The Best Time To Start Training Your Service Dog: Expert Insights

If you’re thinking about training your own service dog, you might be wondering whether there’s a right age to start. And if so, what are the best breeds to train? How long will it take? What’s the first step in getting started? We’ll answer all of these questions and more!

Watch BEFORE you get a SERVICE DOG! When To Start
Key Takeaways
– Starting service dog training early is important to develop good habits and behavior.
– It’s possible to train your own service dog, but it requires a lot of work, dedication, and patience.
– Choosing the right service dog trainer is an important decision. Consider qualifications, methods, and experience.
– Service dogs need specialized training to perform various tasks, such as allergen detection, mobility assistance, and panic attack response.
– The process of training a service dog can take a long time, from basic obedience to specialized command and environmental generalizations.

What Is A Service Dog?

A service dog is a dog that is trained to help people with disabilities. They can be trained to perform specific tasks or work as an emotional support animal.

Service dogs are trained to help with mobility, hearing and vision, seizure response, diabetes and other health conditions. Some people also use service dogs for autism assistance or PTSD therapy.

The journey to becoming a service dog can be long and challenging. However, with patience and dedication, you can train your four-legged friend to be your perfect companion. Read our comprehensive guide on The Ultimate Guide to Training Your Service Dog to know everything you need to know about service dog training.

When Is The Best Time To Start Training A Service Dog?

When you can! Don’t wait until you need it to be trained. The earlier you start, the better for both of you. Service dogs are trained for life and that means that they need to be trained for as long as possible, so if there’s no reason not to train early in life (and there usually isn’t) then do so. 

It also means that there are many benefits from starting early:

  • You will have more time with your dog before they require advanced skills (and therefore may be less expensive).
  • They’ll get used to being handled by strangers and other experiences that come later in life and help them stay calm when those things happen (e.g., going through airport security).
8-12 weeksStart with basic obedience training, such as housebreaking, crate training, and simple commands.
12-14 weeksIntroduce socialization training, exposing the puppy to different people, pets, and environments. Offer positive reinforcements to create positive associations.
4-6 monthsStart command training, such as leash walking, recall, and sit-stay. Continue socialization and housetraining.
6-12 monthsBegin specialized task training, including public access training, advanced obedience, and task-specific commands. Evaluate progress regularly.
12-18 monthsTransition to final training stages, reviewing generalization of tasks and fine-tuning behavior and obedience in public settings.

How Do You Know You’re Ready To Start Training Your Service Dog?

The best time to begin training your service dog is when you’ve been diagnosed with a disability, and after the service dog team has determined that a service dog would be able to help you with your disability.

Next, make sure that your relationship with your dog is solid and strong. If they’re not used to being handled (e.g., touched or hugged), this can create problems later on in their training. If possible, try getting them accustomed to handling before beginning their formal training sessions.

Training your service dog could take months, even years, but there are ways you can speed things up using expert tips and tricks. We have compiled a list of effective strategies in our article on How to Train Your Service Dog in Record Time. Check it out and train effectively!

Do Most People Train Their Own Service Dogs?

Most people do not train their own service dog. While it is possible to learn the necessary skills and train your own service dog, there are pros and cons to doing so.

The pros of training your own service dog include:

You can make sure that they’re trained in a way that fits your specific needs.

You will have a greater bond with them because you know each other so well. This could be especially important if your pet gets nervous around other people or animals, which may happen during public outings like going out to dinner or visiting friends’ houses and it may also help with training if your pet understands what’s expected of him/her without needing constant reminders from an outside trainer (a common issue for dogs).

The drawbacks of training your own service dog include:

Inexperience. It’s difficult for most people who have never trained before to master all the technical aspects of building an effective relationship with a service animal since there are many factors involved such as behavior modification training (which can take years), obedience training (which often involves extensive repetition), etcetera…

How Long Does It Take To Train A Service Dog?

The answer to this question is a bit murky. How long it will take you to train your new service dog depends on many factors, including how much experience you have handling dogs and how quickly your dog learns new tasks. In general, the process will take between 18 and 24 months for both of you.

