Training Standards

Service Dogs, Inc. is certified by Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the industry association of organizations that train Assistance Dogs (ADI). This certification means we meet or exceed the ADI standards for working with dogs and clients and managing our organization ethically and professionally.

Here is a sample of what ADI says about standards. The complete information is available on the ADI website at www.adionline.org

Table of Contents:


Training Standards

Assistance Dogs International Standards and Ethics Committee has developed minimum standards and ethics which all member programs must follow. This active committee updates existing standards and develops new ones. These standards are the backbone of the ADI accreditation and guide programs.

The public should understand that these are minimum standards. Please take the time to read each to understand all that goes into a working assistance dog

Assistance Dogs in Public: guidelines on the public appropriateness, behavior and training expected of a dog working in the public

Clients: guidelines for the rights of clients partnered with an assistance dog and the rights of the community as understood by ADI

Dog: guidelines for the standards and ethics regarding the training and placing of Assistance Dogs.

Dog Partners: responsibilities of a person partnered with an assistance dog.

Guide Dogs: guidelines for the minimum training standards for a guide dog.

Hearing Dogs: guidelines for the minimum training standards for a hearing dog.

Programs: standards for all member programs.

Service Dogs: guidelines for the minimum training standards for a service dog.

Trainers: minimum guidelines for trainers. Trainers are encouraged to achieve a much higher level.

Standards are being developed for Facility Dogs and Therapy Dogs.

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Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public

These are intended to be minimum standards for all assistance dog programs that are members or provisional members with ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums.

  1. Public appropriateness
    • Dog is clean, well-groomed and does not have an offensive odor.
    • Dog does not urinate or defecate in inappropriate locations.
  2. Behavior
    • Dog does not solicit attention, visit or annoy any member of the general public.
    • Dog does not disrupt the normal course of business.
    • Dog does not vocalize unnecessarily, i.e. barking, growling or whining.
    • Dog shows no aggression towards people or other animals.
    • Dog does not solicit or steal food or other items from the general public.
  3. Training
    • Dog is specifically trained to perform 3 or more tasks to mitigate aspects of the client’s disability.
    • Dog works calmly and quietly on harness, leash or other tether.
    • Dog is able to perform its tasks in public.
    • Dog must be able to lie quietly beside the handler without blocking aisles, doorways, etc.
    • Dog is trained to urinate and defecate on command.
    • Dog stays within 24″ of its handler at all times unless the nature of a trained task requires it to be working at a greater distance.

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Standards and Ethics Regarding Clients

In keeping with our purpose of helping people with disabilities achieve greater independence and improve the quality of their lives, the member organizations of ADI believe the following ethical criteria are essential to ensure that this mandate is reasonably and responsibly met.

  1. Clients have a right to be considered to receive an Assistance Dog regardless of race, sex, religion or creed.
  2. Clients have the right to be treated with respect and dignity at all times in their dealings with the member organization’s personnel and representatives.
  3. The client has a right to receive a sound educational program to learn how to use his or her Assistance Dog most effectively at home and/or in public.
  4. The client has a right to receive appropriate education on his or her role as a user of an Assistance Dog in the community.
  5. The client has the right to receive regularly scheduled team evaluation and follow-up support.
  6. The client has a right to receive information on or ask for assistance in the following matters:
    • Additional training for the dog that is needed due to a change in the client’s functional level.
    • A behavioral management problem with the dog.
    • A major veterinary problem.
    • Legal problems pertaining to the use and access of the Assistance Dog as allowed by law.
  7. The client has the right to expect that personal files will remain confidential and will not be disclosed unless he or she has given express prior permission.
  8. The community has a right to expect an Assistance Dog to be under control at all times and to exhibit no intrusive behavior in public, therefore the client has the right be partnered with an appropriate dog and taught appropriate handling techniques.
  9. The community has a right to receive information concerning ADI Program Standards and Ethics.
  10. The community has a right to receive education on the benefits received by a person with a disability through the use of an Assistance Dog.
  11. No client shall be required to participate in fund raising or public relations activities without their expressed and voluntary permission.

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Standards and Ethics Regarding Dogs

ADI also believes that any dog the member organizations trains to become an Assistance Dog has a right to a quality life. Therefore, the ethical use of an Assistance Dog must incorporate the following criteria.

  1. An Assistance Dog must be temperamentally screened for emotional soundness and working ability.
  2. An Assistance Dog must be physically screened for the highest degree of good health and physical soundness.
  3. An Assistance Dog must be technically and analytically trained for maximum control and for the specialized tasks he/she is asked to perform.
  4. An Assistance Dog must be trained using humane training methods providing for the physical and emotional safety of the dog.
  5. An Assistance Dog must be permitted to learn at his/her own individual pace and not be placed in service before reaching adequate physical and emotional maturity.
  6. An Assistance Dog must be matched to best suit the client’s needs, abilities and lifestyle.
  7. An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client able to interact with him/her.
  8. An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client able to provide for the dog’s emotional, physical and financial needs.
  9. An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client able to provide a stable and secure living environment.
  10. An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client who expresses a desire for increased independence and/or an improvement in the quality of his/her life through the use of an Assistance Dog.
  11. An ADI member organization will accept responsibility for its dogs in the event of a graduate’s death or incapacity to provide proper care.
  12. An ADI member organization will not train, place, or certify dogs with any aggressive behavior. An assistance dog may not be trained in any way for guard or protection duty. Non-aggressive barking as a trained behavior will be acceptable in appropriate situations.

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Minimum Standards for Assistance Dog Partners

The assistance dog partners will agree to the following partner responsibilities:

  1. Treat the dog with appreciation and respect.
  2. Practice obedience regularly.
  3. Practice the dog’s skills regularly.
  4. Maintain the dog’s proper behavior in public and at home.
  5. Carry proper identification and be aware of all applicable laws pertaining to assistance dogs.
  6. Keep the dog well groomed and well cared for.
  7. Practice preventative health care for the dog.
  8. Obtain annual health checks and vaccinations for the dog.
  9. Abide by all leash and license laws.
  10. Follow the training program’s requirements for progress reports and medical evaluations.
  11. Arrange for the prompt cleanup of dog’s waste.

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Minimum Standards for Training Hearing Dogs

These are intended to be minimum standards for all assistance dog programs that are members or provisional members with ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums.

  1. The hearing dog must respond to basic obedience commands from the handler 90% of the time on the first ask in all public and home environments. The dog must respond to the trained sound with an alerting behavior within 15 seconds from the beginning of the sound.
  2. The hearing dog should demonstrate basic obedience skills by responding to voice and/or hand signals for sitting, staying in place, lying down, walking in a controlled position near the client and coming to the client when called.
  3. The hearing dog must meet all of the standards as laid out in the ADI Minimum Standards for Dogs in Public and should be equally well behaved in the home environment.
  4. Sound Awareness Skills. Upon hearing a sound, the hearing dog should alert the client by making physical contact or by some other behavior, so the client is aware when a trained sound occurs. The dog should then specifically indicate or lead the person to the source of the sound. All dogs must be trained to alert the handler to at least three (3) sounds.
  5. The client must be provided with enough instruction to be able to meet the ADI Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public. Clients must be able to demonstrate:
    • That their dog can alert to three (3) different sounds.
    • Knowledge of acceptable training techniques.
    • An understanding of canine care and health.
    • The ability to continue to train, problem solve, and add new skills with their hearing dog.
    • Knowledge of local access laws and appropriate public behavior.
  6. The program must document monthly follow ups with clients for the first 6 months following placement. Personal contact will be done by qualified staff or program volunteers within 12 months of graduation and annually thereafter.
  7. Identification of the hearing dog will be accomplished with the laminated ID card with a photo(s) an names of the dog and partner. In public the dog must wear a cape, harness, backpack, or other similar piece of equipment or clothing with a logo that is clear and easy to read and identifiable as an assistance dog.
  8. The program staff must demonstrate the knowledge of deafness, deaf culture and hearing impairment. A staff member or agent must know basic sign language. The program shall make available to staff and volunteers educational material on deafness, deaf culture and hearing impairment.
  9. The client must abide by the ADI Minimum Standards of Assistance Dog Partners.
  10. Prior to placement the hearing dog must meet the ADI Standards and Ethics Regarding Dogs, be spayed/neutered and have current vaccination certificates as determined by their veterinarian and applicable laws. It is the program’s responsibility to inform the client of any special health or maintenance care requirements for each dog.

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Minimum Standards for Training Service Dogs

These are intended to be minimum standards for all assistance dog programs that are members or provisional members with ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums.

