Archive for the ‘Service Dog Tips’ Category

The Difference Between Service Dogs, Emotional Support Animals, and Therapy Dogs

Although service dogs for the deaf and blind have been used for decades, doctors and mental health professionals are now attesting to the benefits dogs (and other animals) bring to those individuals that need emotional or stress-relieving help.

However, since this practice of emotional and therapy pooch is relatively new, we tend to clump the jobs these animals do all into one category. Sure, we know these dogs are important to the individuals they are helping but do we know the difference between service dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs?

We’ve consulted with the experts to clear up the mystery and misunderstanding of this important trio.

What is a Service Dog?

According to the organization, ‘Please Don’t Pet Me,’ a service dog is defined as a canine assistant that helps those with physical disabilities. This can include those folks in wheelchairs, limited vision or hearing, epilepsy and a wide array of other physical health problems. This type of dog works to help the disabled person do things and live a life he/she may not be otherwise able to do.

This type of human/canine partnership is protected by The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), DOT’s Air Carrier Access Act, DOJ/HUD Fair Housing Act and Federal Rehabilitation Act. These laws ensure the canine will be granted access to public buildings, airlines, and no-pets apartments/condos.  

A service dog should not be petted by strangers when on duty, as this can be a distraction to the animal which could cause harm to the disabled person.

Since service dogs are highly trained from an early age, obtaining a service animal can be quite costly. Most organizations quote around $20,000 for a service dog. Depending on your country and city of location this fee may be paid by individual fundraising, government programs or by the service dog organization itself. If you are unable to afford a professionally trained service dog, you may train your service dog yourself.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

Unlike a service dog, the emotional support animal does not have to be highly trained to do its job. The main focus of an emotional support animal is to be there to provide unconditional love, support, companionship and friendship for the person with a psychological disorder. The idea behind this type of partnership is to help those individuals that may suffer from severe depression, anxiety issues or debilitating stress. A doctor, mental health professional or psychotherapist can prescribe an emotional support animal for the person in need.

The role of the emotional support animal isn’t always awarded to a dog. It can be a cat, bird, turtle, rabbit or even a horse.

According to ESA Doctors, these animals are allowed into ‘no pets allowed’ housing as long as they have an ESA letter or document from a mental health professional.

How Can I Get an ESA Letter Online?

What is a Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is also trained, but for a different purpose. This dog should be naturally friendly, easy-going, loving and able to handle any situation from calm to chaotic. The therapy dog is used for the sole purpose of bringing stress-relief to those in need. This can include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and more. Therapy dogs are accompanied by a handler (usually the pet parent) and can be interacted with, in fact, it’s encouraged.

The role of the therapy dog can vary from visit-to-visit, depending on where it is needed. Therapy dogs are used in grade schools to encourage reluctant students to read aloud; they may sit with patients that are critically ill or just in need of a pick-me-up, as well as actively participating in someone’s physical rehabilitation.

Albeit an important type of service, therapy dogs are not usually allowed into public places, airlines or those living quarters where there are no pet policies in place.

The Importance of Assistance Animals

The dog and human bond go way back in time, so it’s only natural that we would integrate them into the service world. Dogs have a special intuition that allows them to know when a person is hurting emotionally or is physically ill or disabled. And for this, we are truly blessed to have the lovable canine to be our partners in life.

Whether you need a service dog, emotional support animal or therapy dog, the canine is always on duty.

Using Dogs to Stop Panic Attacks

It’s happening again. Your heart is going a mile-a-minute, you’re sweating and shaking, you’re short of breath, and you’re in a state of absolute panic. But your dog notices what’s going on, comes into the room, jumps onto your lap, and before you know it, everything is fine. But why is this? What is it about dogs that helps to stop panic attacks? Here we explore how dogs can help to soothe sufferers of panic attacks, and more specifically, how to stop panic attacks using dogs.

Obviously, dogs can’t speak or truly understand what you’re saying, nor do they know what anxiety is or what panic attacks are, but somehow they have the ability to calm us down in moments of need. Dogs can do wonders for people who suffer from various anxiety related conditions, and here’s how they can be used to help stop panic attacks.

