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Can You Train Your Service Animal?

We get a lot of questions about people wanting their Working Animal to be classified as a Service Animal, but not being able to afford a professional trainer. So does a Service Animal have to be professionally trained? The simple answer to that question is no. That is not to say that a Service Animal doesn’t require training at all. If you can’t afford to pay for a professional trainer, or you prefer, you can train your Service Animal on your own. According to the American Kennel Club, a Service Animal should be calm, especially if they are in an unfamiliar setting, alert, focused on its handler, and be willing to please. They should also be able to learn and remember what they learn, be comfortable and relaxed in many different environments and situations, and be able to perform repetitive tasks. Under the ADA, only dogs, and miniature horses in certain circumstances, can be defined as Service Animals although there are no restrictions on age or breed.

To train your own Service Animal, it is suggested that you start with the beginning of training any animal, house training, socializing, and basic commands. While doing this training, some other things need to be included, such as teaching the Working Animal to use the bathroom on command, remaining calm, and being able to task in unfamiliar circumstances. The most important requirement is for the Animal to focus on the Handler’s instructions when being faced with distractions in public places. In addition to the basic training, the Service Animal has to be trained to perform a specific task to assist the handler with their disability.

When looking for resources on how to train your Service Animal, one of the best is the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. While it is not required, it is suggested that Working Animals go through the Canine Good Citizen test. They are tested in a variety of different areas, such as listening to commands, how they react to distractions, and coming when they are called. A good local trainer may be able to assist you with any of these points of training that you are not able to complete.

There are some other things to be aware of when training your Service Animal. The main thing is that a Service Animal “in training” is not afforded all of the same rights as a fully trained Service Animal. There are local and state laws that give rights to Service Animals in training, but it varies so please check your local and state laws before taking your Service Animal in training out in public. Also, businesses are not allowed to require proof your Service Animal has been professionally trained or certified but can ask a handler to remove an animal who is misbehaving in their establishment.

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