From Puppy To Pro: A Step-By-Step Guide To Training Your Service Dog

You’ve got a new puppy, and you just can’t wait for him to grow up into a beautiful, well-trained service dog. You’ve heard that it takes years to train a dog for this job but don’t worry! 

We’re here to help you cut through all of the confusion and get your pup ready for work in no time.

First Ten Steps When Training A Service Dog!
Key Takeaways
Training a service dog requires patience and dedication.
Following experts and professionals in service dog training is necessary.
Training programs and guides can help establish a regimented process to follow.
Service dogs can perform a wide variety of tasks depending on specific needs.
Not all dogs are suited for service dog training.

Step 1: Get Your Service Dog In Training The Right Supplies

It’s important to know that you’ll need the right supplies for training your service dog. They’re going to be working hard, so you want to make sure they have everything they need. Here are some items you should consider getting:

  • A good collar and leash

The equipment that you choose is going to depend on the kind of service dog that you have and what kind of tasks they will need to perform. 

For example, if your dog’s job is going out into public spaces with a child who has autism without any adults present (and thus no one caring if the child hurts their own body), then it makes sense that this service dog would wear a harness rather than a collar when outside in public. 

The same goes for any other situation where there isn’t someone around who can help keep track of where the animal is at all times; for example, an assistance animal helping an elderly person navigate stairs in their home might also wear a harness instead of being held by hand or attached by leash on every occasion outside their house because there’s no one else available to take care of them while at home alone.

Training a service dog requires patience and dedication. If you’re thinking about taking on this challenge, check out The Ultimate Guide to Training Your Service Dog: What You Need to Know for expert advice and tips.

Step 2: Find A Reputable Trainer To Work With Your Service Dog

The next step in training your service dog is finding a reputable trainer to work with. You want to find someone who has a good reputation, is experienced in training service dogs, and is patient, kind and gentle. Make sure to ask for references from previous clients before hiring them for the job.

A great trainer will be flexible and willing to work with you so that whatever issues need fixing can be addressed as quickly as possible.

Step 3: Teach Your Service Dog Basic Obedience

Now that your service dog is familiar with its name, you need to teach it to obey commands. Training your dog to respond to a variety of commands will be crucial in many situations that may arise when out in public. 

Dogs are typically trained using hand signals, verbal cues and whistles. It can be helpful for those who have hearing impairments or other disabilities that make verbal communication difficult. The following is an overview of the most common types of obedience training:

  • Hand Signals – These are used by trainers to communicate specific commands such as sit, stay and come here. Hand signals are especially useful for people who have hearing impairments or other disabilities making verbal communication difficult
  • Verbal Cues – Verbal cues are used by trainers when there isn’t time or room for hand signals (such as during an emergency) or if the handler has difficulty using their hands due to a disability
  • Whistles – Whistles work well if you want your service dog nearby but don’t want them crowding up on someone else’s space like say at work where everyone has their own cubicle area

Having a service dog that responds to your commands in any situation is crucial for their success. Learn how to train your service dog to be reliable with How to Train Your Service Dog to Respond to Commands in Any Situation and give them the tools they need to help you.

Step 4: Provide Monthly Health Care For Your Service Dog

As your service dog learns and matures, it’s important to keep track of his or her overall health. By monitoring your dog’s physical condition, you can detect any health issues that could arise over time.

To check your service dog’s health, perform the following monthly checks:

Check the ears for redness or discharge. If there is any redness or discharge present in either ear canal (the openings at the base), consult a veterinarian right away. This may indicate an infection, which must be treated as soon as possible for it not to worsen.

Check teeth for tartar buildup and/or bad breath. Tartar buildup will cause bad breath; if you notice any foul odors coming from your pet’s mouth when eating or drinking water (or if he/she refuses to drink), then there is probably tartar buildup on one or more teeth that should be cleaned by a professional dental care provider immediately!

Type of CareDescription
VaccinationsRegular vaccinations are necessary to prevent diseases and keep your service dog healthy.
Flea/Tick PreventionFlea and tick prevention is crucial for the overall health and comfort of your service dog.
Heartworm PreventionHeartworm prevention medication is given monthly to keep your service dog from being infected by mosquito-borne parasites.
GroomingRegular grooming will help keep your service dog comfortable and healthy, especially long-haired breeds.
Dental CareDental care is important for overall health and is particularly important for working dogs who need healthy teeth and gums to perform tasks comfortably.

Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Remember, you’re teaching your dog to perform tasks in order to help you cope with a disability. This can take time and practice not just for your dog, but for both of you. 

Just like humans, some dogs are more naturally inclined toward certain tasks than others. If one method isn’t working for your particular situation, try another!

Don’t give up on training just because it takes longer than expected or doesn’t happen overnight and don’t compare your progress with other people’s dogs (or even other puppies!). 

Every service dog is unique: some may learn faster due to their age, others might not have all the physical capabilities required by a given task at such an early stage in life yet (for example: a puppy who doesn’t have the stamina yet needed for constant walking).

Step 6: Teach Your Service Dog To Wait Patiently

This step is all about teaching your service dog to wait patiently. You want your dog to be able to remain still until given permission to move or complete a task, which can be especially useful in situations that might otherwise cause stress or anxiety.

Here’s what you should do:

Teach your service dog the “sit” command and have them sit in front of you on the floor.

Now tell them “stay” and place a treat slightly off to one side of their nose so they must turn their head towards it in order to eat it. If they get up before they eat it, reset them back down into the ‘sit’ position and repeat the exercise until they are staying put without getting up while waiting for their treat. 

Once this happens consistently, add another treat next to where the first one was placed and again have them stay put as long as possible while eating both treats at once. 

Continue adding more treats around their mouth until there are enough stashed away from each other so it becomes difficult for your dog not only physically but mentally challenging for him/her because now he/she has too many things going on at once (turning his head towards one thing then another).

There are many important things to keep in mind when training a service dog. Make sure you’re on the right track by checking out The Do’s and Don’ts of Service Dog Training: What You Need to Know and learning about common mistakes to avoid.

Step 7: Teach Your Service Dog Specific Commands

Your service dog will need to know a few basic commands, such as “quiet,” “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” You’ll also want to teach him how to walk on a leash and perform some tricks.

Once your dog is comfortable wearing the vest, it’s time for the next step: teaching him specific commands. 

This is where you start working with other people and letting them interact with your dog so he can get used to being around lots of different types of people.

Teaching these commands takes time and patience but shouldn’t be too difficult if you’ve been following the first six steps of this guide. 

The most important thing that needs to happen during this phase is getting your dog used to wearing his vest 24/7 so that he gets used to staying calm while wearing it at all times (even when there isn’t anyone else around).

“Sit”A basic command where the dog sits on command.
“Stay”A command where the dog must remain in place. Essential for situations like crossing a busy street.
“Down”A command where the dog lies down on command.
“Heel”A command where the dog walks directly beside or behind its handler.
“Come”A command where the dog goes to its handler when called.
“Leave it”A command where the dog stops engaging with a certain object. For example, leaving food on the ground.
“Drop it”A command where the dog drops an object that they are carrying.
“Find it”A command where the dog locates and brings a particular object to the handler.
“Go to bed”A command where the dog goes to its designated bed or crate.

Step 8: Keep Up With House Training Rules And Routines

Once your puppy has been house trained, it’s important to keep up with the rules and routines that helped him learn in the first place. The less you need to worry about house training, the better!

House training rules should be consistent you should always take your dog outside at roughly the same time every day (or night). 

They should also be easy to follow if there are too many rules or you’re not sure what to do next, then it will be harder for you or your puppy to remember everything he needs from one moment in time until another. 

Finally, house training rules must be easy for both dogs and humans alike: simple instructions that are easy to remember and enforce are ideal here.

Choosing the right service dog training program is essential for both you and your dog. Make an informed decision with How to Choose the Right Service Dog Training Program for Your Needs and set yourself up for success.

Step 9: Repeat Training As Needed

Once you’ve trained your service dog, you’ll want to continue practicing the tasks with him. As with any other activity, repetition is the key to learning. This means that training needs to be an ongoing process, rather than just a few days or weeks of intensive sessions.

You should also keep in mind that some dogs have different learning needs than others and may need more time or practice before they’re ready for full-time work as a service dog. You can ask a trainer or behaviorist for help if you aren’t sure whether your pup is ready for this kind of commitment!

