2. What is the difference between a service-dog-in-training versus a full-fledged service dog?

According to prevalent service dog training custom(s) in our country, a dog isn’t labeled as a service dog in training until it has completed basic obedience training using verbal commands and hand signals, both on and off-leash, and has passed (or is capable of passing) the Canine Good Citizen Test. This is the juncture at which one normally begins public access training with the dog. This is also the time when one usually puts a cape or harness on the dog and begins taking it into places of public accommodation where dogs aren’t normally allowed to go.

Try to resist the temptation of prematurely labeling your service dog in training a fully-trained service dog, when he/she is not yet fully trained. All service dogs in training make mistakes at one time or another. Fully trained and mature Service Dogs rarely do. Thus, if you are in a public setting and your dog does something wrong, such as bark inappropriately, it is better to have your dog labeled as a service dog in training rather than a service dog. Most people will understand and be tolerant of a young dog in-training, so long as you correct the offending behavior immediately. There is less tolerance by the public when such a dog is identified as a fully-trained service dog. What may at first seem to be an officious restriction, can in fact be a saving grace when your service dog in training makes his/her first mistake in public.

In the context of owner-training, it is usually the handler’s decision as to when a dog will ‘graduate’ from in-training status to full-fledged service dog. A reasonable benchmark for service dog ‘graduation’ is passage of the Psychiatric Service Dog Society's Public Access Test (provided that the dog has already been trained to assist with the mitigation of disabling symptoms).

Note: Many federal laws grant access to a disabled person with their service dog but these laws do not apply to service dog in training. Some states have implemented laws to bridge this gap in coverage, so that trainers working a service dog in training can enjoy full access to places of public accommodation for the purposes of training. Unfortunately, few of these laws are consistent with the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that the law in your state may be written in such a way that it pertains only to certain types of service dogs and not others (i.e., guide dogs but not seizure alert dogs, for example). Or, the state law may specify that coverage only extends to service dogs from state sanctioned service dog training facilities or trainers who are credentialed by a state sanctioned training authority.

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