Service Dog Requirements – Basic Info

15February 2013

Are you considering making your dog into your own personal service dog?  Many, many people mention to me as a trainer that they are interested in learning more about how to make their dog a service dog.  Since I have had so many people interested in this recently, I decided to start with the basic information.

Although many people tend to think of Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepard dogs as the most common service dog breeds, any dog of any breed can become a Service or Therapy animal if they have the right tempermeant and receive the proper training.

Some organizations require a dog to pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test to be qualified as a Service Dog.  Full information on the CGC test is available on Such Good Dog’s blog.

The following list is an example of an Assistance Dog Public Access Certification Test.  Although different tests vary slightly, the basics are the same.

1)  Controlled unload out of vehicle.
The dog must wait in the vehicle until released.  Once outside of the car, the dog must wait, under control, for the handler.  The dog must remain under control while another dog walks past.

2) Approaching the building.
The dog must remain calm around traffic.  The dog must stay in the relative heel position.  The dog must stop when the handler comes to a stop.

3) Controlled entry through a doorway.
The dog must wait quietly at the door until commanded to enter.  The dog must wait inside the doorway until able to return to the heel position.

4) Heeling through a building.
The dog should remain within one foot of the handler at all times.  The dog should remain focused on the individual and ignore the public.  The dog must adjust to speed changes and readily turn corners without the handler having to jerk or tug at the dog.  The dog must easily and comfortably be able to move through tight quarters.

5) Six foot recall on lead.
The dog must readily respond to the recall command (and does not take his time or detour along the way).  The dog must come directly to the individual, remain within the prescribed distance, and remain focused on the individual.

6) Sits on command.
The dog must respond promptly to the Sit command.  The dog sits and remains under control around food.  The dog sits and remains under control while a shopping cart goes by.  The dog maintains a sit-stay while being pet by a stranger.

7) Downs on command.
The dog must respond promptly to the Down command.  The dog downs and remains under control around food.  The dog downs and remains under control while a shopping cart goes by.  The dog maintains a down-stay while being pet by a stranger.

8) Noise distractions.
The dog should remain under control during a noise distraction.  The dog should not show aggression, fear, or appear to be continuously affected by the noise.  The dog may jump, turn, or show a small startle reaction, as long as the dog recovers quickly.

9) Restaurant.
The dog must be unobtrusive and out of the way of employees and patrons as much as possible.  The dog must maintain proper behavior, remain quiet and ignore food.  Many tests require the dog to down-stay underneath the table.

10) Off lead.
The dog must stop and wait for the handler to regain control when the leash is dropped.

11) Dog taken away by another person.
Another person must be able to hold the leash while the dog remains calm and under control as the owner walks 20 feet away.

12) Controlled Exit.
The dog stays in a relative heel position.  The dog remains calm around traffic.  The dog stops when the handler stops.

13) Controlled load into vehicle.
The dog waits calmly until told to enter the vehicle.  The dog easily enters the vehicle upon request.

14) Team Relationship.
The handler praises the dog when the dog does well.  The dog appears friendly, relaxed, and confident.  The person was able to keep the dog under control.

Whether or not you are interested in qualifying your pet as a service dog, it is important to be a responsible owner and train your dog to be a balanced, polite member of society.  I work every day to make my dogs the best, most well-behaved, happy dogs they can be!