“Training doesn’t limit a dog. Training frees a dog.
My dog, being trained, is free – free to walk with me, free to ride with me,
free to play off-leash with other dogs, free to learn and run.
An untrained dog is “free” to sit in the backyard
where he can get into as little trouble as possible.”
~Sue Ailsby

There is a lot of confusion where training is concerned.  Hopefully we can clarify these points for you.

  1. Emotional Support Animals need no training since they do not have public access rights. 

  2. Therapy Animals & their handlers will be tested by the sponsoring organization prior to becoming a Registered Therapy Animal Team.  In general, if your dog can pass AKC’s Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Program test, then there is a good chance that your dog will pass the Therapy Animal Organization’s testing.   Organizational testing for Therapy animals other than dogs, such as cats and horses, may be similar to the testing for dogs with the other species taking into account.  Check with each organization to clarify if necessary. 

  3. Service Dogs – Program Trained – come from Organizations that specialize in Service Dog training and often will have their own breed preference and breeding program.  Others use rescue or donated dogs and some will train your dog for you.  These animals are often referred to as Program Dogs. 

  4. Service Dogs – Owner Trained – Owner trained dogs are a viable option if you have the patience, knowledge and skill.  In Owner training you may work with a local or a national trainer to assist you in getting the dog trained.

There are three phases of training that are considered required to end up with a fullfledged Service Dog.  Here are the three steps followed by an excellent Flow Chart of the training process.

Phase 1 – Basic Obedience, most often determined by passing the American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen®  (CGC) test.  More information can be found at

Phase 2 – Public Access, where you begin to take the dog out to more places in order to help judge the dog’s ability to remain calm, quiet and well behaved in public.  If your dog is doing well in dog friendly stores, business and in public then you start vesting your dog as a “Service Dog in Training (SDiT).”  Beware:  A Service Dog in Training is NOT covered by the Federal ADA laws.  Rather each state has their own laws that cover SDiT.

NOTE: At this juncture you need to understand thelaws that apply to your particular situation.  Check to see what rights your state laws allow.  If your state laws do not cover public access for a SDiT you may want to consider starting the process to get them updated.

Phase 3 – Work and/or Tasks to mitigate the handler’s disability.  Up until now the training steps remain essentially the same for every handler.  But when you get past the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Program and Public Access portions of your training now you must determine what work and tasks you can teach the dog that will mitigate your disability.


CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Permission from Handi-Dogs, Inc.

The reality is that most dogs are not suited for Service.  It takes a dog that is comfortable in new and different circumstances, is calm even in the midst of chaos and can handle being approached by all types of people including strangers, men/women and children of all ages.  There are no hard statistics but I’ve heard 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000.  Either way, the majority of dogs won’t be able to work as Service Dogs. Take your time, do your research, talk to handlers, trainers and breeders until you’ll know you’ve found the right breed, and ultimately, the right dog or miniature horse for you.