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We hear it all the time: “can my dog learn to be a Service Dog?” The simple answer to this question is “probably not” but it’s worth understanding why the question is asked in the first place.

Service dog, or emotional support dog?

There’s a lot of confusion about what a Service Dog is. Part of the confusion is caused by the rise in popularity of emotional support animals. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently proposed that only specially trained dogs qualify as service animals to be allowed on flights at no charge. Animals offer unconditional love and we can all use more of that! But an emotional support dog is not really a service dog. Most dogs offer emotional support just by giving us unconditional love but it’s another big step for most dogs to be trained to become good emotional support dogs that can be counted on to behave properly interacting with the general public.

What is a Service Dog?

A Service dog performs specific tasks that their human ‘partner’ cannot. The most well known is the seeing eye dog performing the invaluable task of leading a person with limited or no sight. Another less common type of Service dog is the hearing ear dog which assists people who are hard of hearing. These dogs are trained to perform special tasks for different situations such as rolling on the ground when an alarm goes off and jumping up and down when the doorbell rings.

Although dogs of many breeds can become Service dogs, only a few really have what it takes. Even with training starting at a very young age, as many as 70% don’t make the cut. To put a dog through the extensive training and cover the cost of dogs that fail, the investment per dog can reach well over $30,000. Fortunately, there are numerous not-for-profit organizations that help people in need to acquire a four-legged service partner.

Notwithstanding the above, we have enjoyed knowing a couple of exceptional dogs that made the grade. One instinctively assisted to bring a woman out of a seizure and the other become a diabetic detection dog. While these are unusual cases, we do believe that Breadkthrough K9 training helps prepare the special dog for service dog training.

Learn More about Service Dog Training

If you’re interested in digging deeper into this topic we suggest the following starting points:
For general information and FAQs: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html.
For up to date ADA regulations: https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm.