IAADP Minimum Training Standards

IAADP Minimum Training Standards for Public Access

IAADP’s overall mission is to foster the assistance dog movement in the USA and other countries. As part of this mission, we seek to promote the responsible use of access rights in the disabled community.

For nearly the past hundred years assistance dogs have worked successfully in public and won the public’s acceptance by achieving high behavioral and training standards which set them apart from pets and other animals. Their exemplary conduct led to state legislatures granting access rights to the blind, deaf and mobility impaired. Those early teams paved the way for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which has opened the door to individuals with a wide range of physical and mental health disabilities being able to have access rights. For more information about the ADA, visit www.ADA.gov.

Minimum Assistance Dog Training Standards

In response to many inquiries from individuals with disabilities who want to train a dog to be their assistance dog, but tell us they do not know how much training or what kinds of training to give the dog, IAADP has developed a set of Minimum Training Standards for Public Access. These are drawn from the Minimum Training Standards for Service Dogs first established in the mid 90’s by Assistance Dogs International (ADI), with consumer input from IAADP. Visit www.assistancedogsinternational.org for additional information about ADI.

If you are an individual with a disability and want the right to be accompanied by an assistance dog in public, we encourage you to meet or exceed the minimum standards set forth below for training an assistance dog for public access.

Individuals with a disability who want to join IAADP as a Partner Member must have a professionally trained guide, hearing or service dog from a Provider, or a dog at least twelve months old that they have trained to meet or exceed IAADP’s Minimum Training Standards.  Formal training before the age of six (6) months is not recommended, and does not count towards IAADP’s Minimum Training Standards. Puppy play training is expected, and in fact, encouraged.

1. Amount of Training: An assistance dog should be given a minimum of one hundred twenty (120) hours of training over a period of Six Months or more. Formal training before the age of six (6) months is not recommended, and does not count towards IAADP’s Minimum Training Standards.  Puppy play training is expected, and in fact, encouraged.  * At least thirty (30) hours should be devoted to outings that will prepare the dog to work obediently and unobtrusively in public places.**


2. Obedience Training: A dog must master the basic obedience skills: “Sit, Stay, Come, Down, Heel” and a dropped leash recall in a store in response to verbal commands and/or hand signals.


3. Manners: A dog must acquire proper social behavior skills. It includes at a minimum:

  • No aggressive behavior toward people or other animals – no biting, snapping, snarling, growling or lunging and barking at them when working off your property.
  • No soliciting food or petting from other people while on duty.
  • No sniffing merchandise or people or intruding into another dog’s space while on duty.
  • Socialize to tolerate strange sights, sounds, odors etc. in a wide variety of public settings.
  • Ignores food on the floor or dropped in the dog’s vicinity while working outside the home.
  • Works calmly on leash. No unruly behavior or unnecessary vocalizations in public settings.
  • No urinating or defecating in public unless given a specific command or signal to toilet in an appropriate place.

4. Disability Related Tasks: The dog must be individually trained to perform identifiable tasks on command or cue for the benefit of the human partner with a disability. This includes alerting to sounds, medical problems, certain scents like peanuts or situations if training is involved.

*For a definition of a “task” and “individually trained,” and “what is not a task” and many examples of tasks performed by different kinds of assistance dogs, see below.


5. Prohibited Training: Any training that arouses a dog’s prey drive or fear to elicit a display of aggression for guard or defense purposes is strictly prohibited. Non aggressive barking as a trained behavior is permitted in a very few, select situations, when no other trained behavior can accomplish the task in appropriate situations. (To review IAADP’s ban on the enrollment of protection trained, attack trained or aggressive dogs as an assistance dog with our organization, please review the IAAPD’s Policies)


A Trainer’s Responsibilities: Trainers function as ambassadors for the assistance dog movement. This includes a disabled owner trainer, a provider’s staff or a volunteer with a puppy or adult dog “in training.” It also includes an assistance dog partner or able bodied facilitator helping a disabled loved one to keep up an assistance dog’s training. At a minimum, you should:

  • Know pertinent canine laws (i.e. leash laws and public access laws)
  • Ensure the dog is healthy, flea free and the rabies vaccination is up to date
  • Take time to make sure your dog is well groomed and free of any foul odor
  • Show respect and consideration to other people and property.
  • Use humane training methods; monitor the dog’s stress level; provide rest breaks.
  • Carry clean up materials. Arrange for prompt clean up if a dog eliminates or gets sick.
  • Be polite and willing to educate the public about assistance dogs and access rights.

