Service Dogs
How to Register Your Service Dog

How to Register Your Service Dog

Do you know that this is one of the top searched items when people are googling about service dogs? How to Register your service dog is pretty consistently the number one searched item. I really want to dig into this as I came across a HUGE scam that goes on in this area – and want you to be aware of it.

How to Register Your Service Dog

We have talked before about the difference in dogs that help people. There are therapy dogs that go to places like nursing homes, children’s hospitals, and more. These dogs are trained and have to do well with people. There are emotional support animals (ESA) that help people with things like Anxiety or PTSD deal with situations they might find challenging to deal with otherwise.

THEN, there are service dogs.

Service dog requirements ADA

Let us look at what the ADA has to say about service animals –

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does cover the definition of service animals, which is currently limited strictly to dogs and miniature horses, but it does not provide any penalties at the moment for falsely claiming that a companion animal is a service animal.

Huh – I can’t imagine trying to take a miniature horse to stores and restaurants….

Obviously, the dog has to be tied to a person in a way that will help them with a specific physical, emotional or mental disability.

In my case – Tazuna alerts me in advance to when I am going to have a migraine. I never had an “aura” or any other warning and would get hit as fast as flipping a light switch. If I am in public when it hits, I can’t even drive. She tells me BEFORE they happen so I have time to get home and take my meds as well as lay down.

She also alerted me to lay down before a seizure hit. And laid on top of me…

Gosh I adore her!

Service dog behavior requirements

Here is what you need to know:

Your pooch needs to mind their manners

Your pup has to be able to be polite in public. This doesn’t mean be social, it means they aren’t going to bark or growl at people as well as they will listen to your commands. Ideally, they should be difficult to distract.

They are to be in your control at all times, and within 6 feet of you – leashed or with a handgrip on their harness. They sit under your table, or chair at restaurants and stay by your side at the store.

Pass a Public Access Test

Your pooch will be in public. Around People. The trick is to get them used to being “on duty” when they are wearing their vest and let them know they are on “break” when it is off.

Most places that train dogs for service use will work on these 7 standard tasks:

  1. No aggressive behavior towards people and other animals.
  2. Cease sniffing behaviors unless released to do so.
  3. No solicitations for food or affection while on duty.
  4. No over-excitement and hyperactivity in public.
  5. Able to tolerate novel sights and sounds in various public settings.
  6. No unruly behavior or excessive barking.
  7. No relieving themselves in public without being given a specific command.


They aren’t going to remember every command and position if you don’t practice it. It helps to drill those skills down and reinforce them.

I have taken Tazuna to every store and restaurant I can -so she gets used to shopping carts, crowds, loud places, and that annoying cheering clapping thing that a lot of casual restaurants do to celebrate a birthday.

She is doing fantastic but doesn’t really like to go under the table if I set in a booth. That is where more practice will come in.

How To Make Your Dog a Service Dog

How Can I Get My Dog to Be a Registered Service Dog?

Here is the thing. There is NO legal registry needed. Of ANY kind.

Say it with me …. “SCAM”

What kills me is the fact that there are affiliate opportunities, for bloggers like me, to promote you paying money to register your dog though company A or company B – and the blogger gets $125 for each sign up that they drive to the company.

Just. Ugh.

It is a HUGE money-making opportunity for a ton of companies- who will gladly charge you $95 – 200 to “register your dog” and then send you a vest and a little laminated card.

The vests are $25 on Amazon and come with a card.

Check out some “registration” companies

This was one of my favorites on telling you HOW to get your dog to be a registered service dog. Just look at these FOUR simple steps:

  • Step 1 – Temperament Check. Make sure your dog has the right temperament to be a service dog and train them to follow basic commands. …
  • Step 2 – Training. Train your dog to provide a service for your disability.
  • Step 3 – Registration. Register your dog on Service Dog Certifications.
  • Step 4 – Practice.

Um, Skip step #3

FREE service dog certification download

USA Service Dog seems to be better than a lot of the others out there – they give you a FREE registration but then soak you in their store. They sell you “credentials” and “service dog packages” that you do NOT need.

My personal favorite? The Service Dog ID card for $29.99 that even says “US Registered Service Dog”.
FYI – the United States doesn’t register service dogs. Neither do most states. You DO need to be able to prove proof of vaccination as well as have your local community dog license.