  1. The service dog must respond to commands (basic obedience and skilled tasks) from the client 90% of the time on the first ask in all public and home environments.
  2. The service dog should demonstrate basic obedience skills by responding to voice and/or hand signals for sitting, staying in place, lying down, walking in a controlled position near the client and coming to the client when called.
  3. The service dog must meet all of the standards as laid out in the minimum standards for Assistance Dogs in Public and should be equally well behaved in the home.
  4. The service dog must be trained to perform at least 3 tasks to mitigate the client’s disability
  5. The client must be provided with enough instruction to be able to meet the ADI Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public. The client must be able to demonstrate:
    • That their dog can perform at least 3 tasks.
    • Knowledge of acceptable training techniques.
    • An understanding of canine care and health.
    • The ability to maintain training, problem solve, and continue to train/add new skills (as required) with their service dog.
    • Knowledge of local access laws and appropriate public behavior.
  6. The assistance dog program must document monthly follow ups with clients for the first 6 months following placement. Personal contact will be done by qualified staff or program volunteer within 12 months of graduation and annually thereafter.
  7. Identification of the service dog will be accomplished with the laminated ID card with a photo(s) and names of the dog and partner. In public the dog must wear a cape, harness, backpack, or other similar piece of equipment or clothing with a logo that is clear and easy to read and identifiable as assistance dogs.
  8. The program staff must demonstrate knowledge of the client’s disabilities in relation to the services they provide. The program shall make available to staff and volunteers educational material on different disabilities.
  9. The client must abide by the ADI Minimum Standards of Assistance Dog Partners.
  10. Prior to placement every service dog must meet the ADI Standards and Ethics Regarding Dogs, be spayed/neutered and have current vaccination certificates as determined by their veterinarian and applicable laws. It is the program’s responsibility to inform the client of any special health or maintenance care requirements for each dog.

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Minimum Standards for Programs

Member organizations of ADI believe that the following tenets are necessary to ensure that the member organizations will continue to produce a quality product and to protect applicants, students and graduates from feeling exploited or demeaned.

  1. Any individual staff member or program volunteer working with dogs and/or clients that requires specialized people/canine skills must have:
    • An affinity for people and excellent communication skills.
    • Canine knowledge and training experience that ensures established training and client standards can be met by the member organization.

Policies and procedures are followed to ensure that the member organization will be able to maintain established standards of service to people with disabilities through their application/student/graduate selection, training and team matching methods.

All Board members of ADI member organizations must receive orientation and be provided with appropriate educational materials about their respective programs. The materials should include but not be limited to the following:

    • History of Assistance Dogs and the history of their respective programs.
      ADI’s established Standards and Ethics.
    • Board of Director responsibilities such as financial management, resource identification, solicitation and fund-raising.
    • Ongoing Programs and Services and long range planning.

Member organizations recognize the community has a right to receive information concerning ADI program Standards and Ethics.

Member organizations recognize the community has a right to receive education on the benefits received by a person with a disability through the use of an Assistance Dog.

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Minimum Standards for Trainers

These are intended to be minimum standards for all assistance dog programs that want to be affiliated with ADI. All Trainers are encouraged to work at levels above the minimum.

  1. Trainers must understand and adhere to all ADI Minimum Standards and Ethics.
  2. Trainers must be able to produce effective working teams that meet ADI Standards (i.e. Public Access Test, demonstration of tasks) as reviewed at the 1 year anniversary of the team.
  3. Trainers must have up to date knowledge of best practices in many areas including:
    • learning theory
    • canine behavior
    • canine care and safety
    • a variety of training techniques, equipment and methods
  4. Trainers must demonstrate effective:
    • communication skills
    • instruction of groups and individuals
    • assessment and problem solving skills
    • self assessment and improvement of performance
  5. Trainers must demonstrate:
    • an understanding of the matching process of client with dog
    • knowledge of the environment a team will encounter, specifically concerning family, community, school and workplace and the impact these may have on each working team.
    • knowledge of and ability to determine when a training process, placement, or certification needs to be discontinued.
  6. Trainers have a responsibility to the public, therefore they must:
    • have knowledge of pertinent canine laws (i.e. leash laws and public access laws)
    • build rapport and establish effective working relationships with co-workers, clients, volunteers, and the community
    • use appropriate behavior in public when working with each dog and or client, (i.e. train one dog at a time, be polite, show respect and consideration to people and property, and maintain good personal and canine hygiene)
    • be willing to educate the public about assistance dogs and access rights.

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