* The 120 hours of schooling includes the time invested in homework training sessions between obedience classes or lessons from an experienced dog trainer.


** Eligibility for Certification from a provider who supports IAADP’s Minimum Training Standards for Public Access may require you turn in a weekly training log to document your dog received a minimum of 120 hours of schooling over a period of six months or more. (Click to download a sample Training Log)


Assistance dog tasks

How will you know when your dog is ready to graduate from an “in training” status to the status of a full fledged assistance dog with whom you are entitled to have public access rights?

An excellent tool for evaluating a team’s readiness to graduate (finish up formal training) is the Public Access Certification Test (PACT.) An example of a Public Access Certification Test can be found on the website of Psychiatric Service Dog Partners.

This test creates a level playing field, since it does not matter whether it is a guide, hearing or service dog team being tested or who trained the dog. What matters is the team’s performance. Every ADI program is required to administer this type of a test before graduating and credentialing a team. Disability mitigating tasks or work is not critiqued during the test. However, to establish a dog’s eligibility to take this test to become an assistance dog, the evaluator should require a demonstration of the tasks that the dog has been trained to do on command or cue.

The handler’s abilities to:

  1. Safely load and unload the dog from a vehicle.
  2. Enter a public place without losing control of the dog.
  3. Recover the leash if accidentally dropped.
  4. Cope calmly with an access problem if an employee or customer questions the individual’s right to bring a dog into that establishment

The dog’s ability to:

  1. Safely cross a parking lot, halt for traffic, and ignore distractions.
  2. Heel through narrow aisles.
  3. Hold a Sit-Stay when a shopping cart passes by or when a person stops to chat and/or pets the dog.
  4. Hold a Down Stay when a child approaches and briefly pets the dog.
  5. Hold a Sit Stay when someone drops food on the floor, hold a Down Stay when someone sets a plate of food on the floor within 18″ of the dog, then removes it a minute later. (The handler may say “Leave It” to help the dog resist the temptation.)
  6. Remain calm if someone else holds the leash while the handler moves 20 ft. away.
  7. Remain calm while another dog passes within 6 ft. of the team during the test. This part can occur in a parking lot or store. Alternatively, you could arrange for a neighbor with a pet dog to stroll past your residence while you load your dog into a vehicle at the beginning of the test.

*** It is highly recommended the test be videotaped to document the team passed it.

IAADP agrees with ADI’s ethical position that the amount of training given to an assistance dog should NEVER fall below the minimum level needed to pass a Public Access Certification Test. Additionally, it is IAADP’s position that a fully trained assistance dog must remain leashed, walking on all four feet, at all times in public.  Under no circumstances may a fully trained assistance dog be put in a store basket or cart, or be carried (unless the dog is a cardiac alert dog where front packing is required in order to perform the task). 

NOTE: Passing the Public Access Certification Test does not indicate that Psychiatric Service Dog Partners, or IAADP, has “certified” your dog. It is up to the program or trainer giving the test to provide the desired credentialing.

Most  agencies or private trainers furnish a laminated photo ID Card that is signed and dated by the provider or trainer, certifying this dog [insert name] has been trained for the person with the disability [insert name] as a Guide, Hearing or Service Dog. On the rear side, there usually is a helpful statement about the state or federal law granting access rights to assistance dog team, and at the top, a reference to the state law, citing its numbers, and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.)

CERTIFICATION is not required in the USA. Many states lack programs willing to certify dogs that did not go through that program’s training course. The DOJ decided to foster “an honor system,” by making the tasks the dog is trained to perform on command or cue to assist a person with a disability, rather than certification ID from specific programs, the primary way to differentiate between a service animal and a pet. It opened the door for people to train their own assistance dog, usually with the help of an experienced trainer, if a program dog is unavailable.

