you from this Registry at any time. It is a harsh truth that you need to be prepared for people to watch — and judge — you and your Service Dog while you are in public. Please make sure the opinion they form of you will make access easier for the next Service Dog team they meet.
Your dog should appear clean and well groomed at all times. Some Service and Assistance Dog handlers feel that a vest or I.D. is very helpful, even though it is not required by law. It is extremely important to look professional at all times.