Service Dogs America

Certify Your Dog - start here!

Frequently Asked Questions

What breeds make good Service Dogs for physically disabled people?
The short answer is Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. Of course, there are exceptions. Dogs from the working group are easy to train but tend to be protective. Field dogs tend to be more interested in their environment than people. Small dogs can't pick up large objects or pull wheelchairs. Large dogs are difficult to put under a table at a restaurant or out of the way on a bus or plane. A good Service Dog is not protective, is people-oriented, is not overactive, and is confident but not dominant or submissive. Service Dogs should not require complex grooming.

What breeds make good Hearing Dogs?
Since most Hearing Dogs are rescued from shelters, they tend to be mixed breeds. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. The great majority of Hearing Dog applicants request small- to medium-sized dogs, so most Hearing Dogs tend to be the size of a Sheltie or smaller. In addition to size, personality and temperament are important in a Hearing Dog. They must be energetic and ready to work in an instant. They must be friendly and people-oriented. Because of these requirements, a lot of Terrier mixes are used, along with various combinations of Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Llasa Apsos, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas.

Why shouldn't a Service Dog be protective?
A Service Dog's job is to make disabled individuals more able, not to protect them. The dog's presence is a natural deterrent. Because disabled people take their Service Dogs into public places and many are not able to physically restrain their dogs, the Service Dog must be safe for the public. Many dogs, especially working breeds, will sense their owner's disability and vulnerability. These dogs can learn on their own to protect at inappropriate times. This problem can be compounded by people who don't recognize that they are unconsciously encouraging this behavior.

Can you recommend any books on assistance dogs and people with disabilities?
Here a just a few of the books available:

  • Teamwork I & II by Top Dog in Tucson, Arizona;
  • Partners in Independence by Ed and Toni Eames;
  • Lend Me an Ear by Martha Hoffman;
  • Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs and Declarations of Independence by John Hockenberry;
  • Life on Wheels: For the Active Wheelchair User by Gary Karp;
  • Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto;
  • Waist-High in the World: Life Among the Non-Disabled by Nancy Mairs;
  • Chelsea: The Story of a Signal Dog by Paul Ogden

How do I get my dog certified as an assistance dog?
Currently there is no form of certification  for assistance dogs. You may personally train your dog to accomplish your own specific needs. What qualifies your dog as an assistance dog, is the help the dog provides for your individual disability

What are the benefits of certification?
Since there is no standard certification process, this would vary with the organization you chose. Some programs offer a thorough certification process that can take two or more years and could include training classes, field trips and in-home instruction. In addition to being able to take pride in what you and your dog have accomplished, as a "certified" graduate, you might receive the program's identification card and dog equipment; you may also personally train your dog to accomplish your own specific needs.

Service Dogs America recognizes that you may train your own dog and supplies you with the appropriate identification to allow your dog to accompany you anywhere you wish to go.