Archive for the ‘Service Dog Tips’ Category

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.


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.

There’s no doubt that modern treatments have come a long way in improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. Technology also offers new gadgets to help make daily life a little less challenging for disabled individuals. With all these advances, however, nothing compares to the help of a service dog. To understand what a service dog is and what disabilities qualify you for a service dog, read on below.

What is a Service Dog?

Service dogs receive special training to perform particular tasks tailored to the needs of their owner. Unlike pets, the primary reason for the animal’s presence is to accomplish daily tasks for a person with a disability. Because service dogs are so vital to an individual’s well-being and functioning, their presence is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Service dogs are not only exceptionally well-trained, but they are also selected for their intelligence and temperament. As federal law allows service dogs to follow their owners into areas not usually allowed by pets, service dogs are trained to behave and be safe in public. For someone with a disability, getting a service dog can be life-changing. Some people with a disability can experience more freedom and independence thanks to their service dogs. 

Qualified Disabilities for a Service Dog

If you’re curious about getting a service dog for yourself or someone you love, your first step would be to understand if your disability qualifies you for a service dog.

How is a Disability Defined? 

According to the ADA, a disability is defined as: 

“Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.”

Interestingly, the ADA definition of a disability is both vague and specific at the same time for a reason. It attempts to encompass all the possible disabilities a person may have without creating a broad definition to include everyone. People who have disabilities require specific accommodations. The ADA’s definition of a disability means that a person can be considered disabled for both mental or physical problems. 

Having a disability is the first part of being qualified for a service dog. The second is whether a service dog can meet the needs of a disability. 

A wide range of disabilities qualifies for a service dog to help their owner improve their quality of life. Service Dogs and Disabilities

Not every disability qualifies a person for a service dog. A physician can assess a person’s needs and make an individual assessment as to whether a service dog is beneficial in their situation. Here are a few examples of disabilities that may qualify: 


Service dogs can help people with mobility issues by obtaining daily items that they would not get for themselves. For example, these dogs can hand over objects on the floor or help owners slip on their shoes. 


Service dogs can help children with autism remain safe, provide guidance, and encourage tactile stimulations. These dogs also monitor boundaries for a child and can alert others of a child is harming themselves. 


Service dogs can guide visually impaired individuals through streets and crowded areas, navigating them through situations that would otherwise be dangerous. These dogs can also alert their owners to safety issues and remove fall hazards from their path. 


Service dogs can detect low blood sugar in people with diabetes and inform their owners to take precautions. These dogs can also call 911 in emergencies and obtain life-saving medication during hypoglycemic events. 


Service dogs can help to prevent or assist in situations where seizures occur. These dogs can alert owners of impending seizures and place pressure on body parts for safety when seizures happen. 

Psychiatric Disorders

Psychiatric service dogs can help obtain medication for people with psychiatric disorders, discourage self-injurious behavior, and deter their owners from situations that may trigger a crisis response. 

Other Disabilities That Can Benefit From Service Dogs  Asthma Cerebral Palsy Chronic back/neck problems Chronic Fatigue  Fibromyalgia Hearing Impairments Heart Problems Multiple Sclerosis Narcolepsy Paralysis Stroke

If you don’t see your disorder on this list, talk to your licensed therapist if a service dog may benefit you. There are many other disabilities that can qualify for a service dog, depending on the individual’s needs. 

A service dog can assist individuals with a qualifying disability in all public areas. Do You Qualify for a Service Dog? 

Because service dogs perform such an essential duty, they can follow their owners into all public areas. This allows them to perform their tasks whenever their owners need them. A service dog must be well-behaved and safe with the public at all times. These responsibilities are why service dogs go through such a rigorous selection and training process. To qualify for one of these special dogs depends on your disability, individual status, and physician. Evaluate your daily needs and start a conversation with your practitioner about how a service dog can improve your quality of life. 

It’s tempting to pet a service dog. After all, these dogs are well-behaved, adorable, and very approachable. What harm could it do? It’s just a pat on their soft furry head and maybe a treat. So, is it okay to pet a service dog? The short answer is “NO.”

