Service dogs are specialized animals that take a lot of time, training, and exposure before they’ll be able to do what you want them to do.
The truth is that no matter what breed you pick and no matter what disability you want them to help you with, training a dog to be a service dog takes a lot of time and attention.
In this guide, we’re going to take you through some of the common time periods that it takes to train a service dog.
We’ve also made sure to include some additional information about suitable breeds and common training practices.
The Best Breeds For A Service Dog
The truth is – not all dogs can be service dogs. A service dog requires a special set of characteristics that make them suitable for support.
Service dogs need to be confident, social, and attuned to both their surroundings and the emotions of humans.
Confidence, in particular, is an important characteristic that can’t be overstated here.
Service dogs need to be able to keep focused and calm in public settings, so if you pick a shy breed or dog they’re going to struggle.
Below, we’ve included a short list of dog breeds that are commonly trained as service dogs.
Labradors are probably the most common service dogs that you’ll come across. They are intelligent, easy to train, and very receptive to human emotions.
They are used most frequently for mobility-impaired owners who need help getting around.
Whilst you might think of German Shepherds as better suited as police dogs, they’re also great as Service Dogs.
This is because of their intelligence, receptiveness, and the quick/strong bonds that they can create with their owner.
This is another retriever breed that is very often used as guide dogs for the blind. They’re kind, confident, quick-witted, and caring.
Golden Retrievers are very often used as emotional support dogs for PTSD and other anxiety or trauma-based disorders, as they are very comforting.
Poodles are smaller dogs, but they are a very intelligent breed that is used to working and helping humans.
Poodles are less likely used for excessively physical jobs because of their size, so they’re best as comfort or therapy dogs, or for owners who don’t need as much strong physical guidance.
How Long Does It Take To Train A Service Dog
So now let’s take a look at how long it takes to train a service dog.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for this, but generally, it will take upwards of 120 hours of intense training before a dog will be confident enough to go out on its own as a service dog.
The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners has some general guidelines on this, with the smallest amount of time that a dog can be trained to be 120 hours, and 6 months of exposure time.
Exposure, here, refers to the dog being trained outdoors and responding to the settings and situations that they normally would experience day-to-day as a Service Dog.
There are some common practices that can be used to easily train a service dog, which we’re going to cover below:
Service Dogs ideally begin training as a puppy. The age window between 6 months and a year is the best start you can have.
You can first start with simple commands, socialization, and obedience training that will allow your dog to have a good foundation to learn more complex service jobs.
The most important thing is to establish a good foundation of behaviour practises and skills so that your dog will be attuned to learning other things in the future.
For an older service dog, there will be a tougher barrier to entry in training them as a service dog, especially if they don’t already have a good foundation of training.
Another thing to consider is their physical well-being. Being a Service Job can be taxing, especially if they’re helping owners who have mobility issues.
Dogs with underlying behavioral issues don’t tend to make very good Service Companions. This is because it is very hard to form new positive habits if they already have negative ones that are yet to be fulfilled.
Remember here, a dog is only ever as good as its owner is at training them, and many of these behavioral issues can be fixed. But it’s important to note that well-behaved dogs are best trained as Service Dogs.
Service Dogs tend to need to meet behavioral standards before being accepted, which include:
- Control around food and other dogs
- No aggressive behavior
- Leash Control
- Understanding the space of others
- Control over vocals
Minimum Standards For Training Of A Service Dogs
There are specific standards that a dog must meet before it can be a service dog.
They need to have training that can for the specific task they need to provide, such as retrieving, alerting, and general mobility control.
As well as a key understanding of modern training techniques such as clickers or leash control.
If the service dog in question is being trained to help with allergies or diabetes, they must have their sense of smell trained so that they can alert their owner to the scent of allergens or spikes in glucose levels.
A Service Dog will typically take upwards of 120 hours to train, providing they are given the proper, structured training regime and regular exposure.
As you can see, it’s quite an undertaking that takes a lot of care and attention to get right.
Service Dogs are a wonderful thing and if you’re considering making your dog one, then you must make sure to invest in the proper research and resources to make your pet change somebody’s life!
We hope that this article has given you everything you need to know about this issue and that you now feel a lot more confident about the whole thing.