Archive for the ‘Service Dog Tips’ Category

The Sunshine State allows service dogs to travel, reside with, and perform daily living activities with their owners. The State of Florida aligns with the federal American Disabilities Act (ADA), which provides service dog owners the rights and privacy with their service dogs. These rights cannot be denied, regardless of the local jurisdiction laws or private business ownership rules. Anyone who uses a service dog for their disability in Florida is protected by these laws and are entitled to the use of their animal. 

What is a Service Dog? 

The ADA definition of a service dog is similar to the Florida Statute 413.08 definition. Florida Statute 413.08 defines a service animal as one that is “trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability… A service animal is not a pet.” These tasks are vital for the quality of life of the person with the disability. For instance, a service dog may help obtain a life-saving medication, guide the visually impaired, or help with mobility issues. 

How are Service Dogs Trained? 

Service dogs must be trained to perform a task that the person with a disability would otherwise be unable to perform themselves. Their training must be specific to the needs of the person with the disability. Service dogs can be trained through a professional canine trainer or by the dog owner themselves. 

If a trainer is training the service dog, Florida law allows them the full rights provided to a service dog owner during training sessions. They are allowed into public facilities and transport, just like service dog owners are. This will enable trainers the full ability to train a service dog well. 

Identification and Registration Requirements for the State of Florida

According to Florida Statute 413.08, documentation that a service animal is trained is not required. Although not mandatory, registration is recommended as it allows easier access to all public accommodations. Having identification and registration available, though not necessary, mitigates any unexpected problems or harassment.

To protect the service dog owner’s privacy, the public can not inquire about the nature of the service animal’s owner’s disability. They may only ask two questions:

Is this a service animal? What task has the animal been trained to perform?

Neither business nor private entities may ask personal questions such as:

Asking the owner to have the animals perform their assigned task as a demonstration. Asking the service dog owner declare their illness or disability.  Demanding documentation regarding registration or training.   Leash Requirements for Service Dogs

Florida laws require that a service animal must be under the control of its owner at all times. The service animal must be properly outfitted with supplies such as a leash, harness, or tether. If a leash, harness, or tether interferes with the tasks the dog must perform, then the dog must be under the owner’s control at all times through the owner’s voice or signal commands. 

Service Dog Behavior Requirements

Although a service dog is essential to their owner’s well-being, both ADA and Florida laws are explicit about their expectations for public safety. These include the following points:

Service dogs must be under the control of the owner at all times.  Service dogs can be removed or excluded from an area if the dog is out of control, is not appropriately housebroken, or is a safety issue for the public.  Fear of animals or allergies is not a justifiable reason for the exclusion of a service animal.  If a service animal must be removed for being a threat, the service dog owner must be provided the option of remaining without the service animal.  Damage caused by the service animal is the responsibility of the service animal’s owner. 

Any person who interferes with these rights may be subject to a misdemeanor of a second-degree in the state of Florida. 

In conjunction with federal law, Florida’s state law guarantees full support and protection for you and your service dog. Misrepresentation of a Service Dog

The state of Florida considers the misrepresentation of a service dog a second-degree misdemeanor. If a person knowingly presents themselves, in writing, verbally, or through their actions, as having a service dog and do not qualify as such, they may be subject to prosecution. 

Public Accommodation for Owners of Service Animals

“Public accommodation” is a broad term and, in short, means that people with service animals are allowed anywhere the general public is also invited. For instance, hotels, public transportation, and resorts are examples of areas where service animals are allowed.  

Safety of Service Animals in Florida

The service dog laws for the state of Florida are very similar to the federal regulations. Florida also goes the extra mile to protect its service animals, with laws against any interference or injury. These laws prohibit the obstruction, harm, or intimidation of a service animal by another person or an animal owned by that person. These actions are punishable as a misdemeanor in the first-degree or a felony of the third-degree, depending on the severity of the incident. 

Know Your Service Dog Rights and Requirements in Florida

Being knowledgeable about the rights and requirements of service animals in your state helps keep you and the service animals safe. Respecting the laws, providing the service animals the safe space to do their job, and establishing the correct qualifications can keep the integrity of service dogs intact. 

