Training your own dog can have many rewarding benefits, but can be a confusing process. First, you need to know what qualifies a dog as a service dog, and whether your dog is suited for such work:
- Service dogs are working dogs, trained to perform specific tasks to help a person with a disability. A disability can be physical, mental or emotional.
- Properly trained service dogs are legally permitted access to public locations under the ADA.
- Service dogs in training will need a doctor's recommendation and to learn a minimum of three tasks that help their handler with their disability.
Therapy Dogs & ESA's
Unlike service dogs, Therapy Dogs and Emotional Support Animals (ESA's) are not protected by the ADA for public access. They do not need to perform handler-specific tasks, and training typically involves passing the CGC test.
- Therapy dogs are trained to bring comfort to others in specific settings such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes. Many organizations exist to work with you on training, and begin visiting at pre-arranged venues. It is possible to work independently for other situations.
- ESA's provide emotional support to an individual with a diagnosed mental illness. Under federal law, they are allowed to reside with their handler in 'no pet policy' housing and accompany them on flights.