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Can Service Dogs in Training Go Anywhere?

Did You Know You Can Self-Train a Service Animal?

Service Animals provide invaluable assistance to people with disabilities, aiding them in performing daily tasks. Service Animal ownership has been widely accepted for decades as a treatment method for individuals with disabilities. Seeing-eye or guide dogs were used in the U.S as early as the 1920s. In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of Psychiatric Service Animals as a treatment option for Mental Health Disabilities. If you think that sounds expensive, you aren’t wrong! But did you know that you can self-train a Service Animal?

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Research conducted by some of America’s most prestigious schools and hospitals has identified positive health effects for people supported by a Service Animal’s companionship and assistance.

Unfortunately, the ability of our healthcare system to keep pace and support Service Animal owners has disappointed many individuals. If you’ve done your research, you already know that obtaining a Service Animal for yourself or a loved one can be expensive.

Once all fees and services are accounted for, you may pay $25,000 or more for a Service Dog. Most people cannot afford the costs of getting and training a Psychiatric Service Animal, as medical insurance plans don’t cover these expenses.

How Do I Get a Psychiatric Service Animal?

What is a PSA?

A Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA) is a dog specifically trained to perform work for an individual with a disability. Under federal law, Psychiatric Service Animals offer help beyond companionship. A PSA must be able to perform tasks related to their handler’s disability. These tasks must help to alleviate the impact of one or more mental health symptoms for their handler. Their service helps the handler regain the freedom to participate more fully in daily life.

To learn more, read all you need to know about Psychiatric Service Animals right here.

Do I need a Diagnosis?

You must have a qualifying mental health disability recognized by the ADA to qualify for a Psychiatric Service Animal. To confirm your diagnosis, you need a letter from a licensed healthcare professional actively practicing in your state of residence.

If you have a regular mental healthcare provider, they should be able to help you with this. If you do not have one or your doctor won’t write a letter, American Service Pets can help. They partner with an extensive network of doctors nationwide to provide legitimate, verifiable documentation regarding your need for a PSA. 

Did You Know You Can Self-Train a Service Animal?

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Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.

Where Do I Get a Psychiatric Service Animal?

Typically, people can choose one of two ways to obtain a Service Dog: they can either apply for a fully trained dog from an agency or train their own animal until it meets the criteria of becoming a Service Dog. 

If you choose the latter and are looking for guidance on the best breeds to consider for the job, we have a breakdown for you in our recent blog post. Whether you obtain your animal through a breeder, rescue, or animal shelter, remember that dogs are individuals. Their needs and your needs must still align for Service Animal success! 

Once you have your dog, American Service Pets has a simple process backed by a network of mental health professionals to help you quickly and confidently get started in your journey.

What is the Cost of Professional Training for a Psychiatric Service Animal?

Dedicated Service Animal Training Organizations are the most expensive option for obtaining a Service Animal. Programs like this typically purchase dogs directly from a breeder, raise, train, and foster them before pairing them with a handler.

Due to the demand and length of the process, it can take up to three years for one of these services to have a dog available. There are far more disabled individuals needing a Service Animal than there are dogs available.

In addition to this type of training program, a variety of professional training options are available. The time (and cost) required to train your dog largely depends on its age, how it responds to commands, and any problem behaviors that need further attention. 

The 3 most commonly known training options are as follows:

Did You Know You Can Self-Train a Service Animal?


  • Board and Train

    Board and train programs are like the boot camp of the dog training world. They offer an intensive “away camp” experience for your dog. Programs may range from 8-32 weeks, and costs vary accordingly. Board and train programs for Service Animals typically cost around $500 – $1250 per week. To achieve the standard 120 hours of training and 30 hours of work in public settings, it may take up to 6 months to train your Service Animal utilizing this method. Depending on what skills your dog needs to learn, the costs can start to rack up.

  • Day Camp

    Think of this like Doggie Day Care but with training intermixed. Trainers work with your dog while they attend camp during the day. During their daily schedule, trainers spend one-on-one time teaching your dog specific behaviors. Your dog receives consistent training, and they get to go home at night. Day Camps that offer training average about $400 per week, but progress tends to be slower.

  • Professional Personal Trainer

    An experienced Professional Trainer is the quickest and best way to teach your dog how to become a Service Animal. However, it is the most expensive option. Personal trainer rates range from $150 to $250 per hour. The total cost of training your dog will depend on how long it takes. The duration of the training depends on your dog’s existing skillset and ability to master new ones.

Why Are the Costs of Obtaining an Already-Trained Service Animal So High?

