Knallhart Working Dogs

Service Dog Facts

 
 

Here at Knallhart we receive many submissions asking about out elite service dog training, costs, and processes. We have tried to compile the most frequently asked questions with answers to help our clients better understand the basics. If your question is not answered by reading this page please do not hesitate to contact us. We hope this helps, and we look forward to working with you very soon. 

We are a member and proudly support Psychiatric Service Dog Partners

We are a member and proudly support Psychiatric Service Dog Partners

The most frequently asked questions we receive are ... 

How much does service dog training cost?

What’s the service dog training process?

What are “work and tasks” in service dog training?

What are work and tasks?

What obedience skills should my dog have?

Why is it important that my service dog behaves appropriately?

 
 

1. How much does service dog training cost if i get a puppy?

One of the beauties about getting your service dog trained at Knallhart Academy is that we work with our clients and set up a payment plans that your family can afford.  The large majority of training companies require 100% payment up front and we do not. We just ask that our clients make a payment on their bill once a month and can continuing making payments long after the dog as gone home from training. Our focus is working with our clients to make this process as least stressful as possible. 

When planning your puppy purchase as service dog prospect it is important to use a qualified, well respected breeder.  Puppies from these breeders can cost upwards of $1000 so do your research and know your upfront investment.

A trip to get the puppy will run the cost of fuel and other travel expenses. If you request that Knallhart be involved in assisting you in choosing a puppy at the breeder’s location,  fuel to and from the breeder will be charged as well as our regular hourly rate.

In addition to the cost of acquiring the puppy count on costs*( for regular maintenance such as grooming, food, vaccines, spay/neuter, etc. Grooming performed by a professional groomer can cost approximately $50 every 1-2 months for hair trimming, bath, etc. Good quality food costs approximately $40-$60 per month. Vaccines and spay neuter will likely cost around $400 or more depending on the veterinarian chosen. Any other necessary veterinary costs are subject to their own expense such as if the puppy hurts itself or gets sick. Other expenses, such as a crate, toys, dishes, collar, leash, flea and tick treatment, brushes, de-wormer, etc., will be incidental costs . Note that a crate alone will cost about $100.  These costs can vary widely and come part and parcel with owning any dog.

Hello Puppy!  Now What?

Service dogs require intensive training and socialization from the outset. To achieve the level of training needed to become a service dog it is required that your puppy spend at least one month as a Basic Board and Training student. Board and Training is where the puppy is kept at Knallhart Academy for one month, is $2,000. If you choose, you may have the puppy Board and Train for two months at a discounted rate of $3,500. This training will provide basic training including potty training, socialization, manner cues, such as sit, down, stay, etc., and a foundation for your puppy’s specialized service training.

After, the puppy will goes to its home and begin the bonding phase with the owner. During this time it will be vital for the handler to work on the basic obedience skills that the puppy had learned during it's time at the academy. This phase typically lasts until the puppy is at least 6-8months of age. 

At the point the puppy has reach 6-8months it will be necessary for the puppy to learn the service specific service related behaviors and to prepare the puppy for public access training/certification. The most cost and time effective way is to send the puppy back for the completion of the training. This phase typically takes an additional 2-6 months depending on the service specific training requested. 

--8 weeks (2 months) to 4 months in age : Boarding and Training at Knallhart Academy -- $3,500

--6 months to  8months- 1 year -- $3,500 - $10,500

= baseline total for training only $7,000 - $13,500

 

Wow, We Made it, Now what?

Once the dog has obtained its Canine Good Citizen Certification and Public Access Certification through a Knallhart accredited service animal registry we will schedule regular maintenance training. We generally spend between 1-3 hours training each month, although this is dependent on the needs of the home and the individuals. It is also worth mentioning that Knallhart provides basic boarding and board and training in the event that the dog needs behavior modification or specialty training. This is also an option for owners should they need to go to the hospital before the dog is ready for that.

At the end of this intense training program your dog will need to be registered with the service animal registry and you will need to purchase a service dog vest so members of the community can identify them as something other than a pet.

How the Costs Shake Out 

All in all the cost of service dog training can vary from $7000, which includes training them to perform basic tasks, to $20,000 for more intensive training. As an example the average cost of training a dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind runs about $30,000 – fortunately their clients are not charged this full amount. Cost is dependent on the needs of the individual who requires the dog.

Please note that when we reach the stage of training very specific tasks it is important to get a prescription from your physician that describes which tasks should be performed by the dog.

In terms of total time, from acquiring the puppy to owning a working service dog with public access certification, is generally around 1 year of age, however this  depends on the dog and its training needs. The remainder of its training should be complete by around 18 months of age. All dogs will need some level of ongoing maintenance training. The beauty with this intensive up-front training is that it gets the dog trained early and quickly. After the first 18 months, or so, the costs taper off to only maintenance.

On a Final Note

Other cost considerations would be fees associated with exercising the dog. Often clients with physical limitations chose to hire a dog walker or purchase a treadmill so the dog can get adequate exercise. Service dogs require exercise to be balanced and in good shape so they can perform their duties.

Service dogs play an incredibly important role for their owners.  Their work helps to increase both independence and safety for their owners. As you have learned, training a service dog is more than just teaching appropriate cueing and taking a few extra lessons; service dog development is an investment.  I look forward to helping you as you look to training your own service dog. Our goal is to get them started on the right foot so they can provide years of successful service.

* Please note that the costs noted in this article are only general estimates and your particular costs will vary. You may check with your insurance company to see if some or all of the costs can be reimbursed. We do not bill insurance, you will need to pay us directly and get reimbursed if there is any coverage available to you. 

 
 

2. What is the service dog training Process?

The process varies for each different dog that comes into our program. Depending on age, amount of previous training, expectations/ needs of the handler, etc. the process can great vary. The main requirements for certification in our service dog program is that the dog passes four different tests and that they are registered through a national registry.  The tests include:

AKC's Canine Good Citizen

AKC's Canine Good Citizen Advance

AKC's Canine Good Citizen Urban 

ADA's Public Access Test

There are some dogs that are able to pass these tests within a months worth of time, and if they have the previous training needed for their service dog work, their training and certification can be completed very quickly.

 
 

 

3. What skills does my service dog need to have in order to be certified?

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) interprets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to require that service dog training includes work or tasks to mitigate the user’s disability. DOJ does not clearly distinguish between work and tasks—nor do they need to.

Within our community, tasks are disability-mitigating responses to cues that are intentionally given, for example, getting a bottle of water from the fridge or turning on a lightswitch when asked. Work includes passively-available trained behaviors that are offered by the dog in response to changes in the person or their environment, without the handler intentionally giving the cue. Examples include alerting the handler to a panic attack or to an alarm the handler doesn’t hear.

This service dog task list details work and task items for psychiatric service dogs. Such a psychiatric service dog task list shows the wide range of services a psychiatric service dog may offer, and can help current and future psychiatric service dog users decide what your dog can do to help!

 
Picture1.png
 
 
 

 

This list is not intended to be comprehensive or definitive as a service dog task list, but is merely a guide regarding what a service might be trained to do for someone with a psychiatric disability. Each individual has different needs that might be fulfilled in a variety of ways, and each dog has its unique capabilities and challenges.

Many behavior types are listed as “Work or task” because their instances can be cued either by intentional commands (with tasks) or non-intentionally by something else in the environment or person’s body (with work). Theoretically, whether an assistance occurrence is work or is a task could be unclear; see PSDP’s work and task articles for more information. Regardless of the work/task distinction, what actually matters is the person is getting needed assistance for their disability.

For more from the Department of Justice regarding work and tasks in service animals, scroll down to ‘Doing “work” or “performing tasks.”’ under the “Service Animal” definition in the DOJ’s 2010 Guidance on ADA revisions regarding Title II of the ADA:

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&SID=1fcb95e0991fa49ff719bbe362cdddc1&ty=HTML&h=L&r=APPENDIX&n=28y1.0.1.1.36.7.32.3.11

 

4. What obedience skills should my dog have?

While there are no obedience requirements for service dog training according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (with the exception of being housebroken), PSDP believes your dog should be able to reliably perform the following basic commands:

• Stay
• Wait
• Sit, sit/stay
• Down, down/stay
• Come, recall
• Leave-it
• Heel
• Look/focus on handler

We recommend the assistance of a professional to help teams evaluate their progress and to move along at a tailored rate that keeps the training under threshold for what the dog can handle. In addition to training basic obedience skills, a service dog prospect should be trained roughly to the standards of the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test—the dog should be well-enough behaved to continue its training in public—before being considered a service dog in training. In this training, it is essential that a prospect not be taken out in a manner that exceeds the team’s limits of housetraining (“housebreaking”/”potty training”), training, or stimulus recovery.

