As our society becomes more open about disability and increasing access for all people, getting a certified Service Dog is becoming increasingly popular.
How can I register my dog as a Service Dog?
A Service Dog is a specially trained animal that performs a task that directly assists a person with a disability. Service Dogs aren’t just limited to Seeing Eye Dogs or Hearing Dogs. There are many types of physical and emotional disabilities that Service Dogs can be trained to help their handlers with.
The American Disability Act outlines some of the tasks that Service Dogs may assist with. Some examples include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, or alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure. Lesser known tasks include; reminding a person with mental illness to take medications, calming a person with PTSD during an anxiety attack, or other duties.
If you have been diagnosed with a physical disability or a psychiatric disability (including mental illness or emotional condition) you may be eligible to train your dog as a Service Dog. Your dog will have to be trained to perform a task that supports you with a disability and be trained in good public manners.
While some disabilities may seem obvious, some are not as easily identified.
A person who suffers from PTSD may not show any signs or symptoms. When it is not obvious if a person is being accompanied by a pet or a Service Dog, the ADA outlines two questions that may be asked:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task is the dog trained to perform?
It is not permitted to ask about the type of disability a person has, or require any special identification.
Even though this is the law as described by the ADA, many businesses and landlords still ask for identification. Because of this misconception, many people with Service Dogs voluntarily identify their Service Animal with ID cards, vests, or other identifiers to avoid conflicts and questions in the first place.
If you or your doctor believe you would benefit from making your dog a Service Dog there are a few steps you need to take.
Start by evaluating your dog’s breed and temperament.
Every dog is different, and not all dogs will make good candidates for Service Dogs. Dogs that are highly trainable and have a calm demeanor will make the best trainees. This chart based on a 1988 study at the University of California gives us a starting point to evaluate from.
Dog breeds in the top left quadrant will make the best candidates to train as a Service Dog. But even with the genetic advantages, your dog needs to be well socialized, seek praise, and be a patient learner. It may surprise people to learn that pit bulls can make great service dogs. You can read more about pit bulls and other service dog breeds here.
Identify what task (or tasks) you need your Service Dog to support you with and make a training plan.
Depending on what disability you need support with, there are many organizations that train Service Dogs. The ADA does not officially recognize any one organization, so you don’t need to worry about getting the right certification. What’s important is finding a trainer or approach that works for you and your dog’s needs. According to the ADA any person may train their own Service Dog or hire a private trainer. Training your dog yourself (or with the help of a trainer at home) can be the most powerful way to bond with your dog.
Practice public manners and good behavior.
In addition to performing a task, to make your dog a Service Dog, they will need to be outstanding citizens. This means being calm and focused in public with no sniffing or barking unless this is part of their task. Your Service Dog should ignore other dogs and people and keep their attention on you. They should be able to tolerate sounds, crowds, and novel situations in public settings. Your Service Dog should be on their best behavior without needing treats or positive reinforcement while on duty. Lastly, they should only use the bathroom when instructed to do so.
If you’ve trained your dog to be Service Dog, the last step is to identify them as a Service Dog by registering them.
According to the ADA, there is no official or legal registration required to identify your dog as a Service Dog. As long as you have a disability and have trained your dog to complete a task that assists you with your disability, you have a legal Service Dog. Registering your dog with US Service Dog Certification proves to businesses, landlords, and individuals that you have confirmed in accordance with the ADA that your dog is a Service Dog.
Registering also provides proof of certification with our reverse lookup service using the unique registration ID number assigned to your Service Dog. This allows you to provide your registration ID to a landlord or business. They can then confirm the dog is registered to you as a Service Dog without further questions.
Once you have successfully identified your dog as a Service Dog, reasonable accommodations must be made for you.
Reasonable accommodations may mean allowing you and your dog in public spaces like restaurants or government buildings. It could also apply to housing, requiring a landlord to wave a pet deposit.
To voluntarily identify your dog as a Service Dog and obtain your digital certification immediately, register now.REGISTER NOW
If you believe your mental health would benefit from maintaining a dog, but you don’t have a diagnosed disability, or you are not able to train your dog to the standards of a Service Dog, you may consider registering your dog as an Emotional Support Animal. You can learn more about the different types of certifications here and choose the one that is right for you.