However, the length of time doesn’t matter much in the end because what does matter is that your service dog is trained well enough for him or herself to be able to perform all required tasks and work well with a handler who has never been partnered with a service animal before (or hasn’t had one for a long time). 

Additionally, these animals must learn how to behave appropriately in public places such as restaurants or grocery stores without being disruptive or offensive in any way.”

Training a service dog can raise many questions, whether it be about legal rights, certifications, or breed predispositions. Look no further for answers! We’ve covered the most common questions about service dog training in our article, The Most Common Questions About Service Dog Training, Answered.

What’s The First Step In Training Your Own Service Dog?

Now that you know what to expect, it’s time to start training your service dog. You’ll need to choose the type of service dog that you want and research training programs that best fit your needs. Once you’ve found a trainer, start doing some research on their experience and qualifications. Once you find a program that seems like a good fit for both of you, start training!

What Are The Best Pet Breeds For Training As A Service Dog?

The following breeds are considered the best for training as a service dog:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Poodle (small and toy)
  • Border Collie
  • Doberman Pinscher

Cocker Spaniel – Avoid if you have small children at home, as they can be aggressive towards them. The exception to this is if they come from an established line of cocker spaniels working in therapy roles. These dogs are usually very gentle with children. 

The breed standard includes “Displays no shyness or fear, but rather curiosity,” so it’s not surprising that some cockers do better than others when dealing with kids and other people who might frighten them.

If you’re looking for a dog who’s going to help calm your child when he/she gets upset about something or needs emotional support during stressful times, this may be a good option for you!

Starting training for your puppy at the right time is key in establishing healthy habits and behaviors. Check our article on When to Start Training Your Puppy: Tips and Tricks for expert advice from professionals on how and when to initiate that training.

Are There Certain Breeds That Don’t Work Well As Service Dogs?

There are no breeds that don’t work well as service dogs, but there are certain characteristics that make some dogs more suitable than others.

  • Smaller-breed dogs like dachshunds and chihuahuas may not be able to carry gear efficiently or comfortably.
  • Bigger-breed dogs like Great Danes and mastiffs can be overwhelming for smaller handlers to manage in public spaces.
  • Hyperactive or high energy breeds, like border collies and German shepherds, need training that can help them channel their energy into productive tasks rather than acting out of control at the slightest provocation (like when someone visits your home).
  • Gentle breeds such as retrievers, spaniels and Goldens may not have enough drive for protection work—although they can still do other types of service dog work if their gentle nature doesn’t interfere with their performance!
BulldogsProne to respiratory issues and overheating, making them unsuitable for extensive physical activities.
ChihuahuasNot suitable for mobility-related tasks due to their small size. They can also be nervous and easily excitable.
Shar PeisTendency towards stubbornness and territorial behavior may impede their ability to learn and work with handlers.
Great DanesWhile they can be trained as service dogs, their short life expectancy limits their working lifespan.
BoxersTheir boisterous nature can make them difficult to train and manage in public settings, which is often a requirement for service dogs.

At What Age Should You Start Training Your Puppy To Be A Service Dog?

The best time to start training your puppy is about 6 weeks old, when they’ve had all of their vaccinations. This way you can ensure that the dog is healthy and ready for training. 

But if you want to train a puppy, it’s best to start as soon as possible at around 3 months or so because puppies’ brains are still developing and therefore more malleable than an adult’s. They’re also easier to train because they have fewer bad habits than older dogs do! 

At this stage in life, their minds are like sponges: They easily absorb new information and what seems like normal behavior will be hardwired into them forevermore.

Once again: If you choose not to use a puppy from birth (because they’re expensive), then waiting until after 12 months old isn’t going produce results worth talking about either; most dogs won’t have developed enough emotional intelligence by then anyway! So what options do we have left?

You could try using an older dog that’s been rescued from animal shelters or other facilities like Stray Rescue NYC; however these animals tend not be trained sufficiently well for service work (unless someone else has already done so). 

This leads us back around another full circle: The best way forward would probably involve investing in personal trainers who know how

Training a service dog can be an intricate and demanding process, but you can make it easier for both you and your furry companion. Our article, From Puppy to Pro: A Step-by-Step Guide to Training Your Service Dog, provides an overview of the crucial stages involved in creating your ultimate service companion.

