Dog in Training for Service Dog

Service Dog Training

Service dogs can be of great help to people with disabilities. However, in order to get the most from these loyal companions, they need to go through extensive service dog training.

Just to give you an overview of requirements, the dog needs to be able to perform a disability-related task for their handler/owner. In addition, you must be familiar with acceptable training techniques and be educated about canine care and health. Furthermore, understanding of local public access laws and proper behavior is a must.

Other than just being your living medical device, these dogs will also become your best pals. They will take care of you, but they will also depend on you to provide food and shelter. You can build an incredible bond with your service dog and make both your live better.    

Service dogs are recognized by the law as trained working dogs that perform tasks for persons with disabilities. Disabilities can include both physical and mental impairment. It’s critical that the dog can perform specific tasks that directly relate to the owner’s disability. This can include anything from opening doors for people in wheelchairs to warning the owner of an impending seizure.

They are not considered pets and must be desensitized to distractions. Service dogs need to focus solely on their owners and ignore all distractions such as traffic, children, etc.

Tracy with service dogs "Arrow" & "Freedom"

Although training is essential for service dogs, that doesn’t mean that you can’t train the dog yourself. Many people choose to train their service dog themselves because professional service dog training can be a long and expensive process.  And in the end, even professional trainers can’t guarantee that your dog will be able to become your service dog.  Any dog can enter service dog training, regardless of breed or age. However, unless they have a certain set of characteristics, they might not do well.

Tracy with TJ and service dogs at a fundraiser
Service dog training can take up to two years and these dogs usually wear a vest in public for easy identification
Service dogs needs to be:
  • Willing to please
  • Ready to follow owners everywhere
  • Calm and friendly
  • Alert
  • Socialized
  • Non reactive to public and strangers
  • Quick to learn
  • Able to retain information

Any dog can enter service dog training, regardless of breed Service dogs

As stated before, service dog training enables these loyal animals to perform a variety of tasks. Depending on the owner’s disability and needs, service dogs can undergo training for mobility assistance and medical assistance. Medical assistance can also include autism assistance and psychiatric assistance.

What these superhero canines can do for their owners is amazing and it’s all achievable through training.


Check out a list of service dog tasks and services below:

  • Open and close doors, drawers, and cabinets
  • Turn lights on and off
  • Help people get dressed or undressed
  • Assist persons to an upright position
  • Move feet and arms onto wheelchair footrests and armrests
  • Prevent falls and provide stability
  • Call 911 in case of emergency
  • Identify and alert to symptoms
  • Bark or find help on command
  • Find places, vehicles, or their owner when disoriented and bring to safety
  • Assess owner’s safety and guide away from stressful situations
  • Help with insomnia and interrupt nightmares
  • Interrupt flashbacks and prevent self-harming behaviors using tactile stimulation
  • Detect allergens, low and high blood sugar levels
  • Provide deep pressure therapy
Tracy hiking with dogs in training

General service dog training

As you can see, some of these behaviors are pretty complex for a canine (such as calling 911 in case of emergency). And some of these behaviors are something that even humans couldn’t do (sense and alert owner to seizure or diabetes attack).

For those reasons, service dogs require extensive and complex training. Even then, there’s no guarantee that a dog will be able to become a full-time service animal.

TJ and his service dog

Disability-related service dog training

If your dog behaves well, is eager to please and intelligent, he’s a good candidate for service dog training. Focusing on their handler at all times and performing disability-related tasks is not all service dogs do. Other than these, they need to perform a number of other tasks on command. In order for the dog to pass a test, he must respond to handler’s first command 90% of the time, regardless of the environment.

Here’s a list of common tasks service dogs perform for their handlers:

  • Guiding the blind
  • Alerting the deaf to noises
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Retrieving items
  • Alerting to seizures or diabetes attacks
  • Reminding persons to take prescribed medication
  • Calming people with PTSD



This even includes potty on command. Yes, you heard that right. Instead of staying outside forever, when you give the order to go, the dog must do his deed. Sounds like every owner’s dream, right?

Public access skills are another requisite and you need to train the dog in a variety of different settings. This part of training is called desensitization. It’s basically teaching your dog to ignore all distractions and to focus on his handler and tasks.

Keep in mind that if you have a service dog, you can access all public areas with your companion. In addition, people can’t ask you about specifics regarding your disability. All they can ask you is whether your dog is a service animal and what tasks he can perform for you. You don’t need to answer any other questions or show them what the dog does for you.