The Thread: Service Dogs

Sheryl Burgstahler

I wanted to share with you a question posed by a DO-IT Scholar in our Internet discussion forum and some of the responses so that you can get the flavor of the many rich conversations the DO-IT community has online. Some forum posts are edited for clarity and brevity.

I have recently started thinking about acquiring a service dog to increase my independence, reducing my need to rely on others. Could anyone who happens to have a service dog, or knows about it, please share their experiences? How has a service dog helped you or someone you know?

DO-IT Ambassador: A service dog is wonderful both as an assistant and as a constant unconditionally loving companion for a person. The only problem I have ever seen with service dogs is that getting them from service dog organizations is a rigorous and very costly expense. In many cases it is cheaper to adopt a dog out of the recommended "good service dog breeds" category and train it yourself. This is an experience I'm going through now with another friend of mine who has started training her six month old boxer mix puppy as a service dog.

DO-IT Mentor: If you train a dog yourself how do you go about getting it certified as a service dog? I have a good friend who is also interested in getting a service dog.

DO-IT Mentor: Service dogs do not have to be certified. They simply have to be trained to provide a disability-related service for a human with a disability. Some folks like having them wear an "I'm working" sign or vest to make them more easily identifiable. But there is no certifying agency for them.

DO-IT Ambassador: You are right. I was told that you only need a letter from your doctor explaining the dogs purpose. However, having the dog tested as a good citizen (similar to a service dog test) isn't a bad idea and makes things much more simple.

DO-IT Mentor: Here are some websites that I found helpful with this discussion: and If you plan to train your own dog, you may find the Delta Society document that describes the minimum standards for service dogs.