The American Kennel Club’s CGC page provides specifics on the CGC test:

https://www.akc.org/dogowner/training/canine_good_citizen/

Before graduating your service dog to full service dog status, we recommend taking a public access test (PAT) and getting video evidence of your dog performing it. While most service dog handlers will never need to go to court over an access challenge (politely educating a challenging gatekeeper will almost always prevents this), it is wise to be prepared by having clear records of your dog’s training, just in case you are forced to be in a court case.

5. Service Dog Laws

What are the service dog laws? What’s the difference between a psychiatric service dog and an emotional support animal (ESA)? What’s the difference between a psychiatric service dog and a therapy dog?

PSDP answers these common questions about both service dogs and related laws, and more! These answers are given in the context of United States laws, unless otherwise noted.

For accessibility, there are no drop-downs or internal hyperlinks in this FAQ. Instead, the questions are collected at the top, then listed again with their answers.

There are many answers that contain links to resources for those who would like to know more. Some of these links are to external websites, for which PSDP is not responsible.

• What is a service dog?
• What does the Americans with Disabilities Act say about the use of service dogs?
• How can my business ensure compliance with service dog access laws?
• What about others’ allergies and fears?
• What is a service dog in training?
• What is an emotional support animal?
• What is a therapy dog?
• How might my dog be covered in housing situations?
• How can I fly with a psychiatric service dog?
• Do I need a doctor’s letter to be accompanied by a psychiatric service dog?
• How many work or task items do I have to teach my dog for it to be a “real” service dog?

 

What is a service dog?

A service dog can be looked at as a living, breathing assistive device for someone with a disability. Service dogs are sometimes compared to wheelchairs in their ability to help their disabled partners live more independent lives. Since service dogs are not primarily kept for companionship, they are not considered pets.

The Americans with Disabilities Act essentially requires three things for a dog to be a service dog. First, the person helped must have a life-limiting disability. Second, the dog must be trained to recognize and respond to the handler’s disability by doing either work or tasks. Third, the dog must not cause a disruption in public, otherwise the dog can be legally excluded. Service dogs must be both housebroken and leashed (except when the dog needs to be off-leash to provide disability-related work or tasks).

In July of 2015, the Department of Justice released an excellent nine-page FAQ document about service animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). PSDP recommends you investigate this document if you have specific questions that aren’t answered here. We believe this printable (pdf) resource is consistent with the information PSDP provides, reflecting case law developments in recent years, and is available both on our site and directly on the ADA site:

DOJ Service Animal FAQ July 2015 Revised

http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.pdf

For more information on a basic level, see the Department of Justice’s three-page overview of service animals based on their 2010 updates to the ADA regulations:

http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

Those interested in the regulations themselves can see the definition of “service animal” in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 28, Part 35, §35.104, by scrolling down to that term on the following page:

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=2ab2aab2d3d2fd0f544a5ce7aad8f04c&rgn=div5&view=text&node=28:1.0.1.1.36&idno=28#28:1.0.1.1.36.1.32.4

 

What does the Americans with Disabilities Act say about the use of service dogs?*

Service dogs are generally allowed with their disabled users wherever the general public is allowed. This includes grocery stores, theaters, restaurants, non-sterile hospital areas, and public transportation. In addition to these rights, service dog handlers have the responsibility to make sure their service dogs are housebroken and otherwise under control.

Public entities cannot be held responsible for the care or supervision of service dogs, and can ask that an animal, service dog or not, be removed if its actions cause a disturbance (repeated barking in a library, aggressive behavior, etc.).

Service dogs are not considered the same as pets. A service dog user cannot be charged extra fees to engage in an activity any other individual without a pet would not be charged for (assuming the service dog does not somehow cause property damage).

If it is obvious a service dog is acting as a service dog, users should not have challenges to their access. If a dog’s service dog status is not obvious, a business cannot ask about a person’s disability or require work or task performance or documentation of any kind, but may ask only two questions to figure out whether the dog is a service dog:

(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

For much more detailed information on service dog access under federal law, see CFR Title 28 §35.136 (this falls under Title II of the ADA, pertaining to state and local government services):

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=2ab2aab2d3d2fd0f544a5ce7aad8f04c&rgn=div5&view=text&node=28:1.0.1.1.36&idno=28#28:1.0.1.1.36.2.32.7

As well as part (c) of CFR Title 28 §36.302 (under Title III of the ADA, pertaining to places of public accommodation):

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&SID=1fcb95e0991fa49ff719bbe362cdddc1&ty=HTML&h=L&n=28y1.0.1.1.37&r=PART#28:1.0.1.1.37.3.32.2

For an extensive Department of Justice analysis of controversial subjects pertaining to service animals, scroll down to “Section 35.136   Service animals.” in DOJ’s 2010 Guidance on ADA revisions regarding Title II of the ADA:

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&SID=1fcb95e0991fa49ff719bbe362cdddc1&ty=HTML&h=L&r=APPENDIX&n=28y1.0.1.1.36.7.32.3.11

In the same vein, scroll to ‘“Service Animal”’ for DOJ’s discussion under Title III of the ADA:

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&SID=1fcb95e0991fa49ff719bbe362cdddc1&ty=HTML&h=L&r=APPENDIX&n=28y1.0.1.1.37.6.32.8.13

*Note that technically, the ADA itself (an act or law) says nothing about service dogs. We follow convention here in describing DOJ’s regulations that separately implement the ADA as the ADA itself. Each regulatory agency affected by the ADA can enact different regulations to implement the ADA in places or situations under that agency’s control, but DOJ is the agency with the broadest jurisdiction regarding service dogs.

 

How can my business ensure compliance with service dog access laws?

While PSDP offers many resources to educate the general public, managers of businesses and other places of public accommodation can find targeted support on the portion of our website dedicated to the interests of business operators:

http://www.psychdogpartners.org/business

We offer a free, easy-to-understand, one-page gatekeeper (employee) guide and suggestions for its use. In addition, we have a webpage within our business section devoted to making staff training easy, fun, and lasting.

The use of service dogs is on the rise, so the average business is increasingly likely to have customers with service dogs. Prepare your business before any issue arises, avoiding costly problems other businesses have endured—including bad publicity!

 

What about others’ allergies and fears?

Allergies and fears (of dogs) may rise to the level of disability, although they commonly do not. Non-disabling allergies and fears are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This does not mean they do not deserve polite treatment whenever possible, regardless of the law.

When allergies or fears rise to the level of disability, people with these conditions merit reasonable accommodation under the ADA, just like those with disabilities who use service dogs. Usually, both parties can be accommodated in a location by staying away from one another. What exactly is reasonable depends largely on the specifics of the situation, but a little respect and empathy on both sides go a long way.

For a deeper exploration with illustrating examples lifted from a service animal user’s experiences, see Dr. Veronica Morris’s article on “Allergies and Fear of Service Dogs”:

Allergies and Fear of Service Dogs

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) speaks to allergies and fears in the second bullet point of a short 2011 document on service animals:

https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

 

What is a service dog in training?

Before a dog can become a service dog, it must undergo a lot of training; this can be done by the owner (professional assistance is strongly recommended) or by a professional (an independent trainer, or within a program). We typically consider a dog to be a service dog in training only after it has undergone basic socialization, housetraining (“potty training”), basic obedience training, and training roughly to the point at which it could pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test. The essential idea is that the dog must reliably be able to safely be in public (pets-prohibited places) for its training, while keeping the training and stimulus recovery under threshold for each member of the team.

If the dog remains a good candidate for service work after this point, and there is a plan being executed for the dog to be trained for good public behavior and to help deal with someone’s disability, the dog can be considered a service dog in training. Generally, we do not consider it good practice to call a dog a “service dog in training” before this point, even if the plan is for the dog to become a service dog.

It takes about 1–2 years to train a service dog. During that time, the Americans with Disabilities Act (a federal law) does not apply. Instead you may be covered by state laws. Every state has a different law regarding service dogs and service dogs in training, and some have no regulations.

Read your state law to find out what types of disabilities are covered, and to see if you must get a special license or tag to be covered for service dog in training access. The law that gives greater access to the disabled person is the one that prevails. Other countries may have different laws, and it is a good idea to consult with a disability law organization in your area to learn which laws are applicable to service dogs in your nation/municipality.

