Pawsitivity Service Dogs

Standards and Policies

The tests, tasks, and extra benefits of a service dog who has been rescued and trained by Pawsitivity.


Standards and Policies


Pawsitivity Service Dogs have been pre-screened, selected, and trained to perform specific tasks for a specific individual with a disability. Each dog receives an in-depth health screening, including neutering or spaying, if needed. After training, each Service Dog must pass a public access test. This test is designed to be certain the dog can handle the stress associated with functioning as a Service Dog in public.

Specifics of the tests:

  • The Service Dog must tolerate public areas including stores, malls, movie theaters, grocery stores, public transportation, trains, airlines, work, and other places that do not welcome pets.

  • The dog must not eliminate indoors or in an area that is not suitable for the dog to do so.

  • The dog must walk calmly on leash.

  • The dog can be safely loaded and unloaded from a vehicle.

  • The dog must let handler recover the leash if accidentally dropped.

  • The dog must be comfortable in narrow aisles. 

What’s the difference between standards and tasks?

A Service Dog must be able to perform specific tasks for the person with a disability. Examples of these tasks are protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person to take prescribed medications, and calming a person during a meltdown or panic attack. Additionally, a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, for instance, may have several of these disabilities, plus they may experience disabilities unique to them, so each Pawsitivity Service Dog is trained with the individual's needs in mind. 

Opening a drawer

Not directly tested, but additional benefits:

Along with the above elements that are directly tested during training, there are several additional benefits often associated with Service Dogs:

  • Serve as a “social bridge”, facilitating social interaction for the handler

  • Provide a calming presence and increase confidence

  • Provide safety and security 

  • Reduce emotional agitation

  • Give a sense of pride and purpose

  • Aid with everyday social challenges

  • Help lower overall stress levels (for both the child and their parents)

  • Help gain success and independence.

  • For children, having a Service Dog often decreases the child’s tantrums and other disruptive behaviors, as well as bring improvements in their performance of daily routines and more social interactions.


"One family visited Disney World because the presence of the Service Dog meant their daughter could cope with the long car ride to Florida and was able to take in the new environment without being overwhelmed. Other families reported that ferryboat rides, airplane flights, weekends spent at a cottage, and hotel stays were all more manageable with the assistance of the Service Dog. For many of these parents, sending their child to day camps or overnight camps with the dog was the first step in giving themselves some respite from the constant demands of care for their child".

"Sentinels of Safety: Service Dogs Ensure Safety and Enhance Freedom and Well-Being for Families With Autistic Children", Kristen E. Burrows, Cindy L. Adams, Jude Spiers, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 2008.



The main requirement to obtain a Service Dog is a disability - only a person with a disability may own a Service Dog. Other than that requirement, the following policies are strongly suggested but are not required. Individuals are unique and have differing requirements and needs. We believe strongly in not patronizing people with disabilities and feel that you are the best judge of your circumstances. The following are recommendations we have come up with through years of experience:

- Pets

It can be difficult to treat your service dog with calm, clear, guidance when you have pets. With other dogs around, you may be tempted to treat your Service Dog as a pet, too, and not keep up with its training. Unlike other organizations, though, we believe that you know your circumstances best, and while we often advise that you do not have other pets, ultimately the choice is up to each family.

- Training

We work with rescues and shelters across the country to find that "1-in-a-thousand" dog that tests as being appropriate for training. Check out our page on "Breeds" to find out more about how difficult it is to find the right candidate dog for training! We find that this is the process (when we select and train the dog), rather than have us (or you) train your current pet dog. Once we have spent a month or so evaluating the dog and confirming that he/she is suitable for training, then we open up the application process for people to apply (see the page called "Apply" for more details).

Handler learning to use his service dog

- Out-of-state handlers

  • We are based in St. Paul, MN.
  • At least with children, the process really works best when applicants live nearby (within a day's drive).
  • With adults, there's some more flexibility.

- Children

It can be difficult for children to treat a Service Dog with strict attention to rules and rewards, but you do not have to be 18 to benefit from having a Service Dog. We do recommend that the child be at least 7 years old.