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What Are the Assistance Dogs International Service Dog Training Standards?

Assistance Dogs International Training Standards For Service Dogs

Assistance Dogs International (ADI) publishes standards for Service Dog training, behavior, ethics, organizations, programs, trainers, handlers, and clients. They also define standards of behavior and training for Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs, and Service Dogs for veterans. Read on to learn more about ADI’s Service Dog standards.

As of November 2018, 140 programs worldwide held ADI accreditation. Additionally, dozens of unaccredited Service Dog training organizations, programs, and individual trainers claim adherence to Assistance Dog International’s standards. Please note that any Service Dog organization claiming adherence to ADI standards without actual ADI accreditation has not been evaluated by Assistance Dogs International for adherence to standards.

Per the Assistance Dogs International website, “ADI Standards have become the benchmarks to measure excellence in the Assistance Dog industry. Assistance Dog users trust their lives and safety to their dogs so everything related to the training of both the dogs and people must meet extraordinary criteria.” When an organization or trainer says a dog meets “industry standard” expectations, most often, they’re referring to the ADI standards. Sometimes, though, they may be referring to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP). The IAADP also produces regularly utilized standards for Service Dog training and behavior.

In a nutshell, the ADI standards outline expectations for a training program that is professional, ethical humane, comprehensive, and reliable. Assistance Dogs International expects programs to select, screen, train, and place dogs suitable for Service Dog work. These dogs should be of sound mind and sound body, with specific, well-trained skills and behaviors. Once trained, the Service Dogs should be carefully matched with their future partner. Both Service Dog and handler should undergo extensive team training prior to solo work. They should receive support from the placement organization throughout the team’s working life.

Assistance Dogs International logoADI Minimum Standards and Ethics

All standards cited below come directly from Assistance Dogs International’s document “ADI Minimum Standards and Ethics.” That document can be referenced on the ADI website. We have changed the order of the sections contained in ADI’s document for easier grouping. We’ve placed ethics and standards for programs, clients, and partners at the top, with standards for each type of Service Dog at the bottom.

ADI Ethics For Dogs

ADI believes that any dog the member organizations trains to become an Assistance Dog has a right to a quality life. Therefore, the ethical use of an Assistance Dog must incorporate the following criteria:

1. An Assistance Dog must be temperamentally screened for emotional soundness and working ability.
2. An Assistance Dog must be physically screened for the highest degree of good health and physical soundness.
3. An Assistance Dog must be technically and analytically trained for maximum control and for the specialized tasks he/she is asked to perform.
4. An Assistance Dog must be trained using humane training methods providing for the physical and emotional safety of the dog.
5. An Assistance Dog must be permitted to learn at his/her own individual pace and not be placed in service before reaching adequate physical and emotional maturity.
6. An Assistance Dog must be matched to best suit the client’s needs, abilities and lifestyle.
7. An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client able to interact with him/her.
8. An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client able to provide for the dog’s emotional, physical and financial needs.

Mental and Physical Stimulation Dog Care

Both mental and physical stimulation help with keeping a dog happy and healthy.

9. An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client able to provide a stable and secure living environment.
10. An Assistance Dog must be placed with a client who expresses a desire for increased independence and/or an improvement in the quality of his/her life through the use of an Assistance Dog.
11. An ADI member organization will accept responsibility for its dogs in the event of a graduate’s death or incapacity to provide proper care.
12. An ADI member organization will not train, place, or certify dogs with any aggressive behavior. An Assistance Dog may not be trained in any way for guard or protection duty. Non-aggressive barking as a trained behavior will be acceptable in appropriate situations.

Assistance Dogs International Ethics for Clients

In keeping with our purpose of helping people with disabilities achieve greater independence and improve the quality of their lives, the member organizations of ADI believe the following ethical criteria are essential to ensure that this mandate is reasonably and responsibly met.

1. Clients have a right to be considered to receive an Assistance Dog regardless of race, sex, religion or creed.
2. Clients have the right to be treated with respect and dignity at all times in their dealings with the member organization’s personnel and representatives.
3. The client has a right to receive a sound educational program to learn how to use his or her Assistance Dog most effectively at home and/or in public.
4. The client has a right to receive appropriate education on his or her role as a user of an Assistance Dog in the community.
5. The client has the right to receive regularly scheduled team evaluation and follow-up support.
6. The client has a right to receive information on or ask for assistance in the following matters:
· Additional training for the dog that is needed due to a change in the client’s functional level.
· A behavioral management problem with the dog.
· A major veterinary problem.
· Legal problems pertaining to the use and access of the Assistance Dog as allowed by law.
7. The client has the right to expect that personal files will remain confidential and will not be disclosed unless he or she has given express prior permission.
8. The community has a right to expect an Assistance Dog to be under control at all times and to exhibit no intrusive behavior in public, therefore the client has the right be partnered with an appropriate dog and taught appropriate handling techniques.
9. The community has a right to receive information concerning ADI Program Standards and Ethics.
10. The community has a right to receive education on the benefits received by a person with a disability through the use of an Assistance Dog.
11. No client shall be required to participate in fundraising or public relations activities without their expressed and voluntary permission.

