Is your anxiety or depression making it impossible for you to go out in public? Do you need to find ways to live life normally again?
One possible solution is to get a therapy dog. There are more than 500,000 of these trusty companions in the United States alone, helping people with emotional, physical, and mental disabilities.
If you’re wondering about service dog certification requirements, this article’s for you. We’ll give you the lowdown on selecting and training a loyal service dog.
Service Dog vs. Therapy Dog
The first step in getting a service dog is to talk to your primary care physician or psychiatrist. They will assess your health and write you a prescription for a specially-trained dog if you qualify.
There are a few different types of trained dogs including:
- Emotional support dogs that provide comfort and protection for people with panic attacks, anxiety, and depression
- Therapy dogsthat go to hospitals, schools, and disaster recovery zones to help people remain calm and centered
- Service dogsthat help people with blindness, deafness, and mobility issues go out in public and remain safe at home
Service dogs can also be trained to detect seizures in their owners or help people with Autism get through an episode of sensory overload.
If you have depression, PTSD, anxiety, or another mental illness, you may qualify for a service dog. These dogs can cost $15,000 or more, but there are programs that offer financial assistance.
If you’re a veteran who deals with a mental or physical disability, you may be able to get your dog at no cost to you.
In general, plan to spend between $1,000 and $2,500 per year on upkeep and veterinary bills for each service dog you own.
Can Any Dog Become a Service Dog?
The good news about service dog training is that it’s not breed-specific. Any type of dog can be trained to meet service dog certification requirements.
The thing to remember, however, is that training is a complex process that requires your dog to learn many new commands and habits. If your dog is elderly or dealing with a health condition, the training could be too stressful for them.
If you’re going to train a puppy, look for a trainer who can train them to behave when they’re off-leash. You don’t want to worry about your dog bolting into traffic or lunging toward someone while they’re helping you.
Other qualities to look for in a trainer are low wait times and low fees. If you’re being asked to pay $30,000 or more in cash while having to wait five years to get your dog, you’re probably being scammed.
Once you find a trainer, you’ll need to pick your preferred breed. Many service dogs are Labradors or Golden Retrievers, but Standard Poodles are also a good choice.
Look for a dog who’s affectionate, patient, and quiet. Find out more about local dog trainers and don’t commit to a dog until you find the perfect pooch.
Training Service Dogs
Although you’re not required to hire a trainer, you should probably have one train your service dog. Your dog will need to learn a wide range of commands and you may not have the time required to teach them.
Service dog requirements for training include basic commands like stop, sit, and heel. The puppy has to learn to respond to its name, find its owner and sit on command until told to stand up.
Beyond the basics, service dogs learn to stay close to the owner, bark on command or stay quiet for extended periods of time, and put on their service dog vests. They also have to learn skills specific to their future owners such as
- waking up people with depression and helping them get out of bed
- anticipating panic attacks or seizuresand helping their owners sit down in a safe place
- walking alongside people with blindness and keeping them safe
- alerting owners with hearing problems of knocking at the door
Instead of your puppy living full-time with the trainer, it may be possible for them to live with you part-time and train on a regular basis.
When you’re scouting trainers, make sure that they have clean living areas for dogs and a calm, authoritative demeanor. There’s no reason to train dogs with choke collars or electric shocks.
How to Keep Your Service Dog Happy
Living with a service dog is a lot like living with a family pet. These hard-working dogs need the same things as other dogs do: time to play, lots of affection, and good food at the end of the day.
You’ll need to take a first-aid class for your pet’s safety, and you’ll also need to carry a first-aid kit with you in your dog’s vest. Make sure you have your dog’s reflective vest on at all times in public.
You might find that kids want to pet your dog, but it’s okay to let them know that your dog is at work and shouldn’t be petted. Most people know this, but you may come across someone who’s never seen a service dog before.
If your dog seems stressed or anxious in public or at home, talk to your trainer. Your dog may need to review some of their training or learn a few new skills.
Are There Official Service Dog Certification Requirements?
There are no standardized service dog certification requirements right now, and the government doesn’t require formal training. When you go out in public with your dog, you’re not required to provide proof of certification.
Although you’re not obligated to register your dog, you can have them listed in a national database to get an official vest and ID card. You’re not required to show proof of certification in public places like restaurants or office buildings.
Take your time and find the right puppy. When you see the perfect service pup, you’ll immediately know that they’re yours.
Now that you know all about service dogs, check out our other blogs. We have deep dives on phones, tablets, and brand-new technology.