What are the Service Dog Requirements?

First of all, when you are out and about in public with your pooch, no one can ask you for your papers. We already KNOW that there is no real “registration” so the documentation isn’t really possible.

A public accommodation or facility is not allowed to ask for documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Local laws that prohibit specific breeds of dogs do not apply to service animals.

ADA National Network

Here is what they CAN ask:

According to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, staff may ask two questions: First, is the dog a service animal who is required because of a disability? Second, what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

They cannot ask about the person’s disability; require medical documentation, a special identification card, or training documentation; or ask that the dog demonstrate the work or task.

Lets look at a few situations you might be in with your service dog, and what might be expected:

Service dog requirements for restaurants

Restaurants that serve the general public must allow customers with disabilities and their service animals into their restaurants to be served like other customers. Generally, service animals must be harnessed, leashed or tethered, unless such devices interfere with the animal’s work or the customer’s disability.

Generally, they should be under the table or chair that their handler is sitting at – certainly not blocking the walkway or pathway for others.

Service dog requirements for hotels

Under the ADA laws, the hotel cannot charge an extra fee for the service animal as they would another client with a pet. This also means you and your dog will be allowed in the public areas of the hotel, as well as having the right to a floor and room that are not normally designated for people traveling with pets.

Remember the big 7 tasks for out and about with your pooch in public?

No hostility, protectiveness, barking, or bad potty habits should be present. At. All.

Service dog requirements airlines

This one is tricky and will be an entirely different article as EACH airline seems to have it’s own policy. Here is the one I grabbed from American Airlines:

Animal must be harnessed, leashed or tethered at all times. Animals under 4 months of age may not travel as a service animal. Animal must be clean and well-behaved. Animal must be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap (lap animals must be smaller than a 2-year old child)

American Airlines

OK, the writer in me is just cringing at all the grammatical errors in that simple, 4-sentence policy. (sigh) But, you get the general point.

Service dog age requirements

I thought this would be a great time to bring it up – seeing as the airline wants a 4+ month old to qualify. Honestly, 4 months is too young – that is still very much a puppy stage. There is way too much development that needs to happen, and bonding, before that can even be considered.

As a dog rounds out their first year on the planet, they are about 14-15 years old, in people terms. A kind of head-strong teenager. A teenager that wants to please… but still. Yeah. If you have ever had a teenager, you get it.

Tazuna started alerting to my neurological changes when she was about 6 months old. It took us a while to figure out what was going on. THEN, at 10 months, we did the in-detail training through Rebekah at Off Leash K-9 Training via their 2-week Board and Train program.

We rock that Big 7 list now but know that technically speaking, training never ends. Service dogs must be able to learn new things and adapt to their handlers’ needs as they change over time. Additionally, it is not uncommon for fully trained dogs to need a bit of touch-up on things they’ve already learned how to do. But initially, from start to finish, it takes about two years to train a service dog.

Is it illegal to pretend your dog is a service dog?

Here is the thing – if you are doing that? You suck.

Currently there is no Federal Law against it – but many states have passed them.

A growing number of states have passed laws making it illegal to falsely claim that you are entitled to be accompanied by a service animal. In some states, it’s illegal to falsely misrepresent that your pet or other animal is a service animal (by, for example, putting your dog in a “guide dog” or “service dog” vest).

California is one of my favorites:

CALIFORNIA. Penal Code 365.7 introduced back in 1995. Those pretending to be an owner of a service dog is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.

The State of California – and yes, I sang that in my head like it was an Eagle’s song.

There is a nice list with the 23 states that currently have a law on the books about this at PropertyWare.

Did you learn anything?

1,900 words later and I didn’t tell you How to Register Your Service Dog. I told you NOT to – that it is a SCAM with a capital S, and not necessary.

I told you what your pup needs to be able to do. I told you the legalities of having a service dog. I shared with you what they are expected to learn.

It takes YOU, your time, your training of your dog, and practice – lots of practice. I spent $2,300 to have my pooch professionally trained, but you don’t have to. I found this GREAT trainer on Youtube for you to check out to help you train your pup yourself:

In episode one I will be teaching Harley the first ten steps that I follow when training a service dog. These steps do not include socializing or confidence building. These steps are for obedience, as it’s important for a service dog to always be obedient.

You got this.

Check out these other great tips for dogs:


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