How to Get a Dog Certified As a Service Dog in Washington State

By Maura Wolf

The Washington State Human Rights Commission defines a service dog as \"an animal that is trained for the purpose of assisting or accommodating a disabled person’s sensory, mental, or physical disability.\" The rules of Washington State's Law Against Discrimination defines a disability as \"any abnormal sensory, mental or physical condition that is medically cognizable or diagnosable, exists as a record or history or is perceived to exist.\" The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) does not require service animals to be certified.

Service Dog Training and Certification

Decide if you want to obtain a trained service dog or train your own dog with the assistance of a professional trainer. All service dogs must be trained before qualifying to work as service animals and candidate dogs for service dog training must have passed screenings for health, temperament, training and aptitude.

Review the dog’s age in relation to expectations of the services required. Service dogs should be at least 12 months old and physically mature enough to perform required tasks at the time of placement with the handler.

Take the dog to the veterinarian for a basic physical exam. According to the Delta Society, candidate dogs for service dog training must pass a medical screening, which ensures the dog is physically balanced, disease-free and up-to-date on vaccinations.

Evaluate the dog to be sure its temperament is appropriate for the tasks it will be performing and under the conditions it will be likely to perform them. The service dog should be friendly to both people and other animals, should not display fearful reactions to normal experiences and should not exhibit excessively submissive or assertive behavior. The dog should be confident and willing to interact with people in many new environments.

Work with a professional trainer to teach the dog to perform basic behaviors and basic movements, to focus on and listen to the handler and to perform certain tasks on command or cue that are directly related to the handler’s disabilities.

Make sure your dog has acquired proper and consistent social behavior skills while on duty including calm, reserved behavior toward people or other animals; tolerance when confronted with unfamiliar sounds, sights or smells; and an ability to eliminate on cue in an appropriate place.

Show that the service dog is comfortable on various surfaces on which the behaviors will be performed. Surfaces must vary in texture, traction, angle (both horizontal and vertical planes), stability, temperature and material. The environments in which the behaviors are performed must vary in distractions presented and familiarity to the dog and handler.

Obtain a certificate declaring that the dog has met or exceeded the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) Minimum Training Standards for Public Access. Handlers are not required to show proof or certification, but it is a good idea to have the dog pass the Public Access Certification Test with a certified tester who will provide the handler with a signed certificate. ?To obtain the certificate, service dogs should receive a minimum of 120 hours of training over a period of at least six months.