What is PSDP’s public access test (PAT)?
Psychiatric Service Dog Partners’ free service dog public access test (PAT) helps evaluate service dog team behavior in public, no-pets places. It’s most often used toward the end of a team’s initial 1–3 years of training to behave in no-pets places. The PAT includes unacceptable behaviors, obedience behaviors, and behavior in different locations and situations.
See our testing page for more information, especially about using our Service Dog In Training Manners Evaluation to help along the way with public access training. Click the link below for the printable (PDF) version of PSDP’s PAT, and see the headings below for important additional info about taking a PAT.
The 2022 update to our PAT combines the kind of explanations in our previous public access standard with the practical evaluations of our 2017 PAT. The revised guidelines and activities are designed to work better for a diversity of disabilities and effective ways of using a service dog.
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.
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.
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.
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“..