The cost will vary depending on the breed and the training it receives; you can expect to spend between $15,000 and $30,000 upfront. The initial costs are high because they cover adoption costs, vaccinations, vet visits, spaying or neutering, and the professional dog training fees. Properly trained Service Animals require more extensive training, which accounts for most of the cost of acquiring a well-trained Service Animal. 

The cost, length, and intensity of process can cause individuals to give up on seeking this type of treatment. When I began my mental health journey with a Psychiatric Service Animal, I spent a lot of time researching. To save you the time and energy, I’ve put that information together here!

Did You Know You Can Self-Train a Service Animal?

What Does the ADA Say About Self-Training Your Dog?

Service Animal owners are not required to use a special program or professional dog trainer. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows individuals with disabilities the right to train a Service Dog themselves.

This provision removes barriers making Service Animal ownership more accessible for those that need it. If you already have a dog you want to train to become a service animal, you will save some money on the initial costs.

Is Self-Training a Realistic Option?

YES! This is an area that American Service Pets excels in assistance with. So many of us seeking the help of a Psychiatric Service Animal can greatly benefit from their resources!

You shouldn’t have to raise money, get a grant, drain your savings, or take out a loan to help you pay for a Service Animal. Yet this is a reality for many people. Even after paying exorbitant fees, individuals can end up on a waitlist for years until a trained Service Dog becomes available. American Service Pets has created a practical, affordable, and comprehensive self-training method to help you train your Psychiatric Service Animal.

Self-Training with the help of a professionally curated masterclass can significantly reduce the initial expenses. For that reason, I’ve personally taken my Service Animal through the I Train Academy. I have yet to see a more in depth-training process on the market that is also simple to teach at home.

Did You Know You Can Self-Train a Service Animal?

Just like people, all dogs learn at different rates. Therefore, it’s important to progress through training at a pace that best serves you and your dog. Besides the fact that it’s affordable, you can do this course from your own home without added pressures to perform or progress too quickly. The material is broken down into bite-size pieces to make it practical. You can take your time with each step, redoing any steps or slowing down when you feel it’s necessary.

Trainer Jas Leverette brings his twenty-plus years of experience as a celebrity dog trainer and shares all of his best tips and tricks with you in a virtual format. He has developed a simple, straightforward, and unique training method.

You can see my course review and get a FREE preview of Lesson 1 here.

Do the Requirements for Service Animals Vary by State?

No. The ADA guarantees rights and equal access to Service Animal owners. Some states may grant additional rights to owners under state and local laws, or they may require vaccinations or licenses of animals in their jurisdiction. Still, they cannot have additional requirements for Service Animals that they do not also have for typical pet owners. 

You should look up and know the laws in your specific state. Finding this information can be as simple as typing “what are the laws regarding Service Animals in _____ (state)?” into a Google search. Make sure that the source you pull your information from is reputable, however. The best indication is a .gov address. 

Digging into the Details

How Many Hours of Training are Required for a Service Animal?

Realistically, a set number can be hard to pinpoint since there are many factors to consider. Many people in the Service Animal community recommend getting a dog from a Service Animal breeder or, at a minimum, obtaining a breed that is more inclined towards service work. These dogs typically have temperaments that lend to trainability and an eagerness to help.

Full Service Dog training can take up to a year and a half, depending on the owner’s needs and the skills the dog must learn. According to the Association of Assistance Dog Partners, a minimum of 120 hours of at-home training and 30 hours of training in public settings is needed for a Service Animal to be ready to work. That may seem like a lot, but broken down into smaller segments, it is entirely achievable. 

Did You Know You Can Self-Train a Service Animal?

Does Your Dog Have to Pass a Test to Become an Official Service Animal?

The short answer is no. There is no generalized test that a dog must pass to begin working as a Service Animal.

The law states that a Service Animal must be under the control of their handler at all times. It’s encouraged to start with obedience training since it lays a solid foundation upon which all other tasks build.

Among the Service Animal community, the Public Access Test is considered the gold standard for gauging your dog’s readiness to work. Submitting to a public access test is not required by law but is an excellent tool for evaluating your dog’s skills and preparedness.

Do You Need Proof of Service Animal Training or Status?

No. Some individuals find a “paper trail” to be useful, but it is by no means legally required. A Service Animal owner does not need to produce proof of training for their Psychiatric Service Animal. The only situations where you may be asked for documentation would be for housing or air travel. 

A landlord may ask for a letter from a licensed mental healthcare provider verifying that you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Animal. Similarly, the Department of Transportation has introduced a form that must be submitted before flying with a Service Animal. However, even the DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form does not “require proof.” The form asks for you to verify the animal is properly trained and does not pose a threat to the general public, but there is no “proof or certification” required. 

