Whether you are training your own service dog or are simply interested in learning about the process, many basic obedience commands are part of this intensive training process. Even if you’re not looking for a service animal, it’s essential to teach dogs how to behave at home and out in public.
Even better, having an understanding of the tasks of service dogs may come in handy if you ever come across a service dog actively working. Most service dogs will undergo specific training starting when they are puppies to help train them to perform specific tasks and to help with specific disabilities.
Keep in mind that there are several differences between emotional support animals and service animals. Emotional support animals can be any type of animal, but they are not granted the same public access by the ADA. Essentially, your service dog can go to the movie theater or grocery store with you, but your emotional support dog cannot. Service dogs are working dogs, and interfering with one can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the action.
Be wary of any site that offers you a certificate or ID for an ESA/Service dog. These are scams — any dog trainer worth their salt could tell you that there is no certification process or ID necessary.
Service dog training never truly ends. As you age and change with your dog, new needs might come about that require assistance. It’s a never-ending process that helps build trust and a special bond between the handler and the dog. To learn more about different service dog commands that you should know, keep reading!
Which Breeds Can Be Service Dogs?
Any dog can be a service dog. It’s true that you’ll likely find intelligent, trainable breeds like the German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and Labrador Retriever to be likely candidates, but don’t judge a book by its cover. While small service dogs might not be amazing at closing doors, they could do other tasks such as sniff out their human’s low blood sugar, warning them of an attack before it happens.
What Are the Different Types of Service Dogs?
The main types of service dogs are:
- Psychiatric service dogs
- Mobility assistance dogs
- Guide dogs
- Hearing dogs
Service dogs can help people with visual impairments, hearing impairments, mobility difficulties, seizure disorders, mental health struggles, and so much more.
What Do Service Dogs Do?
These dogs learn a set of tasks to help make their human’s life more comfortable and overall easier. Service dogs help to foster a sense of independence in their human, which can boost their confidence and make everyday life easier and better.
Service dogs can be trained to help open doors, turn on and off lights, safely guide people across busy streets, navigate their ways through unknown environments, and monitor heart rates or blood pressure. These dogs can even warn their humans if they are going to experience an episode related to their medical condition.
For example, some service dogs alert people with PTSD to an anxiety attack. During a panic attack or flashback, these dogs are trained to perform specific tasks, like deep pressure therapy. Unlike emotional support dogs, who can cheer you up, service animals go through specific obedience training to perform these tasks either on command or independently based on an involuntary response in their person.
We know that dogs are intuitive, and service dogs hone in on this ability to read their human and provide the care that they need.
The Three Goals of Training Sessions
Most service dogs have to start their training as puppies. There are programs out there that specifically train puppies with the intention of them going on to become someone’s sidekick. If you’re looking to train your own dog to help you with specific tasks, you have to be sure that their temperament will help them to be successful.
The three main goals of training a service animal are:
- Socialization is important with people, other animals, and in different environments. This helps desensitize them from their surroundings so they can take care of the task at hand.
- Build trust. You are going to be a partnership that relies on each other to be successful. This kind of training requires an intense amount of determination and commitment in order to get the results you want.
- Teach basic commands and manners. Dogs need to be taught what behaviors are desirable for their specific task in order to do them correctly. They also need to remain calm and be able to perform basic functions when out-and-about.
Basic Commands To Teach a Service Dog
Take Time To Learn
As you build up the trust between you and your dog, there are basic service dog commands to work on. Some of the following are recommended to teach them before working toward any advanced commands.
Don’t move on too quickly before your dog has gotten the hang of each command they’re taught. Practice these commands in public and private so they can learn to ignore the stimulation going on around them.
- Name: They need to be able to respond to their name, so this should be the first thing that you work on with your dog.
- Sit: Your dog will need to learn how to sit calmly when out in public, so this will be one of their most commonly used commands.
- Down: Similarly to sit, they will need to be calm and lay down for possibly extended periods of time.
- Stand: When you’re done with down and ready to continue on, the stand command teaches your dog it’s time to get moving again.
- Come: This will get your dog to come directly to your side and wait for the next direction.
- Stay: This can come in handy out in public if you need to direct your own attention to something else for a second and need your dog to be still.
- Heel: This tells your dog to stay directly by your side and walk at the same pace as you.
- Potty: This lets your dog know they should go to the bathroom since it might be a while before they get the chance again.
- Careful/Gentle: This tells your dog to continue with their task but at a more gentle speed and energy.
- Quiet: Service dogs should not make any sound unless they are prompted to by a task or to warn you of something. This command helps to stop them from making unwarranted noises.
- Leave It: This will tell your dog to stop touching something you don’t want them to.
- No: This will tell your dog that they are behaving in a way that is incorrect.
- Settle: if your dog is becoming anxious or excited, this can tell them that it’s not the time and they need to relax.
- Follow: This will tell your dog to follow behind you and not on the side or out in front.
- Go Around: If there is an obstacle in the way, this directs the dog to move around it.
- Closer: If your dog is retrieving items for you, this can be helpful to tell them to bring it a bit closer so you can reach it.
- Go To: Followed by a name or location, this tells the dog to go directly over to a person or into a specific room or spot in the house (like a kennel or crate).
- Under: When out in public, whether at a restaurant or entertainment show, the under command can help to move your dog out of the way of other people and place them underneath your chair or under a table.
- Left Side/Right Side: This tells your dog where to stand in relation to you.
- Watch Me: This will get your dog’s attention, especially in moments when there is a lot going on around you, and you need their attention.
- Let’s Go: This shows your dog that you are both ready to move.
- Release: This command will signal to your dog that they can break command or that you are done with work for the day.
Advanced commands will be more specific to what you are training your dog for. If you are training them to be a medical assistance dog, you might teach them ways to alert you to an episode, how to get the attention of a nearby person for help, or to bring you specific medications that are needed. Each dog’s training will begin to look different once they’ve mastered the basics.
Get Answers with AskVet
Training your dog to be a service dog might take several years to complete, so questions are bound to arise throughout the process. When you sign-up with AskVet, you can talk with our Certified Pet Coaches about concerns you may have or questions that you want answered.
AskVet provides you with around-the-clock access to animal behaviorists and professionals that can help make the service dog task training process a bit easier. Don’t wait, and hop on a virtual session with us today!