Archive for the ‘Service Dog Tips’ Category

Florida’s tropical climate and sunny skies are a canine’s dream home. With its fun-filled beaches, green wilderness, and vast areas to run in, the Sunshine State offers pet-lovers plenty of outdoor activity options to share with their dogs. Florida ranks consistently on the top 10 pet-friendly states lists, proving how accepting Florida is of furry friends. And if you need a service dog, Florida not only has excellent service dog training options but also provides protections for service dog handlers. 

What is a Service Dog?

If you’re diagnosed with a disability and have a task that a service dog could perform for you, you may benefit from a service dog. First, meet with your healthcare provider to evaluate your current needs. The task a service dog performs is typically an activity the person with a disability does daily or is done for safety. Unlike therapy dogs and emotional support animals, service dogs receive extensive training to complete their required tasks. 

Federal Protection for Service Dogs 

Because they’re an essential part of their handler’s well-being, a service dog is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This federal law allows service dogs to accompany their handlers in all areas accessible to the public, even in places where pets cannot go; these include hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and medical centers. 

Service dogs are also protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) laws. The FHA requires landlords and housing managers to admit service animals into their rentals without charging pet fees. The ACAA also obligates airlines to accept service dogs onto their flights, with no additional pet fees or pet restrictions. These federal laws protect service dogs and not pets. Why? Because service dogs aren’t pets! 

Getting a Service Dog in Florida

If you and your healthcare provider have decided what tasks a service dog can help you with, it’s time to determine how you want to go about finding a service dog. 

Here are the four common paths to getting a service dog: 

Buy a fully-trained service dog.  Find a dog and train it yourself.  Find a dog and outsource the more complex training