While you may be familiar with service dogs, you may not know the type of training they go through to become one. Service dog training includes various areas of study and can take a lengthy amount of time to complete. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we’ve put together an overview of the training service dogs require to help you gain a better understanding.
A service dog is defined by the ADA as a dog that is trained to perform tasks to assist or benefit a person with a disability. A disability can be visible or invisible such as PTSD, Diabetes, Seizures, etc.
What are the Requirements of a Service Dog?
A person is eligible for a service dog if they have a permanent disability that significantly limits one or more major life activity. A service dog must always remain well-mannered and be trained to perform specific tasks that aid someone with a disability.
If it is not obvious what service your dog provides, recipients must be willing to answer two questions about their service dog. You can also choose to clearly identify your dog with service dog accessories to make their purpose clear in public spaces.
To be a service dog, the dogs must be brave enough, large enough, and intelligent enough to do the job. A service dog can never pose a safety threat to the public and is required to be able to perform their task 90% of the time or more, no matter the environment.
When Does Service Dog Training Begin?
Our service dogs begin their training in puppyhood. In the early stages of their training, the service dogs will learn the same things any well-behaved dog must learn, including:
- Crate training
- Learning what to play with or chew (and what not to)
They will also begin to learn basic obedience exercises and skills. As puppies, they will go through a variety of exercises such as confidence building, mobility games, desensitization, and scent skills.
What Basic Skills do Service Dogs Learn?
Service dogs will learn the basic skills that come to mind when you think about dog training. They learn standard commands such as:
- This basic training helps service dogs learn the positions that are useful during their task training and work. With basic training, we can also begin the process of distraction and proofing, so they learn to focus on their current task rather than being distracted by what is going on around them.
Advanced Service Dog Training
In many cases, most pet dog trainers, military dog trainers, police dog trainers, etc., have never trained service dogs or studied disabilities. Because of this, Guardian Angels created a college accredited program to teach apprentices how to become service dog trainers.
When it comes to training a service dog, multiple components of their training are far above and beyond the of training for other types of disciplines, such as:
- How to train a dog to alert on a certain high or low for diabetes
- Alert in advance for a seizure
- How to know when to hit an emergency help button if you were incapacitated
- How to wake someone from a night terror
What Special Tasks are Service Dogs Trained to Do?
- Task training is a major part of service dog training. Without learning the proper tasks, a dog cannot become a service dog. Service dogs can be trained on a variety of tasks, but their specific training will depend on the person’s disability and needs to help them lead an independent life. Common tasks for service dogs include:
- Retrieving dropped items
- Retrieving the phone
- Providing balance
- Turning lights on and off
- Opening/closing doors
- Helping a fallen person back to a standing position
- Alerting prior to a seizure
- Diabetic alert
- Mitigating challenges of PTSD by shielding, grounding from anxiety/panic attacks and flashbacks
- Waking someone from nightmares
- Help someone transition from sitting to standing
This training will help someone with a disability lead a more independent lifestyle. There are high expectations for a properly trained service dog in public. A service dog should essentially be invisible unless they need to perform a task for the recipient.
At Guardian Angels, our dogs exercise and practice on confidence-building courses as part of their specialized training. These courses offer challenges to the service dog and expose them to different environments that they may experience in their daily work.
In these courses, they work with their handlers to learn how to navigate the stairs and deal with moving objects. They also work on walking across a sway bridge and balancing on wobbly tables or platforms, among other obstacles. These courses are great exercises for the dog’s mind and body and teach them valuable real-life scenarios and skills they need to properly serve their recipient.
Learn More About Guardian Angels’ Mission Today!
Visit our Donate page today to learn more about our mission to unleash the power to heal for veterans and others in need. Our service dogs change lives for those who have a disability. If you want to be part of that mission, make a donation today!