Service dogs are the dogs that are trained to perform certain tasks other than police work. They are trained to assist and help people with disabilities, such as blind people, people with a mental health condition, invalids, or persons suffering trauma. They love, lead, balance, listen, and guide. Whether it is about offering physical support to a disabled handler or retrieving dropped items – service dogs serve to their fullest. Here are some interesting facts about them:
Laika the Dog
Laika, the dog, became one of the first animals and the first living creature to orbit the earth. A stray dog – she was picked up from the streets of Moscow and was then trained to be launched into outer space (November 3, 1957) as part of the Soviet space program.
Preparing A Service Dog for Duty Can Be Costly and Time-Consuming
Canine Assistants, a Non-profit organization in Milton, Georgia says that it spends around $24,500 on training plus lifetime care for each dog. In addition to the expenses, training the dog also takes months. Volunteers train these dogs to perform various tasks that would prepare them to cope with possibly stressful situations. Training range from retrieving things for patients who cannot walk any longer to taking public transportation.
Service Dogs Are Not Pets
Service dogs are not considered pets. They have real work to do that ranges from guiding a blind man to cross the street or comforting a victim suffering a post-traumatic stress disorder. Service dogs are rather seen as an extension to the disabled individual.
Service Dogs Require Care, Too. But the Rewards Are Priceless
Of course, so that service dogs perform their duties well, they must be taken care of. Like a lot of dogs, they get sick or get injured – they need regular care. Taking care of service dogs may be a big commitment, but this commitment is compensated by disabled people who benefit from the care they get.
Service Dog Vests Are Optional
Service dogs can accompany people at any public places without a vest on, except on a few special occasions. But they should be on a leash at all times unless it becomes uncomfortable to them or hinders them from performing their tasks. However, just like the uniform identifies a cop, a service dog is identified by its vest. Handlers put vests on their dogs for two major reasons: first, to give the passersby a heads up that this dog is on its duty. Second, to tell the service dog himself that it is time for business.
Any Breed Can Be A Service Dog, But Retrievers Were Born for The Role
Any breed can have the potential to be a service dog, but retrievers are born for the role. Apart from their docile behavior, retrievers are especially suited to the role of service dogs because of, as their name implies, their knack for retrieving things.
Service Dogs Are Always Up for The Job
If you see a service dog without their handler/owner, it might indicate that there is something wrong. One must go and investigate the situation. A well-trained service dog knows well in which condition he should approach a person for assistance. For instance, if the service dog finds out that his owner is having a seizure, he will run up to an adult to seek help.
Here are some more tasks that service dogs are capable of performing:
- Burrowing under the legs of a person with POTS to increase their blood pressure
- Licking the person having a seizure to help end it via tactile simulation
- Pulling wheelchair up a slope
- Giving support or bracing an unbalanced owner
There Are Different Types of Service Dogs
One’s disability determines the type of service dog that needs to be acquired. For example, a blind person would need a different type of assistance than a person with epilepsy would. Mobility assistance dogs assist people that cannot walk or move – these dogs can pick up dropped items, turn off lights, and even open doors. There is another unique service dog known as a diabetic alert dog whose duty is to alert his diabetic owner when his insulin levels are low. This specific service dog does this by smelling him – he detects the change in the scent that happens when the insulin levels get low.
PTSD service dogs are also very common that are used by the veterans – they provide essential support to the ex-soldiers.
Here are some more varieties of a service dog:
- Visual assistance dog
- Psychiatric service dog
- Medical response dog
- Medical assistance dog
- Medical alert dog
- Autism assistance dog
- Allergy alert dog
- Emergency medical response dog
- Hearing dog
- Guide dog
Want to train your service dog? “Training Your Own Service Dog” by Max Matthews is an excellent guidebook that contains a step by step guide to an obedient service dog.
There Are Certain Service Dog Laws
As these dogs are extremely important to their owners, they have a right to certain laws as well. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, handlers and service dogs have the following legal rights:
- Service dogs can accompany their handlers in all public places
- Service dogs should be trained for a specific disability – PTSD dogs, diabetic alert dog, mobility assistance dog, etc.
- Dogs and miniature horses are allowed as official service animals.
When a handler is in a public accommodation or a business place along with his service dog that doesn’t readily appear as one, the employees or the person in charge may ask these two questions:
- Is this animal required because of a disability?
- What specific task or work has the dog been mastered to perform?
If there’s a law protecting the handler with a well-mannered and trained dog, there is also something about a service dog that is rude, out of control, or obtrusive in public. Such service dogs are considered as “not ready yet”, and the business owner or the employees have the right to ask the handler to remove the dog immediately.
A Therapy Dog, An Emotional Support Dog, And A Service Dog Are Not the Same
Emotional dogs are just pet that care, spread happiness, give emotional support and affection – they are not trained in any service capacity. While a therapy dog provides good companionship and comfort, it is perhaps not trained to provide any specific services. Service dogs, as you already know, are special and trained to perform at least one specific service that aids the disabled owner.
Service Dogs Should Not Be Petted
You see a cute dog; you pet it. But this shouldn’t be done to service dogs because they are always working when they are with their owners. Anything from petting, baby-talking to eye-contact can cause distraction, hence putting their owner at risk. However, you can always ask the service dog’s owner to pet (this is if you can’t stop yourself from showing your extreme love towards the dog).
Give this amazing book “Tuesday Tucks Me In” a try – it contains one of the best stories about a service dog and a veteran that will surely touch your soul!