How Does My Puppy Become A Service Dog?

Dogs have been friends to humans for eons, helping us hunt, protect flocks, defend against intruders, and more. During times of war, dogs have been trained to help fight, also, as well as deliver life-saving medicine, and detect bombs.

For several decades, dogs have also been trained to provide several different services for humans. Many dogs have been trained to be guide dogs for the blind and hearing dogs for the deaf. 

Service dogs provide essential help for many more situations. Diabetic and seizure alert dogs, for example, allergen detecting dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and even dogs trained to help people with autism. 

People trained all these good dogs to be service dogs starting as puppies. Training a puppy for some service jobs takes years, so the earlier they start, the better. Indeed, many dogs became too old to train as service dogs after a certain age.

I watched a service dog in training the other day at the airport. The dog was wearing a special vest that identified it as a student, with a caution message to not pet or interact with it. 

As I watched the dog and trainer interact, I was reminded of a question a few people have asked me over the years, how does my puppy become a service dog?

The answer is that you can train your puppy to become a service dog or hire a professional trainer to do it for you. Before doing that, it’s best to determine if your puppy would make a good service dog.

Most dog breeds, if trained correctly, can be one type of service dog or another. Some dog breeds have traits that will make it easier and more successful to train them, so evaluating your puppy is necessary before making any decisions.

The most important factors when training a puppy to be a service dog are time, patience, and persistence. If you have those three things in abundance, your chances of successfully training your puppy to be a service dog will increase substantially.

Now that you know how your puppy can become a service dog, you probably have more questions about the process. What are service dog requirements, for example, and how long does it take to train a service dog?

I have the answers to those questions and several more below. If training your dog to render some service is your goal, it’s helpful information that can get you and your pupper started down the right path.

How Long Does it Take to Train a Service Dog?

It takes a lot of time, effort, and patience, as well as a special dog, to train a service dog. They need to be trainable, very social, and highly intelligent.

According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), training a service dog takes about six months and 120 hours (minimum). The timing also depends on the type of skill that the puppy will need to learn.

While being trained, the dog must also put in a minimum of 30 hours of training in public. This training helps them learn basic socialization skills, including being responsive and unobtrusive when out in public.

How to Register Your Dog as a Service Dog

The answer to this question is that, in the United States, you are not legally required to register your dog as a service dog. There is no proof needed, no documentation required, and no official training necessary.

Indeed, many people are taken in by service dog registration companies that are nothing but scams. Many of these sites claim that, unless a service dog is officially registered, they are not valid.

This claim Is 100% false, although you can register your dog unofficially as a service dog. Some sites will let you do this and admit that legal registration is not necessary or official.

What are the Requirements to be a Service Dog?

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says you can train any dog to be a service dog, the fact is that it takes a very special dog to be a great service dog. Below are some requirements for a dog to be a service dog:

  • They must perform at least one specific task that allows their human to live independently.
  • They must be able to ignore other dogs and people while “working.”
  • They must be able to do their job without being bothered by noises or anything that would be distracting. Service dog trainers call this “bomb-proof” because a service dog would keep doing its job even if a bomb went off. 
  • They must have excellent social skills end be extremely well-behaved when indoors.

What Breeds Make the Best Service Dogs?

As I mentioned earlier, not every dog can be a great service dog. (A great pet, yes, but that’s much different.) Over the years, trainers have identified some of the best dog breeds for service dogs. They include:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Poodle
  • Boxer
  • Great Dane
  • Border Collie Pomeranian
  • Burmese mountain dog
  • Pitbull

What Traits Make a Good Service Dog? 

All the dogs on the list above have many of the same traits that make an excellent service dog. Yes, they come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds, but what makes a good service dog are the traits below:

  • Highly intelligent. To be a good pet, you don’t need to be particularly smart. To be a service dog and perform complex tasks for your master, a dog needs quite a bit more intelligence.
  • Extremely sociable and friendly. A good service dog needs to be very comfortable around people and pets. If you have an overprotective dog, for example, they’ll make a good guard dog but rarely make a good service dog.
  • Calm under pressure. 
  • The tendency to bond very strongly with their pet parent.

What’s the Difference Between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Dog?

Many people believe that a service dog and an emotional support dog are the same, but they are far from it.  

A service dog is trained to provide specific tasks and duties to aid someone with a disability.  An emotional support dog has not been trained to provide any type of specific task.

Another big difference between service dogs and emotional support dogs is that service dogs and their owners have several legal rights that emotional support dog owners do not. 

For example, emotional support dogs do not have unlimited access to public spaces like service dogs do. Also, while service dogs are legally allowed to accompany their owners on an airplane, as of January 2021, the airlines are no longer required to make accommodations for customers with emotional support dogs.

Final Thoughts 

To answer the question “how does my puppy become a service dog?” you must first look at the particular puppy and determine if they have the emotional and intellectual requirements.

For example, a service dog needs to be highly intelligent, extremely good around people, and have the ability to ignore everything going on around it while concentrating on the task of helping its owner.

Many dogs will make excellent house pets and companions but not be qualified to be service dogs. It does take a special dog with excellent skills to be qualified and trained as a service dog.

I hope today’s blog was interesting and informative and answered all your questions. If you have more, please see my other blogs. I tried to pack them with as much real-world, actionable information as possible.