What is a service dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (28 CFR 36.104) defines the term "service animal" as "any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability."

When people hear “service dog,” they generally think of guide dogs. However, guide dogs fall into a category all of their own within the realm of service dogs. There are three types of service dogs:

  • Guide Dogs - aiding the blind or visually impaired

  • Hearing Dogs - aiding the deaf or hard of hearing

  • Assistance Dogs - aiding those with disabilities other than those listed above, including but not limited to Mobility Assistance, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Autism Assistance, Diabetic Alert and Seizure Response/Alert

Service dogs are not Emotional Support Animals or Therapy Dogs. While these other types of animals can bring people comfort, they do not have the same public access rights as service dogs and are not task-trained to help someone with a disability.

Do service dogs have to wear a vest?

No, service dogs are not required to wear a vest or anything else to identify them as a service dog. The jacket does not give the dog permission to enter public places, the law does. The jacket helps the public identify that it is a working dog and not to disturb them.

Where can service dogs go? Do service dogs in training have the same rights as working service dogs?

Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is allowed to go. The ADA does not afford the same rights to service dogs in training, however the State of Texas allows service animals in training the same access rights so long as they are accompanied by an approved trainer.

Why can you bring your dog into the store? Why can't I bring mine in with those same rules?

The dogs within our program are in training to become service dogs to assist someone with a disability. In Texas, puppies in training to become service dogs have the same access rights as service dogs as long as they are accompanied by an approved trainer. This is so that the dogs can become familiar with the many different environments that they may be expected to work in as a service dog.

What breeds can be service dogs? What breeds does AGS train?

According to the ADA, any breed can be a service dog as long as they are trained to perform tasks to help someone with a disability. Our program trains Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Standard Poodles, Goldendoodles, and Labradoodles.

How does the AGS program work?

Puppies come into our program when they are about 8 weeks old. They are placed with a trainer who they will stay with for approximately one year before graduating from their Phase I training. While they are in Phase I with AGS, the puppy lives with its trainer, and the trainer is responsible for socializing the puppy, teaching the puppy many basic obedience commands, and some advanced commands. They also prepare for and pass the Canine Good Citizen test before graduating. Our trainers are guided and supported at every step by our Puppy Team, who are all former trainers themselves. For Phase II training, the dogs go to one of the great secondary organizations that we partner with. In their Phase II training, the dogs will continue to be socialized to new situations and learn additional advanced commands that will be specific to the disability of the individual they will be placed with.

How can I become an AGS trainer?

To become a trainer in our program, students must go through a training process of their own. At the beginning of each semester, we offer three classes that are required to move forward as a potential trainer (PT). After attending the classes, PTs must practice their clicker training for 8 hours and then pass a clicker test given by a member of our Puppy Team, which includes the Trainer Supervisors and the Trainer Liaison. After passing the clicker test, PTs are allowed to handle AGS dogs under the supervision of current trainers or the puppy team. Once the trainer supervisors have observed the PT handling and believe they are ready to move forward, the PT will receive a copy of the AGS Manual to study. They are then given a written test over the content of the manual, and if they pass, the PT becomes a Sitter. Sitters help our trainers by watching AGS dogs when the trainers are unable to. The final steps before receiving a dog and becoming a trainer are two interviews: one with the puppy team and one with the puppy team, our president, and our faculty advisor. It is not guaranteed that anyone who goes through this process will become a trainer, as dogs are placed with trainers at the discretion of the puppy team and our leadership.

Can I donate you a puppy? What about recieving an AGS dog for secondary training?

If you are a breeder interested in donating a puppy to our program or a secondary training organization interested in partnering with us, please contact our Trainer Liaison at ags.trainerliaison@gmail.com

What are those shoes on your dog's feet?

Our dogs wear shoes on warm days to protect their feet from hot pavement! As service dogs, they do a lot of walking, so it is important that we keep their feet healthy.

For any training-specific questions, please email ags.trainersupervisors@gmail.com!