The service dog, Chester, targeting a light switch
Chester, Service Dog In Training
The service dog, Chester, walking beside his owner in their wheelchair

Service Dogs

Email with your basic information If you think you want to train your own service dog. If you are committed to learning something new, we’ll talk about what’s involved in selecting a dog and training it for service dog work. Plan on a minimum of one year of continual training. It’s a challenge to pin down a fee, but plan for a minimum of $5000, depending on level of required tasks, qualities of the dog, your own abilities to learn quickly, and the time you have to spend training. We often start our Service Dog and Therapy Dog clients out with our Basic Manners and Training in the Details classes to develop their manners and public access skills, and then they advance to a group Service Dog or Therapy Dog class or private sessions for further training. This gives clients an economic way to pursue the high level training necessary.

Service Dogs and Assistance Dogs mean the same thing. They are not pets, but technically living pieces of medical equipment that help mitigate the effects of some disabilities on those who live with them. (They still have the same needs as all dogs because they are living, breathing beings!) People with Disabilities (PWDs) have the legal right to public access with properly trained and qualified Service Dogs. Service Dogs have no rights whatsoever; People with Disabilities have the rights by law.

To legally use a Service Dog, you must be a person with a disability (PWD.) For a dog to be a Service Dog, he must be trained to perform a specific task related to your disability. For a PWD to have the right to take a Service Dog into public places, the dog must be trained to certain minimum standards to ensure the safety of the PWD, the dog, and the public as well.
A Service Dog can help a person with disabilities to 

  • Be more independent
  • Feel more confident
  • Complete daily tasks with ease

Tasks Service Dogs can do to help their human partners include:

  • Retrieving dropped objects
  • Opening and closing doors, cabinets, and refrigerators
  • Helping with sock and jacket removal
  • Turning light switches on and off
  • Providing tactile stimuli to alert partner to anxiety or medical issues

Therapy Dogs

Therapy Dogs must be carefully selected and well-trained for their jobs. Therapy Dogs are dogs used in visits to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other places where they help their human partners educate, motivate, and lift the spirits of patients and students. Therapy Dog Handlers have no legal access rights for their dogs, and must be invited into facilities where their services are welcome; they delight in sharing their Mannerly Dogs with others. We train therapy dogs and their handlers to high standards so they are helpful to others and welcome wherever they go. 


Guide Dogs, Seeing Eye Dogs:  Service dogs that assist visually impaired people. (These terms are both actually copyrighted for the organizations that train these dogs, but have become rather colloquial in their use.)

Mobility Service or Assistance Dogs:  Service dogs that assist people using wheelchairs or walkers, or people with other, often invisible disabilities like MS, Epilepsy, and many others.

Hearing Dogs:  Service dogs that assist people with hearing impairment.

Psychiatric Service Dogs:  Service dogs that assist people with psychiatric Disabilities like Panic Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, depression and others. These dogs must be trained to perform a task to help the person with the disability, although they may also provide emotional support and companionship; emotional support is not enough by itself to transform a pet dog into a Service Dog.

Therapy Dogs: Therapy Dogs are very different from Service Dogs. They have no legal definition and their handlers have no legal privileges to bring their dogs with them into businesses. These trained teams are invited into facilities to educate, motivate, and lift the spirits of patients and students. They must be safe and reliable, much like Service Dogs, but they have no requirements for specific tasks. The Mannerly Dog trains therapy dogs and their handlers to high standards so they are helpful to others and welcome wherever they go, and we encourage training therapy dogs to do tricks and fun behaviors to further delight people while having a good time themselves. 

Emotional Support Animals: Legal rights for people partnering with ESAs are limited to housing allowances and some airline privileges, although those are changing rapidly because of incidents involving poorly trained animals. ESAs should be well-trained pets, what we like to call “Mannerly Dogs,” to allow their owners confidence and a pleasant experience taking their dogs to places where they have secured permission to bring them. Whether you call your dog an ESA or not, we can help you create a Mannerly Dog who is welcome wherever you go.

IAADP (International Association of Assistance Dog Partners) is a non-profit, cross-disability organization representing people partnered with guide, hearing and service dogs. One of their primary goals is to educate and provide information on service dogs to those who need it. You can access the information on their website here:

Assistance Dogs International (ADI) is another good resource for service dog information. Click here for their website.