ADI Standards for Assistance Dogs Partners

The Assistance Dog partners will agree to the following partner responsibilities:
1. Treat the dog with appreciation and respect.
2. Practice obedience regularly.
3. Practice the dog’s skills regularly.
4. Maintain the dog’s proper behavior in public and at home.
5. Carry proper identification and be aware of all applicable laws pertaining to Assistance Dogs.
6. Keep the dog well groomed and well cared for.

Well Groomed Service Dog

Service Dogs working in public should always be well groomed.

7. Practice preventative health care for the dog.
8. Obtain annual health checks and vaccinations for the dog.
9. Abide by all leash and license laws.
10. Follow the training program’s requirements for progress reports and medical evaluations.
11. Arrange for the prompt clean-up of dog’s waste.

Standards For Assistance Dogs in Public

There are guidelines on the public appropriateness, behavior and training expected of a dog working in public places. These are intended to be minimum standards for all Assistance Dog programs that are members or candidates of ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums.

1. Public appropriateness

· Dog is clean, well-groomed and does not have an offensive odor.
· Dog does not urinate or defecate in inappropriate locations.

2. Behavior

· Dog does not solicit attention, visit or annoy any member of the general public.
· Dog does not disrupt the normal course of business.
· Dog does not vocalize unnecessarily, i.e. barking, growling or whining.
· Dog shows no aggression towards people or other animals.
· Dog does not solicit or steal food or other items from the general public.

3. Training

· Dog is specifically trained to perform 3 or more tasks to mitigate aspects of the client’s disability.
· Dog works calmly and quietly in harness, on leash or other tether.
· Dog is able to perform its tasks in public.
· Dog must be able to lie quietly beside the handler without blocking aisles, doorways, etc.
· Dog is trained to urinate and defecate on command.
· Dog stays within 24
(60 cm) of its handler at all times unless the nature of a trained task requires it to be working at a greater distance.

ADI Training Standards For Service Dogs

These are intended to be minimum standards for all Assistance Dog programs that are members or candidates of ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums.

1. The service dog must respond to commands (basic obedience and skilled tasks) from the client 90% of the time on the first ask in all public and home environments.
2. The service dog should demonstrate basic obedience skills by responding to voice and/or hand signals for sitting, staying in place, lying down, walking in a controlled position near the client and coming to the client when called.
3. The service dog must meet all of the standards as laid out in the minimum standards for Assistance Dogs in Public and should be equally well behaved in the home.
4. The service dog must be trained to perform at least 3 tasks* to mitigate the client’s disability.
· The task must be visibly identifiable.
· The task must directly mitigate the client’s disability.
· The client’s records must show that the tasks are directly connected to (and mitigate) the client’s disability.
5. The client must be provided with enough instruction to be able to meet the ADI Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public. The client must be able to demonstrate:
· That their dog can perform at least 3 tasks.
· Knowledge of acceptable training techniques.
· An understanding of canine care and health.
· The ability to maintain training, problem solve, and continue to train/add new skills
(as required) with their service dog.
· Knowledge of local access laws and appropriate public behavior.

Ongoing Training for Service Dogs

Service Dog partners must train on an ongoing basis.

6. The Assistance Dog program must document monthly follow ups with clients for the first 6 months following placement. Personal contact will be done by qualified staff or program volunteer within 12 months of graduation and annually thereafter.
7. Virtual training is an acceptable supplement to the training that is mandated by the ADI Minimum Standards & Ethics and Accreditation Standards. These require training be done directly and in person by a qualified program trainer. This applies to all candidate and accredited member programs.
8. Identification of the service dog will be accomplished with the laminated ID card with a photo(s) and names of the dog and partner. In public the dog must wear a cape, harness, backpack, or other similar piece of equipment or clothing with a logo that is clear and easy to read and identifiable as an Assistance Dog.
9. The program staff must demonstrate knowledge of the client’s disabilities in relation to the services they provide. The program shall make available to staff and volunteers educational material on different disabilities.
10. The client must abide by the ADI Minimum Standards of Assistance Dog Partners.
11. Prior to placement every service dog must meet the ADI Standards and Ethics Regarding Dogs, be spayed/neutered and have current vaccination certificates as determined by their veterinarian and applicable laws. It is the program’s responsibility to inform the client of any special health or maintenance care requirements for each dog.

