For those who benefit from physical, emotional, or medical assistance throughout daily life, a properly trained service dog can be an incredible asset. Not every animal is qualified to become a service dog, as service dogs must offer a combination of the proper temperament to serve, the acute skills to perform tasks for their owners, and the ability to complete the rigors of service dog training. Service dog training is intense, but it's critical for dogs to confidently perform the desired tasks and aid their owners with potentially life-saving skills.
But what is involved in the proper training of a service dog? Service dog registration doesn't necessarily qualify a dog to perform the role of a service animal, as both dog and owner must be confident in the animal's ability to perform. There are many questions that the average person may have regarding service animal training, such as how much it costs and what role the owner must play in the training regimen. Keep reading to learn more about the training of service dogs.
While the average dog obedience class may be completed in a matter of weeks, service dog training requires a greater depth of knowledge and a far more rigorous training schedule. After all, for many who depend on service animals, a dog's ability to consistently perform can mean the difference between life and death. While there's no set time for service dog training, the training window can typically last between one and two years, depending on the aptitude of the animal and the types of tasks it's being trained to perform.
There are two primary components within the service dog training regimen. Those two components are public access behaviors and work and tasks. Public access behaviors are important because they allow your dog to be steady and perform its designated tasks, no matter the situation or environment. For example, your dog must be able to perform in a quiet library or a noisy crowd with equal aplomb. Also, your dog must be able to behave itself well in public to avoid being removed from venues. The second half of the training equation is work and tasks. Those terms refer to the specific tasks your service dog will be trained to perform on your behalf. In other words, work and tasks are the disability-mitigating functions that the dog performs for you. Work and tasks also are important because they distinguish service dogs from emotional support animals and non-service animals. That is the component that qualifies a service dog owner for protections against discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Because of the depth of training that a service dog must undergo, the costs of acquiring a service dog can be quite high, whether you purchase an appropriate dog, and have it trained or buy a pre-trained dog from a service dog program. When comparing the two options, it's important to note the cost of preliminary veterinary care, the cost of the dog, and the cost to feed and outfit your animal. However, the training costs themselves can range from $1000 to $2000 depending on the length of training and the range of tasks the dog is being trained to perform.
While a service dog is usually trained by a professional or service dog program, there is a role that must be played by the service dog owner. For many tasks, it's important that the service dog is in tune with your medical and mental state, which means it must spend time with you to learn your baseline emotional or physiological state. During training, your dog will be attentive and more likely to absorb those cues, which is why it's important that the owner is accessible to the dog during the training process.
Whether you plan to train or buy a service dog, it's important that you understand the role played by the owner in training, the associated costs, the length of training, and what is involved with the program. To learn more about service dog training, contact the National Service Animal Registry at (866) 737-3930.