Dogs love to cuddle

It’s been clinically proven that positive physical touch can calm people down by reducing their heart rate, but this sort of physical affection isn’t always available, especially as the symptoms of panic attacks tend to occur at the most unlikely of times. As dogs are always down for cuddle time, they make the perfect solution for people craving the warm touch they can provide. Simply having a dog sit on your lap or lean against you can significantly reduce the symptoms of a panic attack and help to calm you down.

A dog will listen without trying to ‘fix’ you

Quite often, when discussing anxiety-related issues with people, they will usually listen but also try to offer advice, which is sometimes the last thing you want when pouring your heart out. Having a dog nearby to speak to can often alleviate the symptoms of a panic attack, as you can say absolutely anything you want without the fear of being judged, and knowing your dog won’t try to offer advice – because it can’t. Simply knowing you have an impartial listener can really help towards stopping panic attacks from happening.

Dogs are a great distraction

When left to our own devices, we can let our mind wonder and think about situations we wouldn’t normally think of, and this can be much worse for people with anxiety issues and suffer from panic attacks. As dogs are always available to play, take for walks, or just to snuggle with, they make for an excellent distraction from any wondering thoughts we might have. How can we think about worst case scenarios when playing fetch with an enthusiastic dog? It’s well known that dogs require a lot of care and affection, so when your focus is on looking after a dog, there will be less time to focus on any negative thoughts.

Having a dog around can help loneliness

Being alone at home for long periods of time can increase the chance of developing anxiety related disorders such as panic attacks. A flicker of light or the slightest noise can put you on edge, and the worry of being alone can induce a panic attack. By having a dog with you, you’ll definitely never be alone – there will always be someone you can share your latest news with, someone to play with and someone to cuddle up to.

Playing with your dog is a fantastic way to clear your mind

With all the stresses of daily life, it’s a wonder more people don’t suffer from anxiety related issues. Thinking about worrisome situations can only lead to more negative trains of thought, but it’s hard to worry about life when taking your dog for a walk, or see them being silly. In fact, playing with a dog has the ability to massively relieve stress and decrease the chances of having a panic attack. By simply focusing on your dog can really help to clear your mind and enable you to come up with solutions to any problems you may have, real or imagined.

Whether you’re a sufferer of panic attacks, have anxiety issues or simply want a loving companion, a dog can help anyone seeking to improve their life. A dog can be a shoulder to lean on in times of need, a non-judgemental listener, a great distraction from life’s stresses, a great companion to ward off loneliness, and can help to clear your mind. Why not think about getting a dog to help stop panic attacks?

For more information on service dog requirements click here.

For more information on how to obtain an emotional support animal letter from a doctor click here.

The ADA defines a Service Animal as a dog that is trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. A disability can be a physical disability, but also includes disabilities in the form of a mental illness that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as depression, severe anxiety, or PTSD.

If you believe you would benefit from having a service dog, you may find the information below helpful. This is not limited to seeing-eye dogs as commonly believed!

What are the Service Dog Requirements?

Training a dog to become a service animal is available to individuals that have a disability. If you are interested in having a service dog, below are requirements to be aware of:

A person is eligible for a service dog if they have a physical, emotional or mental disability A service dog must be well mannered at all times A service dog must be trained to perform specific tasks that aid in a disability If it is not obvious what service the dog provides, the handler must be willing to answer two questions about their service dog. Optionally, it can help for service dogs to be clearly identified with accessories.  How does My Dog Become a Service Dog?

We have identified 5 simple steps to help you understand how your dog can become a service dog.

Identify and Understanding What Type of Dog You Have Find a Trainer You Trust or Train Your Dog Yourself! Train Your Service Dog Pass a Public Access Test Consider Service Dog Certification and Registration

Service dogs are an important part of the assistance animal family and serve an important function in our community. Dogs that fulfill trained tasks to assist individuals with disabilities that require their support are allowed access to public places when accompanying their handlers.

Step 1: Identifying and Understanding What Type of Dog You Have

Any dog breed can be suitable for service work. From Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Bully Breeds, Poodles, Huskies, etc. All types of dogs are eligible to become services dogs, each potentially adept at providing a different type of service. It is important to note that under ADA rules an establishment cannot discriminate against a service dog solely because it is a certain breed or size.

The breed of a dog may inform you about some characteristics of the dog and common breed-related instincts so you can watch out for them, but each potential service dog should be assessed for their unique behavioral patterns, strengths, and weaknesses to see if that particular service dog would be appropriate to assist you.

