How Long Does Service Dog Training Take?


Ever wondered how long it takes to train a service dog? Well, in the USA, there are around 500,000 service dogs, like those for autism, diabetes, and guiding. These dogs are super helpful, but how long is service dog training? Who covers the costs, and who gets to keep them? If you’re curious about these things, stick around, because we’ve got all the answers. Let’s dive into the world of service dogs and their training together.

Criteria the Dog Must Meet

Not all dogs can become service dogs. They have to meet certain requirements to qualify. Some of the things we look at are:


Experts suggest starting service dog training when the dog is between six months to a year old. This is because it’s an important time to teaching them how to potty and how to socialize with others.


The breed of a dog is very important when choosing a service dog. First, it’s easier to work with traits a breed already has rather than trying to teach new ones. Second, understanding the breed’s natural traits helps predict when they might affect how reliable the dog is as a service dog.

Training Ability and Level

The dog’s ability to learn and its current training level are also crucial. If the dog learns quickly or has already been trained in obedience or agility, teaching it service tasks will be easier compared to starting from scratch with a puppy.

Behavior and Temperament

The dog’s temperament is really important in figuring out if it’s right for a specific service. For instance, a dog that’s aggressive wouldn’t be a good fit to help someone with a disability.


It’s important to think about how big the dog will be when it’s all grown up. This matters a lot, especially if you need a service dog to help you move around. If the dog ends up being too big, it could also cause problems with rules on public transportation and other places.

How long does service dog training take?

Usually, it takes about two years to fully train a service dog, but the time can vary based on the dog and its training. Training doesn’t stop when the dog finishes and passes all the tests; it continues for the dog’s whole life.

Service Dog Training Timescale

Different dogs and training schools may spend varying amounts of time on each of these focus areas, but there are generally six levels. They include:

  • Starting as a Service Puppy
  • Foundation Skills
  • Learning to walk calmly on a leash and settle down
  • Training in public places with distractions
  • Learning specific tasks for service
  • Accessing public areas

Three Types of Service Dogs and Training Required

Now, let’s take a closer look at the training for three types of service dogs from the list:

Guide Dog Training

Guide dog training starts when the dog is a puppy, usually between 12 to 18 months old. They learn using clicker training and rewards like treats. They’re taught:

  • Basic commands like “sit” and “stay”
  • How to turn left, right, and back
  • Walking beside or in front of their handler
  • How to signal steps in different directions
  • Using elevators and escalators safely
  • Training around traffic
  • Instructors wear blindfolds in the final stages to see if the dog is ready. Guide dogs are carefully matched with their owners, and training can cost more than $40,000.

Diabetic Alert Dog Training

Diabetic alert dogs are amazing because they can sense when their owner’s blood sugar is too high or too low, even when there are no obvious signs. They do this by sniffing out changes in the smell of their owner’s sweat.

To train these dogs, handlers use sweat samples from people with diabetes. They collect samples when blood sugar levels are normal and when they’re low. During training, handlers reward the dogs every time they correctly identify the low sugar sample.

Training focuses on positive reinforcement, meaning the dogs get a treat or praise when they do well. These special dogs can be quite expensive, ranging from $8,000 to $20,000. However, some organizations offer them for free if you pay for their training.

Autism Service Dog Training

Autism service dogs are trained similarly to guide dogs and can be quite pricey, ranging from $12,000 to $30,000. Right now, there’s a long waitlist for these special dogs.

These amazing service dogs are trained to assist their owners with autism in many ways. They help them navigate the world and do things on their own. Some of the tasks they’re trained for include:

  • Alerting others during emergencies
  • Picking up things the handler drops
  • Helping the handler get ready in the morning
  • Supporting the handler when they’re overwhelmed by sensory experiences

These dogs can be trained for both kids and adults. For kids, the focus is often on safety, with the dog alerting parents to any problems. Children’s autism service dogs are controlled by the parents, not the child. But for adults with autism, they’re the ones in charge of the dog.

Can You Train Your Own Service Dog?

The AKC Canine Good Citizen program is a great way to learn important skills for service dogs. Another helpful resource is the “Confident Puppy” online course, which teaches foundational skills for working dogs. Along with learning how to socialize and follow basic commands, a service dog needs to be trained to do tasks that help someone with a disability. For instance, you want to learn how long it takes to train a service dog for anxiety.

According to ADA rules, if it’s not clear that a dog is a service animal, only two questions can be asked:

  • Is the dog needed because of a disability?
  • What tasks is the dog trained to do?

The answer to the second question must confirm that the service dog has been trained to do specific things that help the person with a disability. This ensures that service dogs are properly trained to assist those who need them.

Learn How Long it Takes to Train a Service Dog

Interested in learning more about service dogs and their training? Discover the incredible world of service dogs, from guide dogs to diabetic alert dogs and autism service dogs. Find out what it takes to train these amazing animals and how they can change lives. Whether you’re curious about the training process, the costs involved, or how you can get involved, dive into the fascinating journey of service dogs and their handlers.


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