Service dogs can provide an immense amount of assistance to people who are disabled or need special help. Dogs have been trained as companions for vision- or hearing-impaired people, those who have seizure disorders and even to help people diagnosed with autism. Dogs that provide special assistance can be very expensive, so some people train their own service animals to help with their lives. While approval is not legally necessary, some organizations do approve or certify these animals.
Research training techniques for service animals. A service dog must perform tasks instantly when commanded to do so, and sometimes the owner's life depends on it. Training an animal takes consistency, time and a lot of planning. If you do not feel that you can do this, take the dog to a trainer. A professional trainer will teach your animal the basics and will teach you to train it to perform the more complex actions required of an assistance dog.
Put your dog through courses such as the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen program, graduates of which undergo evaluative testing. This test measures whether your dog performs well around other people and in a variety of situations, and will give you an idea of whether the dog needs more training in certain areas.
Choose a service animal registration and approval program near you. Check the association's reputation online to determine how effective its programs are. In most cases, your animal must be evaluated before it can be approved, and many programs and trainers evaluate and certify animals trained by the owners themselves. The process will test whether your dog can handle being around crowds, whether it can maneuver around wheelchairs or other devices and whether it appears aggressive in any way. The dog may be evaluated in other areas that pertain to the particular service it will perform.
Take out a personal property and liability insurance policy that will cover your dog in the event it somehow does damage to someone else's property or business. This insurance should cover most situations and it may cover vet bills for a service animal. Ask your insurance agent if pet/service animal policies are available specifically, or whether a homeowner policy will cover your needs.
Purchase a service animal vest or collar, available at several online retailers. It is not legal for the representative of any business to ask whether a dog is a service animal, but it may save you time and be more convenient if your animal is identified as such. In some states, a vest may be required.
Dogs that make excellent service animals are those with even temperaments, intelligence and a low startle reflex. Good breeds to consider are German shepherd dogs, border collies and Labrador retrievers, although any breed can be trained for the purpose.
A vest or collar that identifies a dog as a service animal also can serve as a deterrent for people who may want to approach and pet it. Most service animals are not petted while they are working, except by their handlers/masters.
Georgia Dennis has been writing since 1995, specializing in the areas of education, behavioral sciences, canine behaviors, human resources and language development. Her work has been published in literary journals, magazines and in print. She is also suspense novelist. Dennis is pursuing her Bachelor of General Studies, with an emphasis in writing and psychology, from Indiana University.