Do you plan on hiring a professional trainer, or will you train your dog yourself? Either way, your dog will need to pass the public access test and apply to get a service dog certification and registration.
If you’ve decided to take the matter into your own hands and attempt to train your service dog yourself, you need to fully comprehend the process and implement a strong training plan to achieve your goals.
The following steps will help you better understand the process needed for training your service dog:
Step 1: Determine Whether Your Dog Can Be a Service Dog
Ask yourself these questions to determine whether your pooch can be a service dog.
Is Your Dog Old/Young Enough To Start Training?
Experts recommend that your dog be over six months old. They also need to be neutered/spayed.
Alternatively, if you have an older dog, they might not be suitable for training. This also applies to dogs that suffer from certain medical conditions that prohibit them from being active.
Does Your Dog Get Distracted?
Your dog should have a relatively long attention span to handle the coaching process and shouldn’t get easily distracted.
How Does Your Dog Behave?
Basically, service dog training requires a highly intelligent and confident dog. If your dog isn’t calm and friendly around strangers or other dogs, it might not be a good candidate for training.
Being responsive and alert but not overactive is also a major qualifier. Even more important is being eager to please and willing to learn.
Is Your Dog Too Big Or Too Small?
Consider your dog’s size when thinking about training. If the person with disability needs bracing or help with balance, then a bigger breed will be better for the job.
Step 2: Start With The Basics
Expose your puppy to different environments, sounds and situations from as young as three weeks to teach them to socialize. Then, start with simple obedience commands such as sit, come, stay and heel.
Potty train your dog to “go” on command and only outdoors. Most importantly, train them to behave without the leash just as easily as with it on.
Step 3: Attention and Focusing
Service dogs should be attentive and maintain eye contact with their owner. Train your dog to focus on you at all times no matter what distractions are around.
Also, use treats whenever your dog keeps his full attention on you for a certain amount of time. Then, keep increasing the time for a longer attention span.
Step 4: Specialized Commands
This stage is when you’ll need to take your dog training one step further. This is the perfect time to specialize the commands you need the dog to follow based on the handler’s disability.
Consider using clicker training for this specific step along with treats and positive reinforcement.
After mastering the more complicated commands, your dog should be able to pass the PAT to assess its competency as a service dog.