• Can you register or certify my dog as a assistance dog?

In short, the websites that allow you to register your dog as a assistance dog for a fee with no training tests are a flat-out scam and do not actually make your dog a assistance dog. These websites are setting you up for breaking laws which can lead to bad publicity, fines, tickets and/or hefty fees and are hurting the assistance dog community. Blind, deaf, severely mentally and/or physically handicapped individuals are suffering because of this trend. Do not support these scammers.
If you are truly looking to have your dog trained, or to get placed with a fully trained assistance dog, some of our questions are going to be: Are you at least 12 years old? Do you need a assistance dog? Do you have a legal disability which requires a assistance dog? What tasks does your dog need to perform to mitigate your disability? For example, some tasks a assistance dog for an individual in a wheelchair would be pick up dropped items, retrieve items, open doors by pressing handicap buttons, turning on and off lights, etc. Next, do you have a dog that is fit for work as a assistance dog (reference our other FAQs)? If not, do you have or are you able to fundraise funds to get a fully-trained assistance dog (nation wide costs range from $6,000-20,000) with a general waiting list of 2-3 years. Are you prepared to spend a significant amount of money and time on your assistance dog? Are you ready to be constantly acknowledged in public locations? Are you ready to be present for and participate in a 14-day bootcamp, and participate in follow-up classes and annual recertification under our organization? These are questions to ask yourself and think about thoroughly. Ask another assistance dog handler about their experiences.

 

  • Can my dog be trained to become my service animal?

The answer is… sometimes.

We cannot stress the importance of selecting a suitable assistance dog candidate. A assistance dog candidate is focused, comfortable, friendly, well-behaved, not overly sensitive or excitable, and will be trained to accompany you in all of your daily activities in your home and in public. It is irresponsible and inhumane to work an unsuitable dog in which the job causes them undue stress.
Very few dogs actually have the temperament and health to become a assistance dog. We notice that dogs that have lived a good part of their lives as pets do not transfer well into a working life. Even dogs that with a long-standing line of assistance dogs with many years of selective breeding, raising, and training have a fail-out rate of around 75%! Programs that utilize shelter dogs evaluate hundreds of dogs before selecting one that may have what it takes. With shelter dogs, you have an unknown history in terms of health and temperament, so the fail-out rates are even higher than that of intentionally and well-bred assistance dogs.

 

Any breed has the potential to become a assistance dog, but some are better fit for certain jobs than others. More than often, retrievers are the best fit for most service work in our opinion. They have a friendly temperament bred to work well with humans and tend to have just the right amount of drive. If you have questions about a particular breed, we highly recommend speaking with an experienced assistance dog trainer to have them explain the pros and cons of the dog breeds you’re considering based off of the job or “tasks” the dog will need to perform to mitigate your disability.

 

Both male and females can equally become assistance dogs. Temperament and health of the individual dog is far more important than it being a boy or girl. Our recommendation is to begin assistance dog training as early as possible. Puppies as early as 10-weeks can begin assistance dog training. The sooner you make positive associations with all areas of environments- public, dogs, people, animals, vehicles, etc, the better the chances the dog will be comfortable with training in those environments, the more likely the dog will adjust in those experiences become a successful assistance dog. Most puppies are like a clean slate in which you can socialize the dog (before 16 weeks old) in the world he or she will be working in. The downside with puppies is that it can be hard to predict how their adult temperament and health will be at a young age. However, dog parents that have the temperament and health you are looking for will likely have offspring that will too. Dogs that have their American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen title or assistance dog training would be ideal parents for assistance dog candidates.
In short, the time, money, and effort you put forth in selecting your dog is the single most important thing you could do to ensure your success as a working assistance dog team. Considering all of the risks, we strongly suggest you go with a breeder with a history of successful assistance dogs in their blood lines and have an experienced assistance dog trainer temperament test the litter and select your dog. It is very important to not minimize the importance of the trainer having experience with assistance dog task training and public access work. assistance dogs require a very specific ability that regular dog trainers will not understand as much as one who works with assistance dogs particularly. Stack the odds in your favor!

  • What are some of the desirable traits that a assistance dog has?

Confident- assistance dogs do not exhibit overly fearful behaviors to sights and sounds the dog will encounter as a assistance dog. The dog should be relaxed in normal environments. Rbe dog should not cower, bark, flee, growl, spook, avoid or overreact to things like noises, objects, animals, vehicles, surfaces, machines, to name a few.

Tolerant and Friendly- assistance dogs behave in a friendly way to all living things, familiar and unfamiliar. Fear and aggression should never be displayed. The dog permit petting and handling and be polite during greetings.

Mannerly- assistance dogs should not display inappropriate behaviors. The dog should be fully house broken in all environments, and eliminate upon command.

Focused- assistance dogs should not be overly distracted by other dogs, people, animals, objects, etc. The dog should be able to listen to and obey the handler in all environments.

