How to get a service dog and other things you need to know! How to get a service dog and other things you need to know! - SitStay

How to get a service dog and other things you need to know!

Big Brown guide dog with a red vest sitting next to their owner

The service dog is a very special dog; he has been trained especially to help people with disabilities; blind people, those with hearing impediments, those who suffer from stress, those who experience seizures, diabetes, and more. These dogs have special rights to accompany their owners to all places protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Real service dogs have been specially bred and trained to be service dogs and it can cost a lot of money.

21 states, enacted new laws that crack down on those who try and misrepresent their pets as being service animals.


The steps to follow to get a service dog

Many health professionals recommend the use of these wonderful companions in the form of service dogs if you suffer from any disability that could benefit. You do, however, need to know what the laws and requirements are to get a service dog.


Do you qualify?


Small Tan dog being trained in a park with a leash
  • If you qualify, you could get such a companion which will be trained to perform specific tasks.
  • By law, you are allowed to train your dog to be a service animal but it is recommended that you get the professionals to do it, particularly if you have a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects the privacy rights of people with mental and physical disabilities.
  • You don’t have to register your service dog online, without being registered your dog can still get a service dog vest and also ID badges and certificates.
  • If you don’t need your dog to help you with specific tasks, but you need it around for emotional purposes then you are also allowed to qualify for what is called an ESA, an emotional support animal. But to qualify for such a companion, you need your medical professional to write you such a note. As an ESA person, you won’t have the same rights as those with a service dog but you will still be eligible for policies that have “no pets” rules.
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How long do you have to wait before getting a service dog?

Lab mixed dog on duty as a service dog with a yellow vest

It takes approximately 2 years for owners to have their service dog trained. Often it can take longer which will depend on certain factors – sometimes it might even take less time.


Where do you get a service dog from?

Because there are different types of service animals you need to understand which type you need. Look at these types:

  • Emotional support animals ESAs
  • Service dogs
  • Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs)
  • Therapy animals

So, for instance, you could get your service dog from a place like  PAWS, who train their dogs to meet the needs of people with special needs. The dogs at PAWS are custom-trained to assist all kinds of disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, ALS, rheumatoid degeneration, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries and many other conditions affecting a person’s mobility or strength. There are certain application procedures you need to consider when applying to get one of these wonderful dogs. Another place to apply for a service dog is from Little Angels, a non-profit organization, providing highly-trained service dogs for all kinds of people with disabilities.

It’s not cheap

Yellow lab guide dog walking across the crosswalk with their companion

To actually buy and train a dog that suits your needs isn’t cheap – it can cost anywhere between $15,000 to around $30,000. This is according to the non-profit Service Dog Certifications. Naturally, the exact amount will depend on the training the dog receives and also the type of breed of dog you want as your service dog and that means costs can take you as high as around $50,000.


Some interesting and important facts about these amazing creatures!

  • They are highly trained professionals: They undergo what could be thousands, of hours of training. They learn manners, obedience and highly advanced skills to match their human partner’s special needs.
  • They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds: That means you can’t identify a service dog. They are chosen for their temperaments, chosen for their eagerness to learn, and chosen also for their physical health. The smaller service dogs are just as hard workers but it makes sense that it is not safe for them to train as mobility dogs.
  • ESA dogs and therapy dogs are not service dogs: It is only service dogs that have public access rights and their handlers must have a disability defined under US federal law.
  • Service dogs perform a vast array of jobs: helping people out who have a wide range of disabilities.
  • Each dog is unique: As each person with a disability is an individual, so is the dog. It is important to remember that each dog has a temperament and personality which plays a huge part in a successful partnership.
  • Service dogs are dogs, not humans: They have their needs and wants and it is imperative that they get their exercise, the correct feeding, grooming, watering, cleaning up after them, as well as emotional support. They can’t be considered as robots which means that no matter how well they are trained, a service dog can also have “off” days, like humans.
  • Wearing a service vest doesn’t make a service dog: A service vest on your dog doesn’t make a service dog. Wearing the vest means the dog has been partnered with a person who has a disability which has been legally defined. The service dogs wear the service dog vest because he has been OK’d to help a person achieve a better quality of life. There is no amount of the “right” gear, paperwork, certification, registration, or anything else that will make a dog a Service Dog. Only training makes a service dog and plenty of it, and then finally being partnered with a person who has a disability.
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Everyone involved in a Service Dog’s journey wants only the best for the dog and its handler. Most service dog handlers, whether trainers or owners, consider their canine friend their other half and that love is passed from the handler through the dog they trained to the person who needs that love and help, the new owner. A service dog is actually invaluable to its new owner – a wonderful gift bestowed on those with disabilities - can we get a woof to that!

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Molly Boman
Molly enjoys writing with experience covering topics all about dogs. she is an ardent lover of dogs and all other animals which is where her love of nature comes! When she gets the chance to be in the great outdoors she loves watching her grandchildren play with her pups in the sunshine!