If you need your service dog or assistance dog to accompany you in public places where pet dogs cannot go, to travel by air or train with you or you live on a no pets building or have ‘no pet’ strata laws or ‘dog size-restrictions’, or to come to work with you as an employment accommodation, the process of certifying your service dog is the same. There is no magic cure to quickly train and certify a service dog. It is a legal process that takes time.
1. You must have a diagnosed disability and a health care profession write a prescription for A service dog (not necessarily the dog you have).
Check here to see if a service dog is a appropriate part of your healthcare treatment plan.
2. Start with the best dog you can get access to. It will make the difference between success and failure. Owner-trained service dogs have a very high failure rate.
Here is a list of desired characteristics and red flags for potential service dogs.
3. Get a third party opinion for potential problem behaviours. What you think your dog will do and what the dog actually does my be two very different things. Have him assessed by a professional trainer. Find out areas of weaknesses you haven’t thought of.
4. Work with your dog and a training professional to improve any identified weaknesses.
Aim for not only comfortable but bombproof in public. Anything can happen in real life! Prepare for the worst, not just the test. The test is a bare minimum.
5. Teach your dog tasks that mitigate your specific disability. They must be on a hand, verbal or scent signal and can be performed at any time. They cannot be “self-taught” tasks (meaning the dog figured it out on his own and the task only occurs under specific situations). Generalize the tasks well.
List of tasks
6. When you think you are ready, do a practice run for the BC Guide and Service Dog public assessment (often called public access test). Hire a professional to walk you though the items on the test. Or have a friend help you. and have another person video tape it. Identify areas that need to be improved and work on them. Practice again.
7. Apply for the provincial test. The Ministry of Justice handles the testing and it is administered by a contract organization. It typically takes at least 30 days for the test to be scheduled based on tester availability and location of the test. In BC the test costs $200 and the team must be recertified every two years. If the tester must travel to your community, there are additional travel fees.
On the webpage above, scroll down to “Self-trained Teams”
8. Even if you are provincially certified that does not mean that airlines or trains will allow you to travel with your dog. Check with each airline to find out what their specifics are. In many cases, it means having to work with a service dog training organization in-person with you and your dog to train medical tasks for your disability. That trainer must be confident that the team does not pose any threat to the public and work together well as a team. Service Dog Training Institute is an organization who has had graduated students accepted for airline travel under the new Transport Canada Regulations. Consider training in-person with us. Book ahead!
Alberta and Nova Scotia has a similar service dog certification process but their rental / tenacy act is slightly different. Other provinces in Canada do not have a certification process.