It’s never a good idea to pet dogs you aren’t familiar with, as a general rule. You never know what kind of temperament or background a dog could have. Always approach a dog and its owner slowly and ask the owner first if their dog can be pet. 

More importantly, service dogs are different from other dogs. If you see a dog with a vest, harness, or cape, it may be a service dog. They are specially trained to provide a task that a person with a disability cannot accomplish on their own. Focused and disciplined, service dogs are always alert and vigilant, ready to do their jobs. Distraction can be costly and, in some cases, even life-threatening to their handlers. 

Distracting a Service Dog

Service dogs spend months, sometimes years, in training to perform their tasks. All that time invested in the dog is for a fundamental purpose. Although it’s not typically apparent what a service dog’s purpose is, here are some examples of tasks they might perform: 

Autism Assistance

Dogs who assist children with autism keep these kids safe, provide tactile stimulation, or encourage them to interact with their surroundings. These dogs also establish boundaries for autistic children, preventing them from straying away or running. 

Seizure Alert/Response

Service dogs for people who suffer from seizures help detect, prevent, or assist when seizures occur. They may provide pressure on specific body parts, obtain medications, or call for help. These dogs may even alert their owners or others if a seizure is about to occur.

Diabetic Alert

Service dogs trained for people with diabetes can perform many life-saving tasks. They can call 911 in emergencies and detect if a person’s blood sugar is low. Diabetic service dogs can also obtain medication if their owner suffers from hypoglycemia.

Medical Alert

Dogs trained to be medical alert service dogs can detect when physiologic changes occur, such as blood pressure, heart rate, or hormonal differences that can affect a person’s safety. These dogs let their handler know if such changes occur and can call 911 or get assistance if necessary. 

Psychiatric Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs can help obtain medication, prevent self-injury, or remove their handler for situations that can trigger a crisis response. These dogs can also detect the start of anxiety or agitation and alert their handler to initiate positive coping skills. 

Knowing how essential and vital their services are, it’s easy to understand why a service dog shouldn’t be distracted.

The tasks above are a few of the functions that a service dog may have to perform. A service dog, when out in public, is on the job. Just like a pilot or a surgeon shouldn’t be distracted, a service dog must remain focused on the job. Their handler’s life may depend on it. 

Don’t Look a Service Dog in the Eyes

Although it may seem minor, making eye contact with a service dog can also distract them. For dogs, eye contact has different meanings than it does for humans. And because they can’t verbalize their thoughts as humans can, eye contact can be a form of communication. Eye contact with a service dog is like starting a conversation with a bus driver, right in the middle of making a turn. 

Do not approach or interact with a service dog. Any distraction may put the handler’s life in jeopardy. Your Scent Can Affect a Service Dog’s Job

We may not be able to detect the scents on our hands, but dogs do. Our scent can affect a service dog’s task by preventing them from smelling the scent they’re trained to detect. A dog’s highly sensitive sense of smell can pick up all kinds of odors, even our hands’ temporary touch on their fur. Petting a dog who relies on their nose to detect blood sugar levels or hormones can be dangerous for the disabled person that needs the dog to be in top working condition. 

It May Not Be a Service Dog

Despite attempts to curb illegitimate service dogs, there continues to be a number of non-legitimate “service” dogs. You may think that a dog wearing a vest is a well-behaved service dog, but it may turn out that the dog is not well trained. You never want to be in a position where you could get bit or hurt. 

Respecting a Service Dog’s and their Handler’s Space

The handlers of service dogs also deserve their own space and privacy and to keep their disability status to themselves. Asking what kind of disability they have is not only invasive but may be against the law. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) protects service dog owners’ privacy and service dogs’ use. 

Cuteness aside, service dogs are not pets. They’re a vital part of a person’s treatment intervention for their disability. Without their assistance, a person with a disability gets placed in a dangerous situation. Service dogs are cute, but they are professionals and should be treated as such. Give service dogs the space to do their jobs because someone’s well being depends on them.