Everything You Need to Know About Service Dog Training
There’s a lot that goes into training a service dog so they can reliably fulfill their duties. Here’s everything you need to know about service dog training.
Services dogs play a vital role in people’s lives every day across the United States. In fact, there are 500,000 service dogs working at the moment throughout the country.
These dogs have a lot of life-saving responsibilities. Because of these, they require very specific service dog training before they go to work. This training can take up to two years and should equip your clever canine to handle any situation.
So what does this amazing training entail? If you’ve ever wondered about how a regular dog could become a life-saver, then you’re in the right place! Read on to find out everything you need to know about training service dogs.
Why Do Dogs Make Great Service Pets?
Dogs are renowned for their loyal, loving and friendly natures. Because of this, they form strong bonds with their owners and this bond is vital in service pets.
There are several different types of service dogs but all of them need to know how to recognize what their owners need and how to help them. This is why being in-tune with their owners is so important for a service pet.
Dogs are also ideal for this role because they are much easier to train than other animals, such as cats.
How Do Service Dogs Help Their Owners?
Service dogs perform different roles depending on their owners and these different jobs require different service dog training requirements.
For example, one of the most common types of service dogs is a seeing-eye dog. In fact, this was the first type of service dog back in 1929. There are currently around 10,000 of these dogs across the US.
Service dogs also help a great number of people with other impairments or disabilities. This includes helping:
- Deaf or hard-of-hearing owners
- People with mobility impairments
- People with epilepsy
- Owners with specific life-threatening allergies
- Owners with psychiatric disorders (for example PTSD, OCD or schizophrenia)
In recent years, emotional support dogs have become recognized as a way to support people with psychiatric disorders better. So coming across an advert for an anxiety service dog for sale is not uncommon.
Which Breeds are Best for Service Dog Training?
Traditionally, bigger dogs were a common choice for service dog training. This includes breeds such as:
- German Shepherds
- Golden retrievers
- Labrador retrievers
- Great Danes
- Saint Bernards
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
However, smaller dogs are now showing they have some handy skills when it comes to service jobs. For example, Papillons are great as hearing dogs and toy poodles make excellent medical alert dogs.
Your dog needs certain qualities to really succeed in service dog training. These include:
- A calm temperament
- Feeling comfortable in new environments
- Being alert
- Wanting to please
- Being able to retain new information
- Being sociable wherever they go
- Repeatedly performing tasks to a high standard
Aggressive or nervous dogs shouldn’t be put into service dog training. Some dogs may also not suit the job due to medical conditions.
Can You Train Your Own Service Dog?
Some people choose to train their own service dogs while others get theirs from a training program. You may also choose to train your own dog but get support from an experienced trainer.
If a dog is going to provide psychiatric support for its owner then they should train them. This helps dogs to form a close emotional connection with a specific person.
If you do choose to get your dog from a professional training program then you will still have to join the process at some point. This gives the dog the chance to get to know you and form a bond. It also lets you ask any questions about the dog’s training.
How to Train a Service Dog
Training service dogs usually takes between one and two years and begins when a dog is around six to eight weeks old. How service dogs are trained varies somewhat depending on the type of support they’re meant to provide.
Let’s say a dog is providing support to someone with PTSD. They might be trained to turn on the light wherever they go into a darkened room. This is an important way of adjusting the environment so that it doesn’t trigger the dog’s owner.
Training mobility support dogs involves a lot of spacial awareness training. This means that they can lead their owners safely wherever they go.
All service dog training requires a lot of positive reinforcement. It also provides a great deal of mental stimulation for the dogs involved.
How Does Training a Service Dog Cost?
As you can probably imagine, service dog training doesn’t come cheap and there’s no way to cut corners. Some specialist training can cost up to $25,000!
The average cost is a lot lower, thankfully. This works out at around $5,500, which covers:
- Cost of buying the dog
- Vets bills during training
- Cost of training classes
- Service gear
- Food, treats, and toys during training
A lot of people look into getting their service dogs from shelters, as this is a lot cheaper than buying a dog from a breeder. Unfortunately, this doesn’t actually do much to lower the overall cost of training.
This is because dogs from shelters often come with their own emotional baggage. This means the cost of training classes is higher for these dogs.
The Bottom Line
Service dog training is a long and expensive process. It requires intelligent animals with the right temperament. But the right dog could save someone’s life, like hundreds of service dogs do every day across America.
For more tips on looking after your dog, check out the rest of our blog for canine inspiration!