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What is Service Dog Training?


Service dogs are trained to assist individuals with physical or mental disabilities to perform daily tasks, and improve their quality of life. The training process is rigorous and requires significant commitment from both the dog and their handler.

In this article, we will provide a detailed overview of service dog training, including the selection process, training techniques, and ongoing maintenance.

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What is Service Dog Training?

  • Selection Process
  • Evaluation Of The Puppy’s
  • Medical Evaluation
  • Breeding History
  • Training Techniques
  • Specific Tasks
  • Behave Appropriately
  • Ongoing Maintenance
  • Certification And Registration
  • Training Timeframe
  • Handler Training

Selection Process

The first step in training a service dog is selecting the right candidate. A good service dog candidate is typically a puppy between 8 and 16 weeks old, with a calm temperament, a desire to please, and a strong work ethic. It is also important that the dog is physically healthy and free of any genetic or hereditary health issues.

Evaluation Of The Puppy’s

The selection process begins with a thorough evaluation of the puppy’s temperament and behavior. This includes observing the puppy’s reactions to various stimuli, such as loud noises, new people, and unfamiliar environments. The puppy should be confident, curious, and eager to explore their surroundings.

Medical Evaluation

Next, the puppy undergoes a medical evaluation to ensure they are healthy and free of any genetic or hereditary health issues. This includes a thorough physical exam, as well as genetic testing for conditions such as hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy.

What is Service Dog Training?

Breeding History

Finally, the puppy’s breeding history is taken into account. Service dogs typically come from working lines of specific breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds. These breeds have a history of being reliable and trainable, and have been bred for their intelligence, work ethic, and trainability.

Training Techniques

Once a suitable candidate has been selected, the training process begins. Service dog training typically consists of three stages: basic obedience, task training, and public access training.

Basic obedience training includes teaching the dog basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and heel. This stage also includes crate training, house training, and socialization to new people, animals, and environments.

Specific Tasks

Task training involves teaching the dog specific tasks to assist their handler with their disability. For example, a service dog trained to assist a person with mobility issues may be taught to retrieve dropped items, open doors, and provide stability when walking.

Behave Appropriately

Finally, public access training involves teaching the dog to behave appropriately in public settings, such as restaurants, stores, and public transportation. This includes teaching the dog to remain calm and focused despite distractions, such as loud noises, crowds, and other animals.

Training techniques used in service dog training are based on positive reinforcement, which involves rewarding the dog for desired behaviors. You can do this by praising your dog verbally, giving him treats, or giving him toys. Punishment or negative reinforcement is never used in service dog training.

What is Service Dog Training?

Ongoing Maintenance

Once a service dog has completed their training, ongoing maintenance is required to ensure they remain well-trained and continue to perform their tasks effectively. This includes regular training sessions to reinforce and refine their skills, as well as regular veterinary checkups to ensure they remain healthy.

It is also important for the handler to maintain a strong bond with their service dog, and to provide them with proper care and attention. This includes providing regular exercise, feeding them a healthy diet, and ensuring they receive adequate rest.

Certification And Registration

It is important to note that certification and registration are not required by law for service dogs in the United States. However, some organizations offer certification and registration for service dogs as a way to provide proof of their training and legitimacy.

These organizations typically have their own training and evaluation standards, which may exceed the minimum requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, certification and registration are not necessary for a service dog to perform their duties and have access to public places.

Training Timeframe

The length of time it takes to train a service dog can vary depending on a number of factors, including the dog’s age, temperament, and the tasks they are being trained to perform. In general, it can take anywhere from six months to two years to train a service dog.

It is important to note that service dog training is an ongoing process and requires regular reinforcement and maintenance to ensure the dog remains well-trained and effective.

What is Service Dog Training?

Handler Training

In addition to training the service dog, handlers also need to be trained in how to work with their service dog. This includes learning how to give commands, reinforce good behavior, and manage the dog’s behavior in public.

Handlers also need to be aware of their legal rights and responsibilities under the ADA and other laws that protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. This includes understanding where service dogs are allowed to go and what accommodations they are entitled to.


Service dog training is a rigorous process that requires significant commitment and dedication from both the dog and their handler. Through careful selection, positive reinforcement training techniques, and ongoing maintenance, service dogs are able to provide invaluable assistance to individuals with disabilities, improving their quality of life and allowing them to live more independently.



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