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Legitimate Service Dog Training

  • Published: 2009-01-28 (Revised/Updated 2010-11-07) : Sergio Resende.
  • Synopsis: Many people are interested in volunteering a dog they own for service dog training and this is very commendable

Main Document

Many people are interested in volunteering a dog they own for service dog training and this is very commendable. Service dogs are those that assist the disabled in many different ways.

Seeing-eye dogs for the blind, assistance dogs for the deaf or those confined to wheelchairs, and dogs with jobs such as this are considered service dogs and they do provide something invaluable to those that need this assistance the most.

But if you review the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) you may notice that it doesn't really specify who may perform service dog training in order for a dog to be considered an assistance dog. This is important to consider because while service dogs must be allowed in certain areas when in the presence of their owners such as restaurants, on buses, and other such public places, dogs or animals that are not technically service or assistance animals do not have this same legal protection. So how do you know if the service dog training you're investigating for your own animal is legitimate

Keep in mind that while the ADA does not specify legal requirements for a trainer or instructor when it comes to service dog training they do specify what certifies an animal as a service dog. Specifically the disability has to affect a major life function and that the dog has to be individually trained to assist the disabled person. This is important because everyone's disability is different and affects him or her in different ways. Service dog training must be individualized for that person.

The reason that this is important is because any establishment that suspects that someone is bringing their animal into their place of business when it has not completed any type of service dog training can be challenged as to what their disability is and how the dog assists them. If it's found that the dog is just a pet and the person is not truly disabled they can be facing big fines!

Since there are not really any legal requirements for someone to perform so-called service dog training then it will be up to you as the dog's owner to check their credentials and to make a decision about whether or not they're qualified.

Of course some institutions are just an automatic yes; for instance, Leader Dogs for the Blind, located in Rochester, Michigan, USA, has been in business for over 50 years and trains and supplies dogs to blind and disabled persons all over the world.

Guide Dogs for the Blind, with locations in California and Oregon, also has a long history of training and providing dogs for the blind and disabled. But when it comes to a private trainer or smaller company offering to provide service dog training, be sure to get recommendations and referrals to past clients and from those who have had one of their trained dogs placed with them. Ask for details about their training program, and if it doesn't seem right then find another location.

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