To search for United States state-level, animal-related laws for a particular state, see:

http://www.animallaw.com/Laws.cfm

 

What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal is a pet that provides disability-relieving emotional support to an individual, but is not necessarily trained to do so. Unlike with service dogs, service dog laws do not allow emotional support animals (ESAs) to go out in public to places dogs are normally prohibited. ESA owners do have certain legal rights in housing situations and when flying, though ESAs are supposed to be public access trained for flight access.

Emotional support animals can be important residential companions for people with disabilities ESAs can mitigate. Some may even have the temperament to undergo the training needed to work as a psychiatric service dog.

However, Psychiatric Service Dog Partners is focused on service dogs and those dogs being trained to work as service dogs. These are trained both for public access and to do work or tasks to mitigate psychiatric disabilities.

To find out more about emotional support animals and how they are covered under United States laws, see:

http://www.animallaw.info/articles/qvusemotionalsupportFAQ.htm

 

What is a therapy dog?

Unlike a service dog, a therapy dog is a pet trained to interact with many people other than its handler to make those people feel better. Therapy dogs are also trained to behave safely around all sorts of people, and are often certified.

A therapy dog handler is not given public access rights by any service dog laws to take the dog out everywhere like service dog users, because the handler does not have a disability the dog is individually trained to mitigate. Therapy dogs are only allowed into places like hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and libraries by prior agreement (again, not by service dog laws).

PSDP cautions against using a dog as both a service dog and therapy dog in most cases. This is both to ensure the dog has adequate downtime, preventing physical and mental burnout, and because service dogs are trained to ignore other people—the opposite of therapy dogs.

https://www.therapydogs.com/Public/Home.aspx

http://www.tdi-dog.org

 

How might my dog be covered in housing situations?

The law that covers access in housing situations for both service animals and emotional support animals is the Fair Housing Act (FHAct). The agency responsible for FHAct regulations is the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD uses “assistance animal” roughly as an umbrella term for service animals and emotional support animals. In many housing situations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504” or “the Rehab Act”) also apply.

Service dogs are generally allowed to live in no-pet housing, with minor exceptions (see the regulations linked below). Users do not have to pay pet-related fees, barring damage to the domicile.

If your housing is not covered by the ADA or your dog is not yet a (full) service dog, your landlord can request proof that you have a disability and thus need the help of an assistance animal (unless your disability and need for the dog is apparent or known). This proof is usually accomplished with a letter from your doctor. Many housing facilities are covered by the ADA (see the linked document below). In those facilities, the housing provider may only require answers to the standard two ADA questions if you have a service dog and an inconspicuous disability (and they don’t know your disability status). For these questions, see above: “What does the Americans with Disabilities Act say about the use of service dogs?”.

Emotional support animals, which are NOT the same as psychiatric service dogs (see above), are also allowed in housing situations. Psychiatric service dogs in training may fit the “emotional support animal” definition and live in no-pet housing without extra fees, if they provide emotional support that helps relieve a person’s disability.

For more information about United States laws that cover housing situations, consult this HUD Assistance Animals 2013 document from the Department of Housing and Urban Development:

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=servanimals_ntcfheo2013-01.pdf

For the regulations about which housing providers do not have to comply with the FHAct, see 24 CFR §100.10(c):

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=78a3492597cf4c6e185484c5dfdb485b&mc=true&node=se24.1.100_110&rgn=div8

 

How can I fly with a psychiatric service dog?

When flying, you are no longer covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Instead you are covered under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Various laws affect access in airports, but generally the ADA regulations apply there.

If a passenger is traveling with a service dog exclusively for a psychiatric disability, the passenger can be required to provide a detailed letter stating the handler has a disability and needs the assistance of the animal during the flight or at their destination. Such a letter can also be required of passengers traveling with emotional support animals, which are different (see above).

Passengers with service dogs that are not exclusively used to mitigate a psychiatric disability can fly without any documentation.* This discrimination is something PSDP is working to fix!

