Training Your Own Dog

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There is an alternative, to waiting many years to get a dog, and to getting a dog that may not be trained to your needs. If you have the experience, or if you can get the help of a professional dog trainer, you can train a dog yourself. Even if you've trained dogs before, I STRONGLY suggest you get the help of a professional dog trainer, or a program that helps you train your own dog. There are some programs out there, that allow you to train a dog to meet your needs, either using a dog you provide, or providing a dog for you. There are many advantages to this, as well as disadvantages.

Advantages include:

1. No waiting list. If you have your own dog, you can begin to train it immediately.

2. May be cheaper than getting a program trained dog. You won't have to pay for hotel, meals, and plane fare to the facility to receive your dog.

3. Has the same access rights as any dog from a program.


1. The dog must be trained before it can be taken out into public. There is no such thing as the "MAGIC" dog. You have to train the dog.

2. If you're training a puppy, you must wait for it to finish growing before teaching tasks such as wheelchair pulling and bracing (Mobility Service (Assistance) Dogs Only)

A fair word of warning. It isn't easy to train your own Service (Assistance) Dog. If you never have trained a dog before, please look into a program trained dog, or the services of a dog trainer to help you. If, however, you've trained dogs before, AND know of a good dog trainer to help you, train your own dog and have fun doing it!

Top Dog Publishing has two wonderful books out for those who are physically disabled and would like to train their dog, either in basic obedience, or service dog work, or both. The books are called Teamwork 1 and Teamwork 2, and are available directly from me. For more information, check out the Books page.

I produce wrap around leashes for those that want a leash that they can clip around their waist and not worry about dropping it while using a wheelchair, or other mobility device. Go here for information on the leashes as well as pricing.

Christy Hill has written up one of the best pages on deciding to train your own assistance dog that I have seen. Click here to read it.

I have trained my own dog to be a service dog. Gillis is a Doberman Pinscher, and you can read all about his commands, the equipment I use with him and there are pictures of him and I. More information will be added as I get the time to update these pages. Click here, or you can choose "Training Your Own Dog - Gillis" from the drop down menu at the top of the page, or the menu at the bottom of the page.

OT-Adogs Internet Mail List

If you are training your own dog, please join the Owner Trained Assistance Dogs internet mailing list. We talk about how to train your dog for specific things, the laws that cover you when you're accompanied by your service dog or service dog in training, and we talk about access issues. To join the list, please visit the OT-Adogs Internet Mailing List page. You can receive individual emails, a digest each day of the messages, or read the list on the Web. Any questions, please contact me at ">">

Dressing Your Dog

Now that you've made the decision to train your own dog, you're going to need to "dress" your dog appropriately. The ADA doesn't require a Service Dog to be dressed in any way, but depending on what you use your dog for, you may need specific equipment on your dog to do his job. Even if you don't need anything on the dog (your dog is a Hearing Dog for example), you should dress your dog so that by just looking at your dog, someone will know he/she is an Service (Assistance) Dog. This cuts down on confrontations, and does work. Click HERE for a listing of people that sell equipment for your Service (Assistance) Dog.

Also, check out the Assistance Dog Equipment page, where I give some ideas on what equipment to use if you need your dog to do certain tasks, like pulling a wheelchair.

How Do I Tell If My Dog is a Service Dog?

If you are disabled as defined by the ADA, that is, if you have a condition that substantually limits a life function, and your dog does one thing for you, like picking up dropped items, or helping you walk by supporting you, or responding to a medical condition in a manner that you trained, then your dog IS a service dog. Certification is not required. If you are unsure if your dog is a service dog, please call me, and I'll give you my expert opinion on the matter.

Places Where You Can Train Your Own Dog

NOTE: TOP DOG do not provide a dog for you, you will have to find your own dog, but they can and will help you pick out an appropriate dog.

Top Dog

There is an organization for those partnered with Service (Assistance) Dogs. They produce a quarterly newsletter, with informative articles, hints, and help regarding the laws that govern our rights to be partnered with an A-Dog. Please check out the International Association of Service (Assistance) Dog Partners (IAADP) web site.


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*Copyright © 1998-2005 Dana L. Marshall
*All Rights Reserved