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How Long Does It Take to Train a Service Dog?

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Have you ever asked yourself the question: how long does it take to train a service dog? Read on to learn more about how long it takes.


There are an estimated 500,000 service dogs in the USA, an impressive number. These service dogs can include autism service dogs, diabetic alert service dogs, and guide dogs.


How Long Does it take to traing a Service Dog
Service Dog Training

Service dogs are invaluable to those who need them, but how long does it take to train a service dog? Who pays for the training, and who owns the dogs?


If these questions interest you, we have the answers. So join us as we discuss everything around service dogs and their training.


What Is a Service Dog?

A service dog is a dog that trainers or handlers train specifically to assist people with a disability. While they are working, they watch their handler for any symptoms of illness onset, calming their handlers from panic attacks, and many more essential tasks.


Trainers can train service dogs before matching them with a handler, while some service dog training requires involving the handler. This requires pairing the handler and dog at puppy age.


Types of Service Dogs

For many people with specific neurological, physical, or mental health needs, service dogs are invaluable for their everyday life. The list of services they can be trained for is continually growing, but some current standard service dogs are:

  • Guide Dogs

  • Psychiatric Service Dogs

  • Seizure Alert Dogs

  • Mobility Assistance Dogs

  • Allergy Detection Dogs

  • Diabetic Alert Dogs

  • Seizure Response Dogs

  • FASD Service Dogs

  • Hearing Dogs

  • Autism Service Dogs

Some of these service dogs, like FASD and allergy detection dogs, are new and emerging in the field but are proving invaluable to those who need them.


What Criteria Must a Service Dog Meet?

Not every dog can be trained to be a service dog. They need to meet specific criteria to be eligible. Some of the characteristics of service dogs needing to be considered include the following:


Age

Its recommended to begin service dog training between six months to a year. This is the age where potty training and socialization are crucial.


Breed

Breed plays an integral part in being selected as a service dog. Firstly, it's considerably easier to harness an already-existing characteristic than to start from scratch. Secondly, knowing your breed's hereditary traits will help you know when they can and will interfere with a service dog's reliability.


Training Ability and Level

Training ability and level are also important. If the dog is particularly good at learning new things or has already been trained in obedience or agility, service training will be much more straightforward than if a puppy was being taught.


Behavior and Temperament Problems

The dog's temperament plays a significant part in deciding whether the dog will be suitable for a particular service or not. For example, an aggressive dog won't be appropriate to assist a person with a disability.


Size

It's essential to consider the dog's size once fully grown. This is especially important if needing a mobility assistance service dog. Breeds that are too large may also have issues with regulations around public transport, etc.


How Long Does It Take to Train a Service Dog?

On average, it takes around two years to train a service dog fully; however, this can depend on the dog and the training. Training also doesn't end when the dog graduates and passes all the exams and instead lasts throughout the dog's life.


Service Dog Training Timescale

While the time spent in each of these focus areas will differ from dog to dog and by training school, the six levels are relatively standard. They are:

  1. Starting as a Service Puppy

  2. Foundation Skills

  3. Loose Leash Walking and Settle

  4. Public Area Distraction Training

  5. Service Tasks

  6. Public Access

Let's have a look at the training involved with three of the types of service dogs from the list in more detail:


Guide Dog Training

Formal guide dog training begins at the puppy age, between 12 and 18 months. It is achieved through clicker training and positive reinforcement (e.g., treats). Some of what a guide dog is taught is:

  • Obedience Training (“Sit”, “Stay”, Etc.)

  • Turns (Left, Right, and Back)

  • Guiding Positioning (Walking Next to and Ahead of the Handler)

  • To Indicate Steps in either Direction

  • To Use Lifts and Escalators

  • Traffic Exercises

Instructors will wear blindfolds during the final stages of training to determine how ready the dog is for graduating. Guide dogs are matched specifically with their handler, and it can cost over $40,000 to train.


Diabetic Alert Dog Training

With their ability to detect when their handler is in advance of high or low blood sugar, a diabetic dog can save lives. The condition displays no symptoms, so the dogs detect the onset by smell.

Diabetic alert dog handlers train them with samples of sweat. Handlers take the samples, including normal and low blood sugar levels, from potential owners during training.


Instructers build the training around positive reinforcements and reward the dog every time they correctly detect the low sugar sample.


Diabetic alert dogs can cost anywhere between $8,000 and $20,000. However, some organizations offer the dog free if you cover the training costs.


Autism Service Dogs

Autism service dogs are trained much like guide dogs and can cost anywhere between $12,000 and $30,000. There is also currently a long waiting list for autism service dogs.


These service dogs are trained to help their handlers navigate the world and live independently. Some of the tasks trainers can teach them to execute can include:

  • Alerting People of Emergencies

  • Pick up Items

  • Assist Their Handler in Getting Ready Every Morning

  • Support Their Handler Through a Sensory Overload Event

Trainers can train autism service dogs for children and adults alike. For children, services will be more centric where the dog will alert a parent of a situation. Autism service dogs for children are also commanded by the parents, not by the child, whereas an adult with a service dog is also the handler.


Find the Right Service Dog For You

Training service dogs is a lifelong commitment and can cost thousands of dollars. However, without them, many people would not be able to function and would lead a severely disadvantaged life. With the help of service dogs like guide dogs, hearing dogs, and autism service dogs, people who have a mental illness, physical, or neurological disability can manage everyday life.


Hopefully, with this article, we've answered the question, "how long does it take to train a service dog?"


Book a consultation today if you're looking for a top-class training school in the Dallas, Carrollton, and DFW areas. We offer training programs, boarding, and grooming services. We also offer private classes and Board and Train options.


K-9 Culture Dog Training

Dallas Metroplex

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