Service dogs are always working to ensure and protect the welfare of their human handler. Therefore, these dogs can experience and accumulate a lot of stress each day. It’s essential for handlers to recognize signs of stress for their service dogs, and to understand ways of preventing and lowering stress for these animals. This allows them to continue performing their tasks and duties under the highest conditions of health and wellness possible. Ensuring and protecting the welfare of service dogs is as important as the work they do for their humans.

Stress Signs for Service Dogs

Since they can’t communicate with words, service dogs exhibit signs of stress through their bodies and behaviors. Here is a list of stress signs to watch for in a service dog:

Eye/Look Indicators Avoiding eye contact Blinking Breaking eye contact Dilated eyes Frequent looks for direction Glazed look Looking away Quick eye movements Red eyes (sign of increased blood pressure) Showing whites of eyes (Whale Eye) Squinting Staring directly Mouth Indicators Air snapping Drooling Flicking tongue Licking lips Nose licking Panting too wide or shallow breathing Showing teeth Whiskers pricked forward or slicked back Yawning Head/Ear Indicators Burying head Ears held up Furrowed brow Laying ears back Quick head movements Scowling look Turning head away Uneven ears Vocal Indicators Barking excessively Growling Screaming Sharp yipping Whining Body Indicators Freezing Hiding Lowered tail (if this is unusual) Raised tail (if this is unusual) Shaking off Stiff posture or walk Stretching Trembling Turning away Other Indicators Bladder problems Bowel problems Chewing themselves Clenching toes Digging Excessive gas Hiding behind human partner Injuring self Leaning or bumping into human partner Lethargy Non-response Poking or shoving handler repeatedly Red pigmentation of skin, ears, or eyes Refusal to eat Scratching self Seeking attention Sniffing Spinning in circles Sweaty or moist paw prints on floor Unusually loose stool Weight loss How to Prevent Stress in Service Dogs

It’s essential to prevent stress in the life of any animal as much as possible. This is even more true for service dogs due to the fact that their lives are quite different from their pet dog counterparts.

Relaxation time not only compensates them for their service, but it allows their needs to be prioritized which can help to prevent stress. Relaxation periods should not be paired with working obligations but should be a time of freedom and play. This allows service dogs a much needed and deserved break from not only performing tasks but being at the ready to do so in each moment.

In addition to relaxation time, stress in service dogs can also be prevented through caring for their health and wellness. Since service dogs are committed and devoted to their human handlers, their own level of health and wellness must be excellent in terms of nutrition, veterinary care, grooming, etc. If the comprehensive health needs of service dogs are met, this allows them to perform their duties without the added stresses of feeling unwell physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Exercise is extremely important for the well-being of all dogs, and especially service dogs. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes per day of dedicated exercise for service dogs. Not only does exercise keep service dogs in good health, it also helps to prevent stress from building up throughout each day and over a prolonged period of attentive work.

How to Lower Stress in Service Dogs

There may be times when stress in service dogs in unpreventable and unavoidable. During these times, it’s essential to lower stress in service dogs as much as possible.

If you notice that a particular environment or set of circumstances is causing your service dog to show signs of stress, it’s wise to remove them from the situation if possible. This will give them a chance to regain their calm and focus. If there is a situation in which your service dog repeatedly reacts with stress signals, a different approach to training may be required for them to adjust without feeling anxious.

Do not attempt to comfort your dog if they are stressed. This may reinforce your service dog’s fear and they may react negatively to the stressor in the future. If you must show affection or praise, have your service dog perform a command or task first. Provide affection and praise when a desirable behavior has been displayed.

Some dogs may respond well to fast paced commands or “doodle work” when feeling stressed. The thinking behind this is that issuing quick simple commands can get your dog into a different mindset.

Conclusion

It’s important for handlers to be consistent and frequent in offering reinforcement. Service dogs are highly intuitive to their performance, and they rely on reinforcement from their human partner to understand that they are doing their job effectively. Reinforcement that is inconsistent or withheld can result in confusion, which leads to stress.

Overall, one of the best ways to lower stress in service dogs is for their handlers to cope with and react to stress in as calm a manner as possible. This can be very difficult for people with disabilities. However, service dogs are trained to monitor the slightest mood alterations or levels of stress in their human partners. Persistent, heightened stress on the part of their human handlers can result in persistent, heightened stress in service dogs. This level of stress takes its toll on the dog, their ability to perform tasks, and their overall well-being.

