How to Register a Dog as a Service Dog

How to Register a Dog as a Service Dog by North Carolina Lifestyle Blogger Adventures of Frugal Mom

Service dogs provide valuable aid to their owners. From helping the visually impaired lead full lives to detecting seizures before they occur and so much more, these specially trained canines are much more than just companions. Service dogs undergo extensive training to learn how to perform specific tasks for people with certain disabilities and illnesses. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, people with these conditions are entitled to a service dog that can help them live normal lives. However, there are certain laws that apply when registering a service dog. Let’s take a closer look at the requirements and how to register a dog as a service dog.

Requirements for Service Dogs

Any dog can be a service dog. In fact, a dog can even be registered as a service animal without undergoing professional training. However, in order to be registered and recognized as a legal service dog, the animal must undergo some type of training to learn to be a working animal. A dog that is only your pet does not qualify as a service animal.

Under ADA laws, you may be entitled to a service dog if you have a disability or illness that hinders your ability to perform normal life tasks, such as:

  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Thinking
  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Eating

Specific illnesses and disabilities commonly protected under the ADA include:

  • Visual impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Diabetes
  • Seizures
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Autism
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Training Your Service Dog

Whether you work with a professional or take the do-it-yourself approach, training is the most crucial step prior to actually registering your service dog. While the United States has no specific requirement regarding how much training a dog must undergo, international standards require at least 120 hours of training over six months. It is recommended that no less than 30 of these training hours take place in public situations where the dog is forced to deal with distractions. While these regulations are not mandatory to follow in the U.S., they do serve as a helpful guideline.

Service dog training usually consists of three phases: heeling, proofing and tasking. The heeling phase is when the dog learns to remain in close proximity to the handler. Proofing teaches the dog to tune out distractions and respond to commands immediately, and the tasking phase is when he learns the specific task he will be performing. While many people assume training a dog to sense a medical emergency or perform a certain task is extremely difficult, it often proves to be easier than the heeling and proofing phases.

Registering Your Service Dog

Once your dog has successfully completed all of his training, you are ready to register him as a service dog. Once he is registered, he will remain certified for the rest of his life. Once you’ve finished training, you are ready to begin the registration process.

Since service dogs are largely self-regulated in the United States, the guidelines for registering them are flexible. There are, however, a few specific expectations of service dogs.

These expectations include:

  • No aggressive behavior like barking, growling or biting
  • Not begging for food/affection
  • Curbed hyperactivity and sniffing behavior
  • Immediate response to commands

Once your dog meets these expectations, you are ready to register him as your service dog. Documenting the training process and registering your dog with a reputable service like the United States Service Dog Registry helps prove that your dog performs a service and isn’t just a pet. Registering with a reputable service also helps protect you if you or your dog is ever questioned.

Registering a service dog is free in the United States, however, the purchase of certain gear is recommended. Once your dog is registered, you may want to purchase credentials and vests that identify your companion as a service dog rather than just a pet.

The ADA requires that all service dogs be licensed and vaccinated in accordance with applicable state and local dogs. Your service dog must also be housebroken, and the handler is responsible for making sure the animal behaves appropriately in public settings. While businesses are required to allow you and your dog access under the ADA, they are also allowed to ask you to leave if the animal behaves in a manner that could pose a threat to the safety or health of others.

Registering a service dog in the United States is largely self-regulated, and many guidelines are suggestions rather than laws. However, as a responsible pet owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that your dog receives the proper training and performs a specific job that makes living with an illness or disability easier.

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One Comment

  1. Great information! My husband registered his service dog that he trained himself. Bronx has been a lifesaver for us and we appreciate you highlighting the positive aspects of having a service dog.

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