There’s something irresistible about a dog in uniform. Their cute furry face, brightly colored vest, and unwavering commitment to their human handler; it’s amazing to witness. However, a service dog’s job is no laughing matter. These canine companions have serious work to do and we are here to help you understand exactly what being a service dog entails.
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- Any dog can be a service dog. The coveted title of service dog isn’t exclusively for golden retrievers and German shepherds. Service dogs are able to come in all different shapes, sizes, breeds, and colors. While there are some restrictions, for example, a chihuahua may not be able to pull a human handler and their wheelchair across the room; but they can be trained in other skills, like identifying the onset of a seizure. Be sure to do your research before choosing a service dog and find the right canine for the job.
- These dogs are specially trained. The training these dogs go through to become a certified service dog is extensive, but the end result is always worth it. Starting when they are puppies, the training can take a few months or even years. During this time they will be exposed to certain stimulus to learn how to effectively perform their jobs. Each service dog will come with their own speciality and perform specific tasks for their human handler. Some of the tasks they can be trained to do include: retrieving dropped items, opening and closing doors, pulling a wheelchair up a slope, licking a seizing person to help end the seizure, and alerting a diabetic to dangerous shifts in their blood sugar.
- Service dogs come in many different varieties. Just like the tasks they are trained to perform, their service title can vary as well. These working dogs can help with any number of disabilities; physical, mental, and emotional. Some types of service dogs include allergy alert dogs, hearing dogs, medical alert dogs, wheelchair assistance dogs, and seizure assistance dogs.
- These are working dogs, not pets. As we mentioned earlier, these dogs are specially trained to help their human handler. That is not to say they aren’t still cute and crave affection from time to time, but if you see a service dog in public they are most likely working. Like any other professional, these dogs do not enjoy being disrupted. It is important to leave them to their work in order to keep both their human handler and the people around them safe.
- Their uniform isn’t mandatory. Contrary to popular belief service dogs are not required to wear a special vest or harness. The American Disabilities Association (ADA) does not require them to wear anything that identifies them as service dogs. They are required to be on a leash or tether when in public unless it interferes with them accomplishing a task.
- Not all service dogs are allowed everywhere. Service dogs have a reputation to uphold in public. They should never be obtrusive, rude, or disorderly. In fact, if their behavior is unseemly and their handler does not rectify it, the public establishment does have the right to ask the handler to remove the dog. While people with a disability have the right to have their service dog with them, the business also has the right to not have their day to day operations disrupted by a dog who isn’t ready to be working in public.
Now that you are aware of what it takes to become a service dog, be sure to respectfully thank them for their service.
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