Scroll to the second page of the following document to read the United States Department of Transportation’s “Policy Guidance Concerning Service Animals in Air Transportation” from 2003:

http://www.dot.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/20030509_0.pdf

Section 382.117 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations provides current regulations (not necessarily policy) regarding air carriers’ obligations toward service animal users:

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=cd15d6bd57f5c6f2e96a117c5a700e61&node=14:4.0.1.4.65.8.24.4&rgn=div8

*Note that Hawaii has its own special requirements regarding the entry of any animal, in order to protect its isolated ecosystem. It is especially important to research current requirements well in advance of travel.

 

Do I need a doctor’s letter to be accompanied by a psychiatric service dog?

Service dog laws do not require you to have a doctor’s letter when going out to public places with a psychiatric service dog. However, you can be required to give situation-specific letters for housing, flying, and the workplace.

It is also a good idea to have a doctor’s letter for your files, so that if you have to go to court, you have proof that your doctor has been supportive. What the letter should say depends on the purpose of the letter; be sure to read the laws concerning the type of letter you want.

For more background information on letter-writing, see “What Every Psychologist Should Know About Writing Letters for Patients with Service Animals” at the following address:

http://doglawreporter.blogspot.com/2013/02/what-every-psychologist-should-know.html

For information on service dogs laws and service dogs in the workplace, explore the resources of the Job Accommodation Network:

http://askjan.org/topics/servanim.htm

 

How many work or task items do I have to teach my dog for it to be a “real” service dog?

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) only requires that your dog be trained to do one work or task item to help with your disability. There is some confusion in the service dog community because people sometimes confuse an organization’s or school’s internal requirements with the law.

For more information, see our extended answer to this question in our “Work & Tasks” resource page, where we cite several DOJ resources:

http://www.psychdogpartners.org/resources/work-tasks/number-of-tasks

 

6. Choosing a Service dog Prospect

Do you have questions like “Should I get a service dog?”, “Do I owner-train my service dog?”, or “Is protection a service dog task?” PSDP answers these common questions (and more!) that you might have when thinking about choosing a service dog prospect.

For accessibility, there are no drop-downs or internal hyperlinks in this FAQ. Instead, the questions are collected at the top, then listed again with their answers.

There are many answers that contain links to resources for those who would like to know more. Some of these links are to external websites, for which PSDP is not responsible.

• Should I get a service dog?
• Do I train my own dog or get a dog from a program?
• How do I choose a service dog prospect?
• Is aggression (or “protection”) toward people or animals ever acceptable?
• What do people in the service dog community mean by “setting yourself up for success”?
• What’s the typical profile of a successful psychiatric service dog user?

 

Should I get a service dog?

Not everyone with a disability is a good candidate for a service dog.

Foremost, you have to be able to take care of your dog’s needs, physically, mentally, and monetarily. You should thoroughly investigate the typical needs of any breed you consider. Taking care of your dog’s needs includes being able to take care of your dog’s exercise needs, mental stimulation, emergency vet bills, etc.

Also, you have to not mind being “outed” as someone with a disability by having a service dog. You may encounter resistance from friends and family members who hope that you will just “get better” without a long-term solution.

You have a distinct advantage if you have dog training experience, but having a service dog requires a significant amount of dedication beyond what a pet dog requires. While service dogs are assistive devices in a sense, they are far from disposable medical devices.

If you can handle these aspects of a service dog lifestyle, you may be prepared for the great benefits a service dog can offer. A service dog can help with your disability in a way that no other method of assistance can.

In addition to the particular disability-mitigating work or tasks a psychiatric service dog can do to help you, having a psychiatric service dog can help you understand your mental illness, stand up for yourself in public, and facilitate interpersonal interactions by deflecting social pressure. These animals are the reason why our slogan is “Dogs Saving Lives”!

See our “Getting Started” section for more information:

http://www.psychdogpartners.org/resources/getting-a-dog

 

How do I choose a service dog prospect?

It is important to realize that choosing the right dog to start with is of paramount importance—this cannot be stressed enough! PSDP has several resources you can use to pick the right dog. In addition to our free peer guidance group, PSDP has excellent resources on choosing the right service dog prospect.

It is essential to consult these resources before you begin your journey. You cannot afford to take this part of the process lightly.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and there are many mistakes others have made that you can learn to avoid. It’s a years-long commitment, so take your time, and put every effort you can into choosing the right dog for you.

 

Is aggression (or “protection”) toward people or animals ever acceptable?

No! Aggression toward people or animals, whether trained or unintentional, is NEVER acceptable in service dogs. An individual dog with aggressive tendencies should not be considered as a service dog prospect.

A dog does not have to actually have bitten or harmed a person or other animal for it to have aggressive tendencies. Behaviors such as growling and lip-curling are indications of aggression, and should be avoided in prospects.

A person with a disability has the great privilege of having the option to use a service dog to enable them to engage with the world in spite of significant life-limiting challenges. With this unique privilege comes a very serious responsibility to the public; service dog handlers must reasonably minimize risks to the public resulting from their use of a service dog.

This includes regular bathing and grooming to reduce allergens, public access training for controlled and safe behavior, and accommodating those with dog phobias by maintaining distance when reasonable. Above all, minimizing risks to the public means not taking out a dog that presents a risk of causing physical harm to others, including medical personnel in an emergency.

There are certain assistive behaviors referred to as “non-violent protection”. This includes work such as (non-aggressively) maintaining distance between the handler and other people by alerting the handler to the approach of a person from behind the handler, such as by a nose nudge or paw on the handler’s leg. Such behaviors that are entirely non-violent are acceptable.

Having a dog so that others are afraid to approach is not accepted as an assistive behavior, regardless of whether the dog has aggressive tendencies. While having a non-aggressive service dog that happens to look scary to others is legal, we do not recommend choosing a service dog on the basis of its looking scary. Having a dog whose looks frighten people tends to result in more frequent and severe access challenges, which works against many handlers’ goal of having a service dog to reduce the frequency and severity of their mental illness symptoms.

See our Public Access Standard for information on the types of behaviors that are unacceptable in service dogs:

http://www.psychdogpartners.org/resources/public-access/public-access-standard

For more from the Department of Justice regarding protection work in service animals, scroll down to “Providing minimal protection” under the “Service animal” definition in the DOJ’s 2010 Guidance on ADA regulatory revisions regarding Title II of the ADA:

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&SID=1fcb95e0991fa49ff719bbe362cdddc1&ty=HTML&h=L&r=APPENDIX&n=28y1.0.1.1.36.7.32.3.11

 

What do people in the service dog community mean by “setting yourself up for success”?

When we say “set yourself up for success”, we mean you should choose a service dog prospect that is most likely to succeed in becoming a service dog, with the least chance of failure.

This means choosing a dog that has the temperament and (genetic) history so you have a dog that is highly suited for acceptable public access behavior and likely to perform the work or tasks you need to assist with your disability. If you do not choose a good breed to suit you, breeder, puppy or adult dog candidate for you, or the right trainer, or engage in proper socialization work and training techniques, you risk wasting your time, money, and energy, and may suffer a great deal of heartache.

There are many aspects to setting yourself up for success. Be careful to choose a breed and dog candidate that matches your energy level and training ability. Be sure to do the proper research into breeders before purchasing a dog.

Start out with a “middle of the road” dog—not overly sensitive, and not too aloof—temperament tests are essential! The Volhard temperament test can help predict a dog’s personality. It is not specific to service dog prospects, but a general test for choosing a puppy. For service dog prospects, we recommend mostly 4s on the Volhard temperament test; also, read Tracey Martin’s articles in our “Getting Started” section about how to pick a prospect.

Also, it is never too early to start learning about training, and to start training your dog. Training never ends, and a solid foundation is key. Be sure not to overdo it: “slow is fast”! Keep your dog engaged with short, rewarding training sessions, and be sure to expose your dog to appropriate stimuli so it becomes accustomed to various experiences.

For more information on how to start out with the best prospect, see:

http://www.psychdogpartners.org/resources/getting-a-dog

 

What’s the typical profile of a successful psychiatric service dog user?

A psychiatric service dog is a long-term commitment for disability mitigation, requiring hands-on training and the right dog. Most people make mistakes, but those who tend to minimize their mistakes and set themselves up for success often have certain histories and personality traits.

Successful psychiatric service dog users tend to have sincerely tried other mental health remedies for years, are self-advocates who pursue the learning necessary to improve (including seeking help from others), are animal lovers, and are prepared for the practicalities and expenses of a service dog journey.

For details, see our short article on “10 Traits of Successful Psychiatric Service Dog Users”:

http://www.psychdogpartners.org/resources/getting-a-dog/10-traits-of-success-psychiatric-service-dog-users