Step 10: Bring Your Service Dog In Public For Socialization

Now, it’s time to bring your service dog into public. Start by going to places where there are few distractions and lots of people who are used to seeing animals like grocery stores, for instance. You want your puppy or young adult to be comfortable with the idea of being in public without having too much going on around them. 

If you’re new at this, start by bringing one person along with you and let them hold the leash so that your pup can learn how not only people react when they see a dog (and what those reactions mean), but also how other dogs react around other dogs as well as how humans react around other humans. 

Once he seems comfortable with that situation, add another person or two—you want him/her getting used to being around multiple people at once so that when they go back out into public later on their own they don’t feel overwhelmed by all their surroundings!

When he/she seems comfortable walking through grocery stores with just one or two strangers, try bringing along friends and family members who love dogs so that they can help socialize your pup while also teaching him manners! 

Don’t forget: whenever possible, get outside! Dogs love being outdoors just as much as humans do (if not more) and need fresh air every now and then!

From puppyhood to graduation, training a service dog takes time and effort. Follow From Puppy to Pro: A Step-by-Step Guide to Training Your Service Dog for a comprehensive approach to service dog training and ensure your dog’s success.

Step 11: Let Others Know How To Interact With Your Service Dog In Training

As your service dog will be working in public, it’s important to let others know that your dog is still in training. You can do this by having a card made with the words “In Training” on one side and “Do not pet or feed” on the other. 

This will help avoid confusion between your service dog and a regular pet, as well as keep people from trying to interact with your animal while they’re working.

It’s also important to remember that even though you may see other dogs going around greeting everyone they see, this isn’t something that you should encourage or allow until after the animal has completed its training period. 

While some people may think there are no harm done by allowing a friendly pup (or kitten) free rein at an event or gathering, this can actually distract from whatever task needs to be accomplished during training sessions—and make things harder for both you and your pup!

Step 12: Make Sure You Have The Proper Paperwork For Your Service Dog In Training

This is a crucial step, and one that can be a lot of work if you don’t know where to start. The paperwork is a legal document, and it’s important that it reflects the reality of your situation and what training your service dog has undergone thus far. 

If you are using the term “service dog” or “service animal” incorrectly, this will send up red flags for other people who might see it happen at an airport or restaurant and that could lead to trouble for both you and your pup!

Service Animal ApplicationA document used by US Service Animal Registrar to certify a service animal.
Health RecordsRecords indicating the health status and vaccination records of the service dog.
Proof of Training ProgressDocumentation indicating training progress and necessary certification requirements.
Public Access TestDocumentation showing that the service dog has passed the public access test.
IdentificationA form of ID that establishes the service dog as a working animal available for public access.


It’s exciting to watch your service dog in training grow and develop! With all this hard work, you can be sure that your service dog will be well-prepared to help you out with any task. 

We hope this guide has helped answer any questions or concerns you might have had about the process of getting your own service dog from puppyhood through full certification. 

If not, don’t worry there are plenty more resources available on our website and elsewhere online for further reading. Good luck!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to help you with training your service dog:

How to Train Your Own Service Dog: A comprehensive guide to training your own service dog from start to finish.

Steps to Train Your Dog: A helpful article outlining a basic step-by-step approach to training your dog.

How to Train Your Service Dog Without a Professional Trainer: A detailed guide on how to train your service dog without the help of a professional trainer.


How long does it take to train a service dog?

Training a service dog can take anywhere from several months to a few years, depending on the breed, personality, and the specific tasks they need to learn.

How do I know if my dog is suitable for service dog training?

Not all dogs are suited to become service dogs, but generally, they should have a calm and obedient temperament, a willingness to learn, and be healthy and well-behaved in public settings.

Can I train my own service dog?

Yes, it is possible to train your own service dog, but it requires a significant amount of time, effort, and dedication. You should be prepared to follow a strict training regimen and have the patience to work through any setbacks.

What tasks can a service dog be trained to perform?

Service dogs can be trained to perform a wide range of tasks, including but not limited to assisting people with mobility issues, alerting for medical emergencies, providing tactile support for individuals with autism, and helping with psychiatric disabilities.

Can I take my service dog anywhere?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are allowed to accompany their handlers anywhere the public is allowed, including restaurants, hotels, and other public places.