Resilient- assistance dogs should not be reactive or fall apart or shut down from the many unexpected events that can arise while working in public. The dog should recover quickly in all environments.

Assistance dogs encounter many novel and unexpected situations every day and should remain polite, under control, easy-going, and confident always. Dogs that do not are an added liability to you, and are putting you at risk for denial of access rights. If your dog is threatening or disruptive you can contribute to assistance dogs being scrutinized. assistance dogs are there to make their lives of individuals with disabilities easier, and bring them the ability to live independently. You never want to make their lives any harder than it already is.

 

  • Can I have other dogs that live at my home?

It depends on what work your assistance dog does and if your other dogs can co-exist peacefully with your assistance dog. Your pets should not interfere with the work of your assistance dog, and you should plan on being able to make sure all animals receive adequate training and exercise.

Many assistance dog programs will not allow placement with a fully trained service animal if you have pets. We do allow that, given it does not present major issues. Other species of pets such as cats can be a distraction to some of our dogs. If you have a cat and apply with us, it does not mean you will not ever get a dog, but instead, it may take more time for us to select a match that fits your needs, personality, and has the ability to live with other species.

 

  • Can I have a assistance dog if I do not have a backyard?

It depends on your ability to provide your dog with safe and proper exercise. We do not recommend dog parks as they are oftentimes full of untrained, poorly behaving pet dogs and sometimes, careless owners. No dog at the dog park has had the level of training your dog has. Besides that, there is tons of disease present in the grounds. Dogs that do not get the exercise they need develop behavioral issues that can fail a dog out of service work. It is not worth the loss of time, money, and effort put forth in getting your assistance dog.

Many assistance dog programs will not allow placement with a fully trained service animal if you do not have a house with a backyard. We do allow that, given it does not present major issues.

 

  • How do I select a assistance dog?

It is important to note that most programs will not take in dogs that an owner had selected.

We cannot stress the importance of selecting a suitable assistance dog candidate. An assistance dog candidate is focused, comfortable, friendly, well-behaved, not overly sensitive or excitable, and will be trained to accompany you in all of your daily activities in your home and in public. It is irresponsible and inhumane to work an unsuitable dog in which the job causes them undue stress.

Any breed has the potential to become a assistance dog, but some are better fit for certain jobs than others. More than often, retrievers are the best fit for most service work in our opinion. They have a friendly temperament bred to work well with humans and tend to have just the right amount of drive. If you have questions about a particular breed, we highly recommend speaking with an experienced assistance dog trainer to have them explain the pros and cons of the dog breeds you’re considering based off of the job or “tasks” the dog will need to perform to mitigate your disability.

A well bred dog is not cheap, but is well worth the investment. Do not go with a irresponsible or “backyard” breeder, and do not go with a pet store or “puppy mill.” Be very careful of where you get your assistance dog candidate from. Make sure the dogs are being raised in a well-kept home. Both parents should have been DNA tested for breed-specific genetic issues, and have passing OFA hips, elbows, heart, and eyes. It is a great idea to meet the sire and dam of the litter and see what socialization and training the breeder has already given the litter.  Ask to view the contract prior to the purchase or deposit, and see if they have a health guarantee. You should not get your puppy from the breeder prior to 8-weeks old.

Both male and females can equally become assistance dogs. Temperament and health of the individual dog is far more important than it being a boy or girl. Our recommendation is to begin assistance dog training as early as possible. Puppies as early as 10-weeks can begin training. The sooner you make positive associations with all areas of environments- public, dogs, people, animals, vehicles, etc, the better the chances the dog will be comfortable with training in those environments, the more likely the dog will become a successful assistance dog. Puppies are like a clean slate in which you can socialize the dog (before 16 weeks old) in the world he or she will be working in. The downside with puppies is that it can be hard to predict how their adult temperament and health will be at a young age. However, dog parents that have the temperament and health you are looking for will likely have offspring that will too. Dogs that have their American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen title or assistance dog training would be ideal parents for assistance dog candidates.
Very few dogs actually have the temperament and health to become a assistance dog. We notice that dogs that have lived a good part of their lives as pets do not transfer well into a working life. Even dogs that with a long-standing line of assistance dogs with many years of selective breeding, raising, and training have a fail-out rate of around 75%! Programs that utilize shelter dogs evaluate hundreds of dogs before selecting one that may have what it takes. With shelter dogs, you have an unknown history in terms of health and temperament, so the fail-out rates are even higher than that of intentionally and well-bred assistance dogs.
In short, the time, money, and effort you put forth in selecting your dog is the single most important thing you could do to ensure your success as a working assistance dog team. Considering all of the risks, we strongly suggest you go with a breeder with a history of successful assistance dogs in their blood lines and have an experienced assistance dog trainer temperament test the litter and select your dog. It is very important to not minimize the importance of the trainer having experience with assistance dog task training and public access work. assistance dogs require a very specific ability that regular dog trainers will not understand as much as one who works with assistance dogs particularly. Stack the odds in your favor!