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Donna Hill's

Service Dog Training Institute

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Public Access Assessment Tests-An Overview

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While public access testing is not required in many areas, there are several reasons why training your dog to a level above a public access test is important to do with your service dog. None of them are to show blind obedience and none of them are to get certified as most people assume.

Let’s find out why it is worth while to train to a public access test as a minimum standard.

The number one reason is public safety. A dog needs to be safe in the presence of people and other dogs. If a dog shows any aggression or fear that may result in the dog feeling he needs to defend himself, he is not ready to be working in public. 

That you work together well as a team. This is important to minimize disruption of the public and both your stress levels.

They want to know that you are alert to and can read your dog’s communication (stress, excitement, alerting you about your condition, need to go potty etc) and respond appropriately in any given situation. 

The test checks to see if you know your rights and responsibilities in taking a service dog into public places where pet dogs cannot go. And that you won’t tread on the rights of others and can emotionally handle public access challenges-that you can stay calm and reasonable.

That you demonstrate that your dog is healthy, groomed, and relaxed when working and you understand his needs as a dog.

That your dog pays attention to you and your needs while still being aware of and responsive to the environment that he is working in. 

The assessment checks your dog’s resiliency to the unpredictable things that working in public may entail. This may be loud sounds to people purposely trying to run over his paws or tail or hit him with a shopping cart. People may follow you through the store or deliberately try to distract your dog.

The behaviors used for a specific test are only chosen to ensure that the dog is responsive to you in public, is aware of the environment and able to function in a human-made environment (such as elevators). They could choose any behavior for the test but these have historically been useful in public.

The test finds basic holes in your overall training. You can use this to improve you and your dog’s teamwork.

The certification verifies that your dog, on the day of the test, was able to function as a safe member of the public. Keep in mind that if your dog is injured or traumatized any day after that test, you will need to address those public (and private) issues that the trauma may have created.

The public access test is a very basic test and your team needs to be ready to handle much higher challenges. For example, if you are flying, the vibration and loud noises in a very small space for long periods of time can be frightening for dogs if not prepared for them. 

Also, the jurisdictions that recommend or require the tests typically have retesting options within a year or two. This is because they want to make sure that your dog is still safe in public, that the two of you are still able to function as a team, that you still need the tasks the dog does for you and that the dog is still healthy enough and mentally fit to work. The authorities also recognize that medical needs change over time for both the hander and dog.

I hope from this article that you can understand the importance of training to at least the point of doing a public access test. Even if there are no bodies that will verify that your team has passed one, you can at least have a helper video you doing a test on a regular basis to keep your training to public access standards.

Here are two tests that you might use as a guideline: 

BC Guide Dog and Service Dog Assessment Test
This test is administered to self-trained teams.

Psych Dog Public Access Test

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