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How to Certify Service Dogs

Updated on March 15, 2013
Service dogs must be well behaved in the public.
Service dogs must be well behaved in the public. | Source

Is Certification Required for Service Dogs?

While the average service dog is not required to brew a cup of coffee or read the newspaper headlines out loud, certification may help refine a dog's skills. You may find it surprising to learn that there are actually no certification requirements for service dogs, but some organizations nonetheless offer some types of certification that help your dog achieve higher levels of control and reliability. If you are interested in preparing and possibly getting some certificates that prove your service dog's training, this guide may be helpful for you.

Getting Your Dog Ready to Become a Service Dog

First and foremost, you must determine if you meet the legal definition of disability. In order to allow your dog to become a service dog, you must have a documented disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Delta Society. Also, your dog must be trained to perform tasks you are unable to because of your disability and must be under control at all times when in public without being disruptive. If you and your dog are near to meeting these requirements, then you are one step closer to preparing your dog for service dog training.

Next, you must train your dog to be well-behaved in the public and reliably respond to your commands. This is something that not all dog excel at as it requires a pretty stable, bomb-proof temperament A good place to start is preparing your dog for the Canine Good Citizenship test and earning certification. Afterward, you must train advanced skills such as performing specific tasks for you. These tasks will vary depending on your type of disability. This is best accomplished with the aid of a professional dog trainer specializing in training service dogs, and possibly though a reputable service dog organization.

A good service dog needs to be healthy, so you must ensure your dog meets the minimal health and physical requirements to be a service dog. Scruffy needs to be strong and healthy to be able to take good care of you and gain access to public areas where pets are not normally accepted. Have your veterinarian perform a basic physical exam on your dog and thorough health screening. Make sure all his jabs are up-to-date and that his stools are free from parasites.

Beware of businesses trying to sell fake certifications over the Internet. These scamming websites offer fake certificates, fake registrations, fake ID's and even fake vests or harnesses in exchange for a fee. Your dog will never be actually tested by such agencies and your disability will never be verified. If you are in doubt, a simple Internet search using the organization's name should reveal whether it is a legit company that actually trains service dogs, or merely a bogus company that issues fake certificates for a fee. This article by Service Dog's Central may be helpful for spotting fake certifications.

If you want to take your training a step further, prepare your dog for the Public Access Certification Test offered by Assistance Dogs International. The purpose of this test is to ensure that service dogs are stable and well-behaved in the public. The test entails several tasks that the dog and handler team must complete successfully. After passing the test, you will be issued a photo ID card certifying that your dog has been trained as a service dog for the disabled. While certification for service animals is not a requirement, some find it helpful to achieve better training for their dogs. These organizations that provide certification actually see and test the dogs; they are never offered online by simply paying a fee!

More and more dishonest people are taking advantage of the system to take their pet dogs along in places dogs are not normally accepted, since there is currently no federal requirement for service dogs to wear any specific gear or identification, and under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are not required to disclose the nature of your disability, but you may be asked to disclose exactly what tasks your dog performs for you. Passing a pet off as a service animal is a severe violation of federal law that may result in hefty fines and even imprisonment! Fake disabled people passing their pets as service dogs are sadly causing things to become more difficult for the truly disabled people!

*Note: often dogs with vests, ID's, tags, certification and loads of registration papers are a sign of fake service dogs since scamming companies make owners feel like all these items are needed so to increase credibility:(

Alexadry ©All rights reserved.

How to Certify a Service Dog or How to Scam the Disabled


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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      That was done for search engine purposes. People look for "how to certify service dogs" so by re-directing here, they get their facts straight. My hope is that this article will rank well in search engines so that it may surpass all those non-legit sites offering fake certifications. Thanks for stopping by.

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      candicenkiki 5 years ago

      While you state several times that it isn't a requirement it is confusing/possibly contradictory that the title of the article is Dog Training: How to Certify Service Dogs. Why put any emphasis on certifying when it is absolutely unnecessary for a legit SD team. While there are teams that are certified it doesn't make them any better than teams who are not certified.

      Well done, love the info in the article :)