Helping Service Dogs be Successful in Early Public Access Training Sessions
Public Access Training should be among some of the last training sessions that you do with your Service Dog in Training! Be sure to read my previous posts in this series, especially posts 9 through 11 about new environments. This is the final post in my January series: Plan for Success and it targeted specifically at my Service Dog training clients.
Start slow by getting used to the environment before the environment!
The Parking Lot:
Pet Friendly Stores:
Service Dogs Public Access Situations:
- The ADA states that Service Dogs must be fully potty trained before being taking into any public access related environment. Sure accidents happen, dogs get sick, etc. But this should be a rare occurrence that your dog has an issue in the store. I want to see that all my dogs can potty on cue before I start working in pet friendly locations & I want to see that they have generalized that to multiple environments before I start PA training.
- The ADA also states that Service Dogs must be under handler control at all times. While this can mean a lot of different things, but bare minimum I want my dog to be able to walk nicely on a loose leash. I don't expect a perfect competition heel, but I want my dog to be able to follow my walking lead matching my pass and direction changes accordingly.
- I also want my dog to feel safe, calm, and comfortable walking with other people nearby. And while this is a process that can be perfected during PA training, I want to see that my dogs remain fairly stress free or the handler is prepared to take whatever steps necessary to help the dog feel safe. I won't take any dog in training into a place where I'm not prepared to leave immediately if they start to show signs of stress!
- Lastly, I want to have a few cues generalized to be able to use as needed in the environment; sit, down, under, wait, etc. Each handler needs to decide these cues for themselves as there is no hard and fast right set of behaviors that are dictated by laws. If you are not sure what you want to have in place for your Service Dog in Training I suggest you review the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test as a bare minimum standard of training. Your dog may not be 100% perfect on all behaviors, especially if they are in the adolescent phase, but you want to be happy, comfortable, and confident in their skills before you take them into a public access environment. Remember to practice all new skills in pet friendly environments so you can begin the proofing process before you ask your dog to do a behavior in a public access situation.