A dog chewing on a natural chew.

How To Register Your Dog As A Service Dog

Service dogs are amazing companions that have a job to do. They can assist the blind, alert for seizures, and even help war vets deal with PTSD. But getting a dog registered as a service dog is essential if your dog has a job to do. 

The Difference Between A Service Dog And An Emotional Support Animal

While these two terms are often used interchangeably, they are very different. Simply put, an emotional support animal (ESA) is there to help with daily life without a direct job. They are often allowed in housing that normally won’t accept animals. However, they are not allowed access everywhere like a service dog (or animal). 

A chart that shows the difference between a service dog and ESA

Emotional Support Animals

These animals are mostly pets that help support healthy mental health. They can also support disabled people. Often these animals are dogs or cats, but there are no restrictions to what type of animal they can be. 

Furthermore, an ESA needs to be registered differently than service dogs. You will need to have a letter from a physician that states the need for an ESA. These animals do not require any special training. However, these animals are not allowed in public places or on flights. 

Service Dog

A service dog is a dog that has been trained specifically for a task. Oftentimes these dogs are trained to support mental or physical disabilities and illness. The key difference is that these dogs are highly and professionally trained for these jobs. Service dogs are also well-mannered. 

Service dogs are allowed in public places and are not restricted under the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

How To Register A Service Dog In America

The following is a guide to get you started, individual states may have different laws and regulations for these highly-trained dogs. Be sure to check with your local laws and federal regulations. Other countries have their own rules and regulations for these animals. 

The service dog certification process actually takes place during the training of the dog. Service dogs can be of any breed or size as long as it is capable of doing the designated job. 

The first step you should take is to identify your needs and see which dog is the right match. For example, a small dog might not be able to help a wheelchair user transfer to another place. However, most dogs don’t make the cut. Even in professional training courses, more than 60% of the dogs enrolled won’t graduate. 

A good service dog will have some defining qualities:

  • Calm and well-mannered in public and various environments
  • Ability to adapt to different situations
  • Focus on you (or the disabled individual) in all situations

There are many different types of service dog training programs available. And the training is normally the owner’s responsibility if the dog isn’t purchased from a training program. However, these programs can cost thousands of dollars and you should do your research before enrolling your dog. 

ADA Regulations

According to the ADA, there are only two questions that can be asked about your service dog. These questions are perfectly legal to ask, and business owners have every right to question a dog that might not apparently be a service dog. 

  • “Is the dog a service animal needed because of a disability?”
  • “What work or task has the dog been trained to do?”

You will need to be able to answer these questions when asked. Furthermore, some states require registration outside of the normal training. While mandatory registration is illegal, regional registration and any vaccinations still apply.


Housetraining – Teaching your dog when to relieve themselves, and when not to is important. And it’s something that sets apart service dogs from ESA. 

Socialization – These dogs must be exposed to and trained to react in all environments with all sorts of distractions. The service dog must be able to focus on the handler no matter what. 

A dog licking a peanut butter flavored beef cheek roll.


Service dogs are an invaluable asset for those with disabilities, providing emotional and physical support. Registering a dog as a service dog is not only a great way to ensure their safety and well-being, but it also provides them with legal protections. The process of registering your dog as a service animal involves several steps, including obtaining certification from a qualified professional and registering your pet with the appropriate agency. By taking these steps to register your dog as a service animal, you can ensure that they have the best possible experience when accompanying you in public places.

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