You should also be aware of your dog’s condition to ensure that the age and health of your dog are suitable for the job. It’s important to understand your dog’s condition to prevent adding strain to a service animal’s health and also to ensure the dog is up to the tasks it will be trained for. It is also important to test your dog’s personality type to see if he or she has a good temperament for service work. Dogs who are aggressive or easily scared may not work as service dogs until their public temperament improves. 

Step 2: Find a Trainer You Trust or Train Your Dog Yourself!

People often search for a reputable trainer that they trust to train their service dog. You can either adopt a trained service dog from a reputable trainer or bring your dog to a trainer. However, you are not required to work with a trainer and may train your service dog yourself. Many people are not aware that service animal tasks can be trained in the comfort of their own home!  In the United States, there are no required ADA certifications for service animal training. The community is self-regulated and certain organizations promote minimum standards for training. If you find that you would rather train your dog yourself, you are not only welcome to it, but it can also help increase the bond between you and your service dog. 

Step 3: Training Your Service Dog

Most of your time will be spent here. Putting in enough time to train your future service dog is a crucial step. While the United States has no minimum requirement, international standards suggest approximately 120 hours over six months. Some sources recommend that at least 30 of those hours be time spent in public to help train the dog for moments of distraction and when surprises come their way.  

The most important thing for you to teach your service dog is tasking, or learning the specific skill they will be performing to help assist with your disability. Some tasks may include sensing a medical alert, tactile stimulation during a panic attack, reminding the handler to take their medication, scouting a room for someone with PTSD, or grounding/blocking in public areas.

For additional training support and guides, we recommend Secrets to Dog Training. They provide a simple yet comprehensive guide to dog training so you can successfully train your own service dog*. 

* This is our affiliate disclaimer, in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s guide (FTC), and to avoid any misunderstanding to visitors of our website. We may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you – if you decide to buy any of the products, software, or services we refer to and promote on our website. The opinions expressed are of our own independent reviewers & writing staff, commissioned to provide helpful information & their unbiased opinion.

Step 4: Pass a Public Access Test

In addition to training your dog to perform tasks that assist with your disability, it is important for a service dog to be able to comport itself appropriately in public by passing a public access test. Various organizations set standards for when a service dog is ready to accompany their handler in public. Below is a quick list of a few important criteria for your service dog to pass:

No aggressive behavior towards people and other animals. Cease sniffing behaviors unless released to do so. No solicitations for food or affection while on duty. No over-excitement and hyperactivity in public. Able to tolerate novel sights and sounds in various public settings. No unruly behavior or excessive barking. No relieving themselves in public without being given a specific command.

Once your dog is properly trained, your next step is to decide how you prefer to identify your service dog.

Step 5: Service Dog Certification and Registration

In the United States, service dog certifications and service dog identifications are not a requirement. Staff at a public establishment cannot require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service dog, as a condition for entry.

Certifications, IDs, and registrations do not convey any rights under the ADA and government organizations do not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal. Unfortunately, staff at many public establishments will still insist on IDs or other tangible proof of service dog status.  For convenience, privacy, and to set proper boundaries with strangers, some service dog owners find it helpful to own documents and accessories that can help signal that their dog is a trained service dog. This will help prevent situations where you are met with hostility or confusion when traveling with your service dog. Electing to carry a custom Service Dog ID card and Service Dog Vest may be helpful tools for you and your service dog to navigate public spaces. You may also choose not to carry the ID card and stand your ground on principle when you encounter people ignorant of service dog rights. Under ADA rules, staff at a venue may only ask two questions if it is not apparent what the service dog is trained to do: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

After you verbally confirm that your dog is a trained service dog, reasonable accommodations must legally be made for service dogs. Service dogs provide help for those facing a physical or mental disability so they are granted access into public places such as hotels, restaurants, and malls. It’s important to understand these rules so you know what rights you have as the owner of a service dog, and when third parties are violating your rights. To register your service dog for your own convenience, you may click on the link below.

Unable to train your dog as a service dog?

You may be interested in an Emotional Support Animal instead. ESAs do not require specific training, have access to no-pet apartments, are exempt from breed or weight restrictions. Click here to learn more about ESAs.

If you are looking for a Service Dog for a mental or emotional issue, you may be interested in a Psychiatric Service Dog.