ADI Training Standards For Guide Dogs

These are intended to be minimum standards for all Assistance Dog programs that are members or
candidates of ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums.
1. The guide dog must respond to commands (basic obedience and skilled tasks) from the client 90% of the time on the first ask in all public and home environments.
2. The guide dog should demonstrate basic obedience skills by responding to voice and/or hand signals for sitting, staying in place, lying down, walking in a controlled position near the client and coming to the client when called.
3. The guide dog must meet all of the standards as laid out in the minimum standards for ADI Assistance Dogs in Public. Dogs should be equally well behaved in the home environment.
4. The guide dog will be trained to negotiate obstacles, overhangs, barriers, street crossings, city and country work and public transportation. Trainer-under-blindfold work must be included for each guide dog.
5. The client must be provided with enough instruction to be able to meet the minimum standards for guide dogs and Assistance Dogs in public. Clients must be able to demonstrate:
· Negotiating obstacles, overhangs, barriers, street crossings, city and country work and public transportation.
· Knowledge of acceptable training techniques.
· An understanding of canine care and health.
· The ability to continue to train, problem solve, and add new skills with their guide dog.
· Knowledge of local access laws and appropriate public behavior.
6. The Assistance Dog program must document monthly follow ups with clients for the first 6 months following placement. Personal contact will be done by qualified staff or program volunteers within 12 months of graduation and annually thereafter.
7. Virtual training is an acceptable supplement to the training that is mandated by the ADI Minimum Standards & Ethics and Accreditation Standards. These require training be done directly and in person by a qualified program trainer. This applies to all candidate and accredited member programs.
8. The program will provide a laminated ID card with a photo of the client and dog and names of both. In public the guide dog will wear the program’s appropriate guide harness.
9. The program staff must demonstrate the knowledge of blindness and working with the visually impaired and/or blind clients. The program shall make available to staff and volunteers educational material on different disabilities.
10. The client must abide by the ADI Minimum Standards of Assistance Dog Partners.
11. Prior to placement every guide dog must meet the ADI Standards and Ethics Regarding Dogs, be spayed/neutered and have current vaccination certificates as determined by their veterinarian and applicable laws. It is the program’s responsibility to inform the client of any special health or maintenance care requirements for each dog.

ADI Training Standards for Hearing Dogs

These are intended to be minimum standards for all Assistance Dog programs that are members or candidates of ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums.

1. The hearing dog must respond to basic obedience commands from the handler 90% of the
time on the first ask in all public and home environments. The dog must respond to the trained sound with an alerting behavior within 15 seconds from the beginning of the sound.
2. The hearing dog should demonstrate basic obedience skills by responding to voice and/or hand signals for sitting, staying in place, lying down, walking in a controlled position near the client and coming to the client when called.
3. The hearing dog must meet all of the standards as laid out in the ADI Minimum Standards for Dogs in Public and should be equally well behaved in the home environment.
4. Sound Awareness Skills. Upon hearing a sound, the hearing dog should alert the client by making physical contact or by some other behavior, so the client is aware when a trained sound occurs. The dog should then specifically indicate or lead the person to the source of the sound. All dogs must be trained to alert the handler to at least three (3) sounds.

Hearing Dog Touch Alert

Physical contact is the best way for a Hearing Dog to alert to a sound.

5. The client must be provided with enough instruction to be able to meet the ADI Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public. Clients must be able to demonstrate:
· That their dog can alert to three (3) different sounds.
· Knowledge of acceptable training techniques.
· An understanding of canine care and health.
· The ability to continue to train, problem solve, and add new skills with their hearing dog.
· Knowledge of local access laws and appropriate public behavior.
6. The program must document monthly follow ups with clients for the first 6 months following placement. Personal contact will be done by qualified staff or program volunteers within 12 months of graduation and annually thereafter.
7. Virtual training is an acceptable supplement to the training that is mandated by the ADI Minimum Standards & Ethics and Accreditation Standards. These require training be done directly and in person by a qualified program trainer. This applies to all candidate and accredited member programs.
8. Identification of the hearing dog will be accomplished with the laminated ID card with a photo and names of the dog and partner. In public the dog must wear a cape, harness, backpack, or other similar piece of equipment or clothing with a logo that is clear and easy to read and identifiable as an Assistance Dog.
9. The program staff must demonstrate the knowledge of deafness, deaf culture and hearing impairment. A staff member or agent must know basic sign language. The program shall make available to staff and volunteers educational material on deafness, deaf culture and hearing impairment.
10. The client must abide by the ADI Minimum Standards of Assistance Dog Partners.
11. Prior to placement the hearing dog must meet the ADI Standards and Ethics Regarding Dogs, be spayed/neutered and have current vaccination certificates as determined by their veterinarian and applicable laws. It is the program’s responsibility to inform the client of any special health or maintenance care requirements for each dog.

Assistance Dogs International Links and Resources

Assistance Dogs International released an updated version of their standards in early to mid 2018. Those can be found here:

ADI’s Service Dog Program Standards Summary

Complete Guide to ADI’s Minimum Standards of Training and Ethics

ADI’s Standards For Training and Placement of Service Dogs for Veterans With Military-Related PTSD

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