Can You Train An Older Rescue Dog To Be A Service Dog?

You can train an older rescue dog to be a service dog. It’s easier to train them when they are younger, but it is possible at any age. 

They will need to be trained in the same way as puppies and will therefore require more time spent training them.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Has The Potential For Being A Good Service Dog?

You can’t be sure, but it is possible to make some educated guesses. The best way to know is if your dog is ready for training and if you are prepared for what will come next. Your answers should include:

  • Does your dog have any health problems that might stop him from doing service work? If so, do you have time and money to take care of these problems?
  • Are there any behavioral issues that would cause problems during training or in public spaces while working as a team with someone who has special needs?
  • Do you have enough patience and compassion to deal with all the things that could go wrong during training (including making mistakes yourself)?

How Do You Choose The Best Trainer For Your Specific Needs?

There are many questions to consider when choosing a service dog trainer. While there is no perfect answer or method of training, some trainers may be better suited to your needs than others. 

Your first step is to ask for references and check their credentials before scheduling a consultation. 

Check out their website, look at their reviews on Yelp or Facebook, or ask around for recommendations from friends who have used their services in the past. 

Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three potential candidates, schedule an appointment with them so you can meet in person and ask questions about how they train service dogs and what experience they have working with both breeds of dog you’re looking for (if applicable). 

This will help ensure that both parties agree on expectations from day one as well as later down the line when training begins.

ExperienceLook for a trainer with experience in service dog training. Check if they have trained service dogs for individuals with your specific disability or conditions.
Training methodsUnderstand their training approach, reward-based training and positive reinforcement are effective methods for service dog training.
CertificationsEnsure they have achieved certification from a reputable organization, such as International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) or Assistance Dogs International.
Expertise in specific tasksIf your service dog has specific training needs, ensure that the trainer has expertise in that area, such as scent work, mobility assistance, and obedience training.
Reviews and ReferencesRead reviews and ask for references to ensure they have a good track record.


We hope that this article has helped you understand the process of training a service dog. There are many benefits to having your own service animal, but it’s important to do your research before choosing a trainer or breeder. 

It’s also important to know how long it will take for your puppy or dog to be ready for training, which depends on several factors including age and breed. 

If you’re ready to start training your own service dog then we highly recommend contacting professionals like Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). 

They have been helping people train their own dogs since 1975 and offer free classes where students learn about different types of disabilities and how service dogs can help them overcome them.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources for training and understanding service dogs:

Psychiatric Service Dog Partners – FAQ Training Basics – A FAQ resource that covers service dog training basics, from choosing the right dog, keeping training consistent, and what to do with problem behaviors.

Medical Mutts – How to Choose a Service Dog Trainer – This page provides an in-depth guide on what to look for when choosing a service dog trainer. It covers specific training methods, accreditation, and how to evaluate a trainer’s experience and expertise.

Anything Pawsable – A Day in the Life of a Service Dog – This article gives a glimpse into the day-to-day routine of a service dog, including both at work and at home. It also discusses how service dogs are trained to respond to various tasks and commands.


What is the general process for training a service dog?

Training a service dog can take a long time, often a year or more. The process usually begins with basic obedience training, followed by specialized task training and generalizations of commands to different environments. Training is typically done in collaboration with a professional dog trainer or organization.

Can I train my own service dog?

Yes, it is possible to train your own service dog, but it requires a significant amount of work, dedication, and patience. Some disabled people choose to hire a professional dog trainer or attend a service dog training program to receive assistance.

How long does it take to train a service dog?

The length of service dog training time can vary depending on the dog’s breed, temperament, and the type of tasks they will perform. An ADA-compliant minimum of 120 hours of training is recommended, but most service dogs require about 600 to 1,200 hours of training.

What are some common tasks that a service dog can perform?

Service dogs can help disabled individuals in many ways, such as detecting allergens, providing mobility assistance, reminding them to take medication, and calming during panic attacks.

What are some common training techniques for service dogs?

Positive reinforcement, operant conditioning, shaping, and counterconditioning are some of the most commonly used methods for training a service dog. However, the methods used depend on the individual dog’s temperament and the specific training goals.