Criteria For Level Up's Service Dog Program

Service dogs can open doors to a more independent life -- in some cases, literally open the doors.  However, a service dog isn't the right choice for everyone.  Our program criteria can help you determine if you are a good fit for Level Up's service dog program.

Level Up Dog Training is committed to promoting ethical service dog handling.  We follow both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and best practices for the service dog community.  As such, we do not "register" or "certify" our program graduates.  In fact, there is legally no such thing as a "registered" or "certified" service dog in the United States.

To qualify for Level Up's service dog training program, a dog/handler team must meet the following criteria:

Dog Criteria:

  1. The dog must be in good physical health.
  2. The dog must pass Level Up's service dog prospect evaluation.
  3. The dog must be physically capable of safely performing the handler's tasks.
  4. The dog must be able to work comfortably and willingly in a distracting and stressful public environment.
  5. The dog must be neutral or friendly toward people, children and dogs.

Handler Criteria:

  1. The handler must be legally disabled (see below)
  2. The primary handler must be over the age of 14 at minimum (16+ preferred).  For children with disabilities, the parent must be the primary handler.
  3. The handler must adhere to the service dog community's ethical standards, which includes being conscious of the dog's welfare, the rights of business owners and the perception of the general public.  Working a service dog means that you are partially responsible for the image of service dog teams everywhere.  If your behavior reflects poorly on the service dog community, you are endangering someone else's public access.
  4. The handler must agree to maintain task training by practicing the dog's skills at least once per week for as long as the dog is working.
  5. The handler must keep a log of training hours with Level Up.  Ideally, the handler would also keep a log of their homework and solo training time for a more complete service dog training journal, but we only require the sessions with us to be logged.
  6. The handler agrees that they will never represent a prospect or service dog in training as a fully trained service dog until the dog has met the legal criteria for that status.
  7. The handler agrees to never "register" or "certify" their service animal with a fraudulent registry.  This gives money to fraudulent companies whose entire business model is built on misleading the public about service dog law, which makes life more difficult for legitimate service dog handlers and is against Level Up's code of ethics.  There are no legal registries or certifications in the United States.  No matter how official the name sounds, 100% of these registries are scams.

Disability Criteria:

  1. Have a diagnosed physical or mental disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This requires substantial impairment in one or more major life function.  Read more about disability status under the ADA here.
  2. Have a disability-related medical need which a dog can meet by performing a specific behavior (called "tasks").  Task examples include:
    • Guiding people who are blind.
    • Alerting people who are deaf.
    • Pulling a wheelchair.
    • Alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure.
    • Reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications.
    • Calming a person with PTSD during an anxiety attack.

There are two exceptions which are often overlooked.  Contrary to popular belief, these are not legal tasks:

  1. Emotional comfort and support is vitally important for the handler's wellbeing, but it is not legally a service dog task.  (This is often phrased as "He makes me feel better" or "She calms me down.")  The dog must perform a concrete behavior which directly lessens a symptom related to the disability.  While the dog's mere presence may be extremely helpful, it can't be the dog's primary job.
  2. The increased sense of security that comes from a protective dog also does not constitute a task, even if the dog has received protection training.

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