Finding Testers: If you are not enrolled in a program or taking lessons from a trainer willing to administer the Public Access Certification Test and provide ID on successful completion of the test, it is worthwhile to find a trainer who would administer The Public Access Certification Test. You could recruit a local trainer certified through The National Association of Obedience Dog Instructors (www.nadoi.org) or the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (www.ccpdt.org),  an obedience class instructor, or a Canine Good Citizen test evaluator. Trainers usually will charge a fee for their time.

AKC Canine Good Citizen Urban Test (CGCU) Test: Another way to document you have made an effort to train your dog to be safe around other dogs and people while working out in public is to pass what is known as the “CGCU” test. Many obedience training centers offer the test after a series of obedience and lower level Canine Good Citizen classes.


PLEASE READ: IAADP retains the authority to accept or deny any given task or behavior as acceptable for Membership purposes and for consistency with IAADP’s Minimum Training Standards. IAADP may request additional information to verify validity of the dog’s task(s). This may include training records, videoes of the dog performing the task in context, or other methods to verify a submitted task list. This is part of our commitment to membership authenticity.

Failure to meet IAADP’s Minimum Training Standards does not mean the dog is not a legitimate assistance dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It just means the dog’s training level does not reach the level required by IAADP to match the excellence in assistance dog training standards that IAADP promotes. If additional training is needed and is then met by the applicant, IAADP will reconsider a Partner Membership for the assistance dog team. IAADP encourages all applicants to achieve our level of excellence.


What is a Task?

A task is a certain desired behavior or set of behaviors the dog is trained to habitually perform in response to a command or a particular situation such as the onset of a seizure, which cues the dog to perform a task. The task must be related to your disabling condition, helping you in some way.

What is meant by “individually trained”?

A dog has been “individually trained” to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability when the dog is deliberately taught to exhibit the desired behavior or sequence of behaviors by rewarding the dog for the right response(s) and communicating, if only through silence, when the dog has made the wrong response in a particular situation. A task is learned when the dog reliably exhibits the desired behavior whenever needed to assist his/her partner on command or cue. An example of work that is individually trained would be that performed by a guide dog, who takes directional commands, goes around obstacles in the team’s path, halts to indicate a curb or some other change in elevation and refuses the “Forward” command in specific situations that would result in injury, such as an automobile entering the team’s path. Examples of individually trained tasks could include retrieving a phone, providing deep pressure therapy during a panic attack or providing balance support on a staircase to prevent a fall.

What is NOT an individually trained task?

Spontaneous behavior a dog occasionally exhibits, such as licking someone’s face or barking, does not qualify as a “trained task” under the ADA, even if it accidentally or coincidentally has a beneficial result. While everyone enjoys the emotional, social and safety benefits that a dog’s presence can provide, those benefits do not constitute trained tasks that would transform a disabled person’s pet into a legitimate service dog under the ADA.

IAADP does not accept any “natural dog behavior,” such as licking, as a task, no matter the reason. It is recommended that a nudge, steady “paw,” or other specific, unnatural dog behavior be trained and used instead. The behavior must be taught specifically to initiate an alert or respond to a crisis, and it must be verifiable.

Why are individually trained tasks so important?

Trained tasks that mitigate the effects of a disabling condition are the legal basis for granting access rights to individuals with disabilities under the ADA. An assistance dog with this special training is viewed as assistive technology / medical equipment, not as a pet. Businesses have the right to ask an individual with a disability, partnered with an assistance dog, “What tasks does your service animal perform?” This question can be asked if there is any doubt about the dog’s legal status and whether to impose their restrictive pet policies. An acceptable answer might be, “my service dog is trained to get help for me in a medical crisis by ____________.” (Fill in the blank as to the specific task) You do not have to reveal your disability in formulating your reply. Businesses also have the right to exclude any animal, including a service animal, who threatens the health or safety of other people through aggressive or unruly behavior. An assistance dog can also be evicted for disruptive behavior that interferes with a business providing goods or services. The DOJ used the example of a dog barking in a movie theater.

Tasks examples: