Dandy Dawgs Service Dog Training Program, Prescott, AZ
Dandy Dawgs Service Dog Training Program, Prescott, AZ

Service Dog Training

by Andy Lloyd – June 2013

Article Service Dog Training

Two questions that seem to be buzzing around our community and actually communities all over the country these days are, “Do you notice all the Service Dogs around town? Are they really Service Dogs?”

Facts are that if the handlers say they are, that is about all that is needed as folks with disabilities are very much protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Most restaurant and store owners are apprehensive to confront handlers if things do not seem quite “Service Dog” proper due to those protections. However further looking into the facts reveal information that may be of value to store owners.

You may access the ADA 2010 Revised Requirements for Service Animals at: http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

The ADA’s definition of a service dog is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. (The Fair Housing Act and The Air Carrier Access Act allows for a broader definition to allow for emotional support dogs.)

The ADA regulations state that work or tasks include guiding the blind, alerting the deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person having a seizure, reminding a person with a mental illness to take medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack and performing other duties.

If it is not obvious what task the Service Dog provides, the staff or management may ask two questions: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability and what task has the dog been trained to perform? Questions regarding the disability are not allowed nor is any documentation for handler or dog required.

A facility may ask for a dog to be removed from a premise for two reasons: if the dog is out of control and the handler is not effectively controlling it and if the dog is not housebroken.

The federal ADA laws trump all local and state laws unless the local or state laws benefit the disabled individual more than the federal law. For instance, no standard is set for trainers of service dogs by the federal government. The state of Arizona and most states give a trainer and dog in training the same privileges as a service dog and handler. You may access individual state laws at: http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/51.

It is a federal offense to falsely claim an animal as a service dog. The handler must have a documented disability. The dog must be trained to perform a task to mitigate the disability and the dog is leashed, under control, non-aggressive, clean and quiet.

As stated in the regulations, service animals are working animals and not pets. This suggests that both the handler and the public respect the service dog as dog is on duty, not to be played with and petted while working.

It is important to note that service dogs are to be of a temperament allowing for running children, being bumped, abrupt petting and all number of surprises with little reaction. They are not to be petted so their attention is not redirected from their handler while they are working.

Many service dogs and handlers in our community and communities around the country are not demonstrating skills typically expected from service dogs. The ADA does not specify or require certification or registration standards for service dogs.

Presently therapy dogs who visit nursing homes, reading programs, hospice, etc. are required to demonstrate obedience behaviors and must be registered and reevaluated each few years. They often demonstrate higher standards and demonstrate better skills than many service dogs frequently exhibit who are not trained by quality training facilities. (Prescott Dog 2009 May/June issue Assistance Dogs vs. Therapy Dogs)

Assistance Dogs International (ADI) (www.assistancedogsinternational.org) has been setting standards for assistance and service dogs since 1987 and is one of the most respected organizations advocating the legal rights of people with disabilities partnered with assistance dogs.

They have constructed minimum standards for guide dogs, hearing dogs and service dogs, trainers, ethics, dog partners and dogs in public that may one day be accepted by the ADA for registrations and evaluations. These standards certainly need to be adopted by all people handling or training a service dog. They encourage training for service dogs to be significantly higher than minimum standards.

Delta Society (www.deltasociety.org) is another organization presenting minimum standards for service dogs and handlers which is highly respected. They offer a good basic program to train service dogs for disabilities which may not have a visible disability.

Institutions like Canine Companions for Independence, Bergin University, Guide Dogs for the Blind and many other fine training facilities require dogs to be in a training program for well over a year. They are training dogs for elite skills beyond typical expectations of well-developed social and behavioral skills.

Soldier’s Best Friend (soldiersbestfriend.org) rescues suitable homeless dogs to train for PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) for our military veterans. Military veterans have found having and training a service dog has enabled them toward a quicker adjustment back into civilian life. That program is approximately 7 months long.

Many local trainers here and across the country claim they will have a dog ready to be a service dog in three to six weeks and often without evaluating the dog for temperament, health and general behavior. This length of time may provide the much needed basics of sit, down, stay, proper walking, entry/exit, come and possibly accepting general social and environment situations suggested by the most minimum of standards.

However it cannot enable a dog to learn and emotionally handle the refined behaviors needed for public transportation including air travel, restaurant manners, traffic, department and grocery store etiquette, urinating and defecating on command and many of the privileges service dogs are granted. Presenting a service dog into the community before it is ready to meet all number of situations can present a liability for the public, the dog and the handler.

There is not much the public can do to assure the ADA laws for service dogs are not abused other than lobby and write congress for more definitive behavior and training skills be regulated for service dogs, service dog handlers and trainers of service dogs.

Meanwhile, hopefully trainers and handlers will be more mindful of modeling the trained behaviors of service dogs and handlers that come out of the fine assistance and service dog institutions.

Yavapai College Service Dog Classes

Offers the
Canine Care and Skills Certificate.
Also offered is a six credit certification called
Therapy and Service Dogs Skills Certificate.

click image below for PDF!

Yavapai College Service Dog Classes

The NEWEST certificate

is a 24-credit

Service Dog Certificate

requiring the

Canine Care and Handling Certificate

with

Intro to Service Dogs class

along with

Service Dog Public Access I & II

(2 credits each)

and

Service Dog Task Training I & II

(2 credits each)

Yavapai College Service Dog Classes