Public Access Test


A woman with a turquoise shirt looks down at her Miniature Pinscher service dog wearing a green bandana. The dog is looking at but walking right by a treat on the ground. In the background, a woman with a purple shirt looks at her Daschund x Labrador Retriever who is wearing a black service dog vest.

Getting past the treat with a loose leash

What is PSDP’s public access test (PAT)?

Our public access test (PAT) details Psychiatric Service Dog Partners’ minimum public access behaviors for responsible service dog handling. This includes unacceptable behaviors, obedience behaviors, and behavior in different locations and situations.

Click the link below for the printable (PDF) version of PSDP’s PAT. The PAT text is also at the bottom of this page. The 2013 version is archived.

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2017 Public Access Test

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As a companion to our Public Access Standard for service dogs, our PAT is based on our internal community standards. These standards should not be interpreted (A) as a suggestion for over-specifying new laws or (B) as guidance to understand current laws. These standards simply detail what PSDP encourages within the service dog community, in order to foster more responsible service dog handling.

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What does taking the PAT look like?

The “PAT in 60 seconds” video below is a quick series of video snapshots capturing the 2017 PAT activities (not guidelines); full testing footage would be much longer! Intended to be informative—or at least entertaining—it’s not a how-to for the test.

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How do I take the PAT—and why should I?

PSDP does not administer the PAT, though it is administered by experienced trainers/service dog handlers at our psychiatric service dog convention. Often, individuals hire a regular, local professional dog trainer to give the test. However, formal qualifications are not an absolute requirement for testers. What matters most is that the tester is able to knowingly evaluate the team based on the criteria, which does require experience with dog training and dog body language.

Any PAT evaluation is only as valuable as the ability and accuracy of the tester. We advise that when teams take the PAT, they have a third person record the test on video. This can provide useful feedback for future training. Further, in case a team ever has to go to court, a video record is an independent way of showing that the team accomplished what the tester indicates they did.

We recommend keeping training logs to personally track training and just in case you ever find yourself in court with a service dog related issue. The PAT is a part of this self-check and record-keeping. Some people even find it valuable to take the PAT again every few years after first passing it. This optional re-testing can give you the confidence you’re maintaining your training—and one community member found it to be extremely helpful in winning her court case.

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Should PATs be required by law?

It’s easy to think the world would be better if service dog teams didn’t have access without taking a public access test (PAT). In fact, people often assume the law requires testing!

However, forcing teams to pass a PAT runs into some problems and—surprisingly—wouldn’t quite be the fix you might think. To learn more about how a mandatory PAT would distract employees from what’s important, read “Forced service dog testing is not the fix you might think“.

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Test text (printable PDF is above)

Dog’s name: _____________ Handler’s name: _________________________________
Date of test: _____________ Tester’s name: __________________________________

Result: ⧠ Pass ⧠ No Pass
Tester signature:

Purpose and Scoring

The purpose of this public access test (PAT) is to complement PSDP’s public access standard by providing general, minimum evaluation criteria for service dog team behavior. PSDP does not certify teams, but individuals are welcome to use this voluntary PAT for the purposes of service dog training or evaluation. PSDP is not liable for any risks or consequences of using this form.

The test items are in a yes-or-no format. The team must be successful on all items of the test to pass. Test items that are not available in the tester’s general area (e.g. elevators) or are unreasonable due to a handler’s disability (e.g. shopping cart use) may be adjusted/omitted at the discretion of the tester.

1. Training/Controlling Aids

____Throughout the test, no treats, leash corrections, or training aids were used.

While PSDP encourages training throughout the lifetime of the dog, the PAT is designed to give a good snapshot of how the dog can be expected to behave without intensive training aids. As such, handlers are not allowed to use treats during the test. Additionally, leash corrections or other physical corrections are not permitted.

Similarly, this PAT prohibits the dog from being outfitted with any device designed to train or control by causing pain or fear (such as prong collars, choke collars, shock collars, and studded/prong harnesses). A head collar or non-prong, no-pull harness is acceptable only if the handler needs such an item due to their disability. This kind of device should only be used as an emergency failsafe (e.g., safety for balance issues), and cannot be relied on to control the dog during the test.

2. Leash Tension

____Throughout the test, team had an appropriate level of looseness in the leash/harness.

The dog should not continuously/repeatedly strain at the leash (normally forms a “J”). Harness tension is okay if actively needed for disability mitigation (e.g., mobility or guide work). Retractable leashes are acceptable only when needed for disability-specific work. In either of these cases, the handler should alert the tester to the need and always maintain control without excessive pulling or wandering.

3. Inappropriate Service Dog Conduct

____Throughout the test, dog did not display any inappropriate behaviors bulleted below.

• growling or inappropriate, excessive barking
• nipping or biting
• showing or baring teeth
• lunging at other people or dogs
• being out of handler’s control
• inappropriately eliminating (urinating or defecating)

4. Working Position

____Throughout the test, dog was comfortable and confident in its working position.

Each team’s working position will be different to meet their unique requirements. When the person is seated in place, a small dog may work exclusively from the user’s lap. When moving, dogs that are normally held or carried also need to be able to pass the relevant challenges from the ground.

5. Vehicles and Public Transportation

____Dog enters and exits any form of transportation in a safe manner.
____Dog is able to ride in any form of transportation in a controlled manner.

6. Parking Lot Behavior

____Dog transits parking lot safely.

7. Controlled Entry into a Building

____Dog enters building in a controlled manner.

8. Navigating a Store

____Dog does not bump into shelves or interact with merchandise.
____Dog does not interact with other people unless instructed to do so.
____Dog does not lick or closely sniff food or other items in store.*
____Dog maintains a working position while the handler uses a shopping cart.

9. Working with Distractions

____Dog is able to work despite distractions encountered in normal working environment.

10. Obedience Training

____Dog holds a sit, down, or stand stay on cue for 30 seconds.
____Dog comes on cue from a distance of 6 feet or greater.
____Dog walks past and leaves a food item on the ground.
____Dog is able to ignore, greet, or get out of the way of a stranger, whatever the dog has been trained or cued to do.
____Dog does not exhibit any inappropriate behavior when touched by a stranger.
____Dog focuses on the handler on cue.

11. Restaurant

____Dog does not beg or attempt to eat or closely sniff any food on the floor or on tables.*
____Dog is positioned to cause the least obstruction to the flow of business.
____Dog is not on a table, chair, or bench, but is always either on the floor or in a lap if required for disability mitigation.
____Handler does not feed or water their dog from the table.

12. Elevator

____Dog should be able to load into an elevator and travel both up and down with the dog remaining confident and unruffled in a sit, down, or standing position.

13. Stairs

____If the handler uses stairs, the dog should maintain a working position. The dog should not cause the handler or others to fall or stumble. Teams that do not navigate stairways should be able to navigate wheelchair access ramps in the same manner.

14. Working around Other Dogs

____Dog should be able to maintain a working mode while in the presence of other dogs.

15. Use of Public Restrooms

____Dog does not cause a disturbance in the restroom.

*Exception: If the dog has been trained specifically to sniff food to aid with the user’s disability, then the dog can work at identifying the trigger by sniffing the food from a reasonable distance.