How to Certify Your Service Dog?
Certifying your service dog is not mandatory by federal law. To this date, owners have the right to train their own service dog, provided that the dog's training meets certain requirements established by the ADA.
Some states, however, do require registration. Each state is different and some require all dogs to be registered and that will include service dogs.
There is no national service dog registry or certifying organization. The websites that will offer service dog vests and IDs to anyone who sends a picture of their dog are not legitimate and official organizations. As official as they may seem, they are businesses selling IDs and service dog gear. Here's an excerpt from the ADA website: "There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal...Mandatory registration of service animals is not permissible under the ADA. However, service animals are subject to the same licensing and vaccination rules that are applied to all dogs."
With so many people passing their pet dog as a service dog in order to take their dog in places where they are not generally allowed, the public has been sensitized and more skeptical of service dogs in general. This is even truer if you either have an invisible disability, such as diabetes, seizures or a psychiatric condition or if your dog is of a breed other than the typical labrador or golden retriever.
This situation has made it increasingly harder for legitimate service dog owners to take their dogs out in public without being scrutinized.
Generally, service dog organizations do not offer certification to any dog that they have not selected and trained themselves. Since we are amongst the very few organizations that offer service dog training lessons to dog owners who wish to train their pets as their service dog, we also know that there are great owner trained service dogs. We believe that those teams should have a way to get assessed and certified too.
We are experienced at assessing dogs and owners and make sure they meet all of the requirements established by ADA, but also by the service dog community.
We do not offer training or certification for Emotional Support Dogs or Therapy Dogs.
This service is for Service Dogs only.
What Will You Need to have Your Dog Certified?
If you are enrolled in one of our training programs, the certification will be given at the completion of the program. If we have never worked with you and your dog, you must first schedule an assessment with one of our trainers. During this assessment, you will need the following:
Proof of disability: a letter from your doctor.
Demonstrate that your dog has been trained to help with your disability. This means your dog should have at least one trained behavior for your disability.
Demonstrate that your dog has the training requirements to pass the Public Access Test as well at the Canine Good Citizen Test. As part of the assessment, you'll need to demonstrate:
That your dog stays right by your side and doesn't pull on the leash in a variety of situations;
That your dog can sit and lay down in a variety of situations;
Is overall well behaved, confident and at ease around public settings.
Comes when called.
Accepts petting by a stranger and is willing to stay with a stranger.
Stays under control around other dogs.
Is healthy and well-groomed.
For more details about the Public Access Test, please watch the video below. All behaviors will need to conform to our standards and must be performed without coercion (choke chains, prong collars or shock collars are not accepted).
What if your dog isn't ready to be certified?
What if you still need to work on some of the behaviors?
We offer private coaching that will focus on your specific needs. Our certified trainers will teach you all the obedience behaviors that you might need as well as the skills to help with your disability. Previous training experience can be beneficial, but only when your trainer is experienced in positive reinforcement as well as service dog training.
When you are ready, we'll schedule a time for you to pass our Public Access Test along with the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test. The Public Access Test is based on the one that was established by Assistance Dogs International and is a standard test that most service dog organizations use to measure the team's ability to safely navigate in public settings, without creating disturbance and problems to others.
After the Public Access Test, we will provide you with a picture ID and a signed certificate from our organization. The certificate is valid for a year.
The cost of the certification is $100.