Can a puppy be a service dog? How old does a dog need to be in order to be considered a service dog? If you’re interested in finding out all about service dogs, just keep reading! Here, we’re going to take a look at how old a dog has to be in order to become a service dog, and whether a puppy can be considered a service dog at all.
Not only that, but we will also take a look at what it means to be a service dog, and how you can make any dog a service dog.
Sounds interesting? Stick around and find out everything you’ve been wanting to know.
Can a Puppy be a Service Dog?
The majority of dogs are considered to be puppies for the first two years of their lives. This, however, varies depending on the dog’s breed and where you live.
Many people consider a dog to only be a puppy for the first six months of their lives, or even a year. As such, the definition can cause a lot of confusion when we ask “can a puppy be a service dog?”.
Depending on your understanding of what a puppy is, the answer can be both yes and no!
There’s a lot to unpack with the ages of dogs and what is required to be a service dog. Generally, however, rules and laws will differ from state to state.
Because of this, we will be talking about what is generally expected when it comes to a puppy becoming a service dog.
What Does it Mean to be a Service Dog?
Service dogs are not considered to be pets like other dogs you might have in your home.
These dogs are incredibly important and work to keep you safe. They are usually heavily trained, but this isn’t always the case.
As a service dog, they are not required to wear a vest or have any kind of ID on them to be checked.
No special harnesses are required, either. These dogs should be specifically trained to deal with tasks that their humans may require of them.
Do Service Dogs Need Special Training?
Yes. Service dogs require a lot of training in order to be certified as a service dog. This certification must be acquired through a reputable organization, or else they are not considered to be “real” service dogs.
Basic training is done when dogs are just puppies, and as they mature, they move onto more difficult and specialized tasks.
Training will differ for all dogs depending on what kind of impairment their humans will have.
For example, the training that a dog will go through for a visually impaired person will be very different to the training for a dog going to someone who experiences anxiety or depression.
There are five main areas that must be conquered for a puppy to become a service dog.
The whole process can take years, starting from when the dog is just a puppy. This should suggest that a puppy cannot be a certified service dog.
These six main areas are: puppy training, manners training, basic training, advanced training, public access training, and task training.
As previously mentioned, depending on where the dog will be going, training will be greatly different.
Let’s take a quick look at a few important training aspects that are covered in each main area of training:
- Puppy training – crate training, house training, and learning what to chew on
- Manners training – not jumping up on people, sitting to greet people, impulse control
- Basic training – come, heel, stay
- Advanced training – recall, off-leash skills, emergency down
- Public access training – going under chairs and tables, tucking tail (to not get stepped on), environmental and building familiarity
- Task training – pulling a wheelchair, retrieving your phone, opening or closing doors
How a Dog Becomes a Service Dog
In order to become a certified service dog, a dog has to go through training at a recognized and reputable organization.
There, they will go through all their required areas of training and eventually become a service dog.
The process is expensive, and not all dogs have the personality to get through everything.
There might be a dog who never loses their inner puppy, and is unable to get through training.
As such, training doesn’t always pay off on some animals, as their personalities simply aren’t compatible with doing the work they are expected to do.
It’s important to note that there are no restrictions on what breed of dog can be a service animal.
Any breed, no matter their size, can be trained to be a service animal. This means that anything from chihuahuas to saint bernards can be service animals once they make it through training.
With that being said, some dog breeds have been proven to be better suited to being a service dog because of their temperaments.
How Old Does a Dog Have to be to Become a Service Dog?
Depending on how long training takes, the ages can vary greatly. However, training typically takes two or more years, which means that a dog would no longer be a puppy by that point.
The majority of advanced, public access, and task training takes place when a dog is over a year old.
For this reason, it is unlikely that a puppy can be a certified service dog before the age of two years old.
When dogs are young, their ability to focus on training is extremely limited.
As such, the majority of training facilities wait until the dog is at least 12 months old before they start the more advanced training. This may vary, however.
Generally, dogs under the age of two years cannot be service dogs. This is because of all the training that these dogs need to go through in order to become certified service dogs.
Puppies begin their training from a young age, but their training will continue on for two or more years before they are certified.
Once an animal is certified and is trained to be of use to a particular group of individuals, they go out into the world and change lives for the better.