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Can you train your own service dog? Cover Self-training your service dog

Can You Train Your Own Service Dog? A Guide to Self-Training

What if you could train your own service dog as a psychiatric service animal – without ever leaving the comfort of your home? It turns out you can! Read on to check out our guide on all things self-training.

Table of Contents

Online service dog training is becoming increasingly more common, and with the right program, it’s proven to be highly effective too. If you’re considering self-training a service animal, there are four things you must know:

  • The basics of service dog training
  • The differences between pets and service dogs
  • What to look for in quality service dog training programs
  • Laws and regulations specific to service animals

1. Learn the Basics of Service Dog Training

Service dog training differs from standard dog training in that it goes beyond obedience training to include the psychiatric service task component.

To break it down, dog obedience training typically covers the following:

  • Socialization
  • Behavior
  • Motivation
  • Overcoming distractions
  • Problem solving

Psychiatric service dog training, on the other hand, additionally includes training on:

  • Assistive activities
  • Barrier or protective guarding
  • Deep pressure therapy
  • Interruption or distraction
  • And other therapeutic techniques

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Dog in harness

2. Understand the Differences Between a Pet and a Service Dog

Companion animals are often lumped into one of three categories:

  • Pets
  • Emotional Support Animals
  • Psychiatric Service Animals

Pets are often considered members of the family, but not all pets carry the title of emotional support animals, just like not all emotional support animals can be considered psychiatric service animals.

Emotional support animals provide comfort and support with no training required. Like everyday pets, they are not considered service animals and have no protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Psychiatric Service Animals (also known as Psychiatric Service Dogs), however, are protected under the ADA. These dogs have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks that assist individuals who have disabilities. Once a dog has successfully learned a behavior or tasks that help mitigate a disability, then it can be called a service dog. At that point, it is eligible to wear a service dog vest or harness, as well as a service dog tag, and accompany you wherever service dogs aren’t prohibited.

Whether you plan to keep your pet as an emotional support animal or take the next step and make him or her a psychiatric service animal, it is important to start with a healthcare-professional-signed letter that declares your need to have your animal by your side.

3. Invest in Quality Service Dog Training Materials and Resources

With a doctor-signed letter in hand, the next question is often, “Can you train your own service dog?” Well, it depends.

Can you train your own service dog by winging it? We don’t recommend going solo with your service dog training unless you are a professional dog trainer yourself or under the guidance of one.

That’s why we recommend I Train Academy, which is online, self-paced professional service dog training at a fraction of the cost of what you’d normally pay out of pocket elsewhere. Best of all, I Train Academy is taught by experienced trainer Jas Leverette, who you may recognize from the Netflix series Canine Intervention.

Jas has also trained the dogs of celebrities from Drake to Ellen DeGeneres, from Demi Moore to Jason Derulo, and from LeBron James to Steph Curry. As the founder of Cali K9, Jas has more than 20 years of professional dog training experience, and I Train Academy brings Jas’ effective training methods right to your home as an online service.

Self training service dog with Jas

4. Know Laws and Regulations Related to Service Dogs

The one thing that all dog owners must avoid is impersonating a service animal. The mere presence of a service dog vest, patch, or tag does not necessarily indicate that the animal qualifies as a service animal.

If you remember from the beginning of this article, training is what separates a pet or emotional support animal from a service dog. The dog must be trained to do at least one task to assist its handler with a disability (the psychiatric service task component), and it must be well-behaved and under the control of its handler (the obedience component). The I Train Academy subscription guides you through both – in as little as 15 minutes a day – and you can cancel when you’re done (or anytime).

Plus, when you complete I Train Academy, you get printable certificates in both obedience and service dog task training, which you can keep with you as verification to show if asked about your service dog. Note that you are not required by law in most states to carry or show any type of documents, such as certificates, when asked. But sometimes having the certificates takes the pressure off a potentially uncomfortable situation, reducing anxiety and giving you greater peace of mind when you’re in public with your dog.

Can you train your own service dog? Yes!

Can you train your own service dog? Yes, but...

If we could leave you with one takeaway, it’s this: don’t try your hand at training your psychiatric service dog alone. Our training is used by people with many different types of mental health disabilities – autism, phobias, anxiety, depression, and OCD, to name a few – and we’re here to reduce the overwhelm that the thought of self training might produce – not add to it.

With Jas as your online trainer, you’ll get everything you need to train your dog to be a service animal. You just need to commit to putting in the work with your animal (15 minutes per day is recommended!).

Start your I Train Academy service dog training today.

ESA or PSA Certification?

The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!


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