Service dogs are more than a man’s best friend; they can be a man’s lifesaver. Mobility service dogs or mobility assistance dogs, in particular, save lives and improve a disabled person’s quality of life. Whether it is preventing their handler from falling or carrying objects to their handler, mobility service dogs open up a world that would otherwise be, quite literally, out of their handler’s reach. 

Table of Contents What Does a Mobility Service Dog Do?  Mobility Assistance Tasks Emergency Assistance Tasks How Big Should a Mobility Service Dog Be? How Long Does It Take to Train a Mobility Service Dog? Who Can Benefit From a Mobility Service Dog? What Does a Mobility Service Dog Do? 

Mobility service dogs, also known as brace service dogs or Brace and Mobility Support Dogs (BMSD), are trained to help their owner moving around or obtaining items. These assistance animals receive additional training to perform tasks that make the life of individuals with mobility issues easier. 

Mobility Assistance Tasks

Mobility service dogs can help to “brace” their owner. Bracing means helping to keep a person from falling or to assist them to sit or stand upright. Other tasks a mobility service dog can do are: 

Opening and closing exit doors and cabinet doors, sometimes by using ropes or special latches.  Pushing buttons and flipping light switches when needed. For instance, when in an elevator or automated door.  Fetching, carrying, or placing items down when told, particularly in situations when things are out of reach.  Assisting a person in a wheelchair.  Provide physical support by maintaining balance when their owner feels weak, dizzy, or if they are prone to falling.  Assists their owner to stand up or remain upright by physically bracing them or pushing and pulling them.  Serve as a counterbalance or assist their owner in walking in a straight line to avoid bumping into things. 

A mobility service dog can change the world for a person with mobility issues, enabling them to perform daily living activities.

– ServiceDogCertifications.org

Emergency Assistance Tasks

In cases of emergency or if their owner falls mobility dogs are trained to react in the following ways: 

Bark to notify bystanders or other people in the home of an emergency and the need for assistance.  Initiates call to 911, opens the door, or barks to alert first responders where their owner is located.  Retrieve emergency medication.  Stand over their owner to prevent them from being injured or stepped on.  Nudge their owner into a recovery or safety position.  Perform emergency tasks such as removing their owner’s clothing during temperature spikes or warming them during rapid temperature drops. 

Finally, as with all dogs, mobility service dogs offer companionship, loyalty, and connection to their owners—which can help lift their owner’s spirits. 

How Big Should a Mobility Service Dog Be?

Ideally, an owner shouldn’t place their full weight on their mobility assistance animal. However, because unforeseen events do happen, a service dog should be a larger-statured dog to safely perform their tasks, with both their well-being and their owner’s safety in mind. According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), a mobility assistance animal should be at least 22″ tall and weigh at least 55 pounds to assist a child or a petite woman. For average adults, a service dog assisting with mobility should be over 60 pounds. 

The size of a mobility service dog ultimately depends on the size and needs of the person they’re working for. For example, a dog required only for retrieval purposes and not for falls assistance can be smaller. Service dogs used for bracing falls, however, may need to be 27 inches or taller, depending on the height of their owner. Ensuring that the dog’s size is compatible with the job required will keep both the dog and the owner safe. 

The size of the mobility service dog depends on the tasks they will need to perform in order to help their owner overcome the hardship of the disability. How Long Does It Take to Train a Mobility Service Dog?

Knowing how vital and life-changing the work of a mobility service dog is, it’s no wonder that these working dogs require extensive training. Unfortunately, there is no way to obtain a quality service dog quickly or cheaply. According to IAADP, training a mobility service dog may take a minimum of 120 hours of training. Depending on the skills necessary, service dog training may take at least six months. An additional 30 hours of training in a public setting also helps a mobility service dog execute their skills in a community environment without being intrusive with others. 

Who Can Benefit From a Mobility Service Dog?

As mobility service dogs have a wide variety of skills, they’re ideal for helping with many disabilities and disorders. The following are examples of a few conditions that can benefit from a mobility service dog:

Arthritis Spinal Cord Injury Vertigo Migraine Visual Impairment Brain injury Heart Disorders Muscular Dystrophy  Parkinson’s Disease Gait Problems

If you or someone you love suffers from any of these conditions, a mobility service dog may be the right choice. 

Show everyone your mobility service dog is an important part of your daily life with your Service Dog ID. Get your mobility service dog registered below.