If you’re wondering whether a service dog must be professionally trained, the answer is no. Many legitimate service dogs are trained by experts by reputable organizations with decades of experience. Some dogs are trained by a local dog trainer or self-trained by owners. Behavior is key, not method or origination of training.
A professionally trained service dog from a reputable agency with decades of experience should be an obviously well trained and well-behaved service dog. Here are some characteristics of a well-trained service dog:
- These dogs are generally non-reactive to surroundings and will focus their attention on performing a task, or tasks, for their handler.
- They may wear a patch or marking on their service vest, although this is not required.
- They’re certified by the individual organization and have passed tests to ensure their adherence to standards.
- These dogs are trained not to be reactive in all situation and are obvious to the layperson as legitimate service dogs.
- Dogs should never be fed in vest and should never steal food, beg for food or act in a protective or guarding manner around food, bones or toys.
- They should be relatively “invisible” and unnoticed except when entering and exiting an establishment or form of transportation.
These dogs may have undergone up to two years of training and may appear almost robotic. Dogs may appear to be acting automatically, and certain breeds and combination of breeds may exhibit an affinity or aversion to certain environmental factors such as cold temperatures, excessive wind, rain, etc. This is not to be confused with a lack of training or inability to perform tasks for the handler.