When our puppies are raised to become service dog candidates they go through important preparations that start right after they are born. They are deliberately and carefully exposed to controlled stressors for a few seconds at a time every day between 3 and 18 days old. This is called “early neurological stimulation”, and it helps puppies be very resilient and stress resistant. They are exposed to systematic desensitization and socialization from 3 weeks until they are 22 weeks old, and this again helps them have high distress tolerance and low reactivity. By carefully raising future service dogs to not be easily aroused, they are better able to ignore distractions and stay focused on helping their handlers.
Puppies and dogs can become service dogs without that controlled early development, but the percentage that qualify is reduced. We do a comprehensive screening and assessment, and may admit your dog to begin training. However, we often do not know, based on a few meetings, how your dog will respond across time in reaction to a broad spectrum of stressors. AVSDA enrollment with your own dog is not a guarantee your dog will become a service dog. The genetic temperament of your dog, shaped by early environmental and social factors, are often stronger determinants than training. And training cannot change certain traits or tendencies to enough of a degree to meet service dog criteria.