Additionally, no business or persons in a public setting may ask you to have your dog demonstrate its tasks. They may also not ask for details regarding your disability.  

Is a Vest or ID Required for a Psychiatric Service Animal?

No, Service Animals are not required to wear a vest or other ID. However, some owners find it helpful to avoid questions regarding why they have a dog in public settings. Others prefer not to have their dog in a vest. It’s up to you as the handler to determine what serves you best. Some dogs may also be more resistant to a vest or harness than others. 

How to Behave Around Service Dogs in Public

What Types of Tasks Can a Psychiatric Service Animal Be Trained to Do?

Psychiatric Service Dogs, much like other service animals, are specially trained to carry out tasks that improve the life of their handler who is living with a disability. The tasks below give you an idea of how a Psychiatric Service Animal can help.

Please note that each individual will have different needs, and Service Dogs are trained to meet their owner’s specific needs. Those tasks are based on their owner’s medical condition and may include tasks from this list or others not mentioned here. As with anything, Service Dog teams learn and grow together over time with practice and repetition. Some PSA tasks include:

  • Alerts
  • Deep Pressure Therapy
  • Grounding
  • Reminders
  • Interruption
  • Protective Barrier
  • Tactile Stimulation

You can find more in-depth information on these tasks, typically associated with Psychiatric Service Dogs, here. Again, this is not an exhaustive list. A PSA can be trained to perform a variety of tasks. Training for each dog is specific to the handler’s needs.

Getting Started with Service Animal Training

How Long Does Service Dog Training Take?

If your dog has already received obedience training, it can take four to six months to train them for a specific task that helps you manage your disability. The time it takes depends largely on your dog’s receptivity to training.

Additionally, service dogs are expected to be able to perform these tasks in several different environments. It can take some dogs up to two years to fully prepare for public access.

What is the Difficulty Level of Self-Training?

Training your dog to be a Service Animal is relatively easy. If you can train your dog to sit, stay, or heel, you can handle the more advanced training required to teach it to perform tasks related to your disability. All PSA tasks build upon foundational obedience skills.

What is the Daily Time Commitment?

It is proven that Fifteen minutes of focused training a day is all it takes to effectively train your dog as a Psychiatric Service Animal. Consistent work and progress will add up to significant changes over time.

Don’t believe us? Just ask renown dog trainer (and our ASP partner) Jas Leverette! He believes so strongly in this method that he helped us created the I Train Academy just for individuals like you.  

Dog Obedience Training in 15 Min a Day

What Equipment or Gear Do I Need?

Alongside the I Train Academy Masterclass, you only need a few simple tools to get started on the right paw:

  • Rewards or Incentives: The I Train Academy training method utilizes positive reinforcement and rewards. Good and desired behavior is rewarded, and unwanted behavior is re-directed. Choose a treat your dog loves to help motivate them through the training process. For dogs not inspired by food, you can utilize a game, toy, or another incentive they enjoy. A training vest or fanny pack will help you keep those rewards contained and easily accessible.
  • A leash: A basic leash is vital when you begin training. To start, you will need an all-weather leash 6 feet in length.
  • A collar: A flat collar is a basic dog collar. As you advance in training, it is helpful to layer another type of collar along with the flat collar. Trainer, Jas teaches the practical method for how to use this type of collar to keep your dog safe and achieve the best results. You can learn more about other advanced training collar options here.
  • A correction device: During training, you will learn about your dog and how it responds to provide the most effective correction or redirection. Correction devices (such as remote collars) tend to have a negative connotation. However, when used correctly and safely, they can offer helpful reinforcement that teaches your dog to respond appropriately in a given situation.
  • A training box: A training box is an essential tool to encourage your dog to focus, help you establish the place command, and it works to build trust between you and your dog, setting you both up for success.
  • Distractions: For the handler’s safety, a Service Dog must learn to perform consistently, even in the face of distractions. Testing or Proofing your dog’s ability to focus and perform consistently with various distractions is vitally important. You can purchase or create your own “distraction” tools, such as a bottle curtain or flirt pole, that can be utilized to introduce stimuli and achieve the best results.

You can read my review of Lesson 1 of the I Train Academy Masterclass for a more in-depth breakdown of tools utilized in the training process.

Psychiatric Service Dog training
Hopefully, this has helped to answer a few of your questions and given you the encouragement you need to take the next step as you begin training your own Psychiatric Service Animal. Now that I’ve tackled your questions let celebrity trainer Jas Leverette and I Train Academy keep your training experience simple and on track!
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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