The Complete Timeline of Service Dog Training

Service dogs play an important role in improving the quality of life for individuals with physical challenges, mental health issues, and other medical conditions. Their training journey is a critical part of their development, and in this article, we will delve into the complete timeline of service dog training.

The Importance of Service Dogs

Service dogs are more than just pets; they are partners and helpers that provide life-changing services to disabled individuals and their families. With their specialized training and unique skills, service dogs can aid those with visual or hearing impairments, physical disabilities, and medical or psychiatric conditions.

Pre-training: Choosing the Candidate

The first step in training a service dog begins even before actual training commences, with the selection of the right canine candidate. Courses of training may differ depending on the types of service roles the dogs will occupy.

Age Considerations

Dogs can start service dog training as early as 12 weeks old, but professional organizations often begin their training when the dogs reach the age of one to two years old.

Breed Considerations

Although most breeds are capable of becoming service dogs, some breeds are most preferred for the kind of temperament and physical attributes needed for the job. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Border Collies are the most commonly chosen breeds for service dog training.

Stage 1: Basic Training

After the selection process, the chosen canine candidate will undergo basic training. This generally includes house training and basic obedience training, including commands like sit, stay, come, and down. This stage typically takes around four to six months.

Stage 2: Intermediate Training

This stage consists of further obedience training, behavior correction, socialization, and initiating task-specific training. The aim at this stage is to ensure that the dog can follow commands reliably in different environments. This stage usually lasts between six to twelve months.

Stage 3: Advanced Training

This stage involves specialized task training unique to the service role that the dog will fulfil. Tasks might include pulling a wheelchair, picking up dropped items, interrupting self-harming behaviors, or alerting to seizures or low blood glucose. The duration of advanced training can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the tasks, but it often lasts between six months to a year.

Stage 4: Public Access Test

Before being placed with their handler, service dogs usually undergo a Public Access Test to confirm that they can behave appropriately in various public settings. The specific requirements for the test can vary, but generally, the dog must demonstrate they can follow commands, ignore distractions, and behave calmly in various diversions.

Stage 5: Handler Training and Team Integration

The final stage involves training the handler and integrating the dog into the individual’s lifestyle and routines. This step is crucial and can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the handler’s disability and the dog’s service tasks.

Service Dog Training: An Ongoing Process

While the formal training stages might be completed, the service dog’s education is never truly over. Regular refresher training and constant skill utilization are essential for the dog to maintain its training and perform its tasks effectively.


Service dog training is a long, intricate, and dedicated process, but ultimately, it results in a highly trained dog that can significantly improve the life of an individual in need. It’s important to remember that a service dog is not just a pet but a carefully trained professional attendant who has devoted its life to providing services to humans in need.

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