As a dog lover, you're probably already aware of the joy and comfort that come with being around dogs. However, aside from these benefits, there are actually dogs that can provide you with more than comfort. They are widely known as service dogs.
If you're thinking of turning your dog into a service dog, then here are a few things you need to keep in mind:
Assessing your dog
Your dog's breed, age and health condition need to be thoroughly assessed before he can be granted permission to be a service dog. Primarily, he needs to be neutered to lessen the chances of aggression or heat, in case your dog is a female. He also needs to be more than 6 months and very well over the puppy years.
In terms of health, your dog shouldn't have any health conditions that can put additional strain on him in case he becomes a service dog. These conditions include arthritis, obesity and diabetes.
Finding the right training program
Aside from signing up for a professional training service, there is the option to personally train your dog. If he will be rendering psychiatric services, it's recommended that you train your own dog to ensure the bond between the two of you. In case you decide to enroll him to a professional trainer, make it a point to involve yourself in the sessions. Leaving him alone with the trainer can disrupt his connection with you.
Training the dog
Generally speaking, it can take six months to two years before a dog fully masters the tasks of being a service dog. He must be trained to behave properly in public places and to respond based on his handler's disabilities. He should be able to accompany you wherever you go, without disrupting or annoying anyone.
Although there are no known strict obedience requirements, your dog should be able to skillfully respond to the following commands:
To prove your dog's capability as a service dog, he should be able to display good behaviors in public places. He should be able to urinate or relieve himself only on command. He shouldn't show any aggressive behaviors, such as growling or barking at other people. Your dog should also be able to contain his excitement once he's out with you. All of these behaviors should be documented properly, preferably in video format.
Certification and registration of service dogs vary from state to state. If you are unsure about the procedure in your area, it’s best if you can consult other service dog owners to get a clearer idea. Aside from this, there are also official services that can put your dog’s name in the national registry. Upon being placed on the registry, your dog will get a picture ID, a badge and a letter of certification. You can present the certificate and the badge to institutions that want to verify your dog’s status.
Before registration, it’s critical that you verify first the legitimacy of the service that will be handling your dog’s certification. Make sure that it's accredited by the Better Business Bureau and that there’s an actual customer service representative you can actually talk to.
In the Philippines? Try Dr. Dog Instead
Service dogs aren't as popular in the Philippines as it is in the United States and other foreign countries. Because they aren't that popular, getting your dog certified as a qualified service dog can be quite a challenge. As an alternative, however, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society is implementing a dog-assisted therapy program which can check out.
Requirements for enrolling your dog to the Dr. Dog program include:
- As an owner, you have to be at least 18 years old to volunteer your dog.
- Your dog must at least be 2 years old and has lived with you for at least 6 months before the examination.
- He must be healthy and de-sexed.
- He must also have basic obedience skills.
- Your dog should have updated vaccines and certifications as proof.
- He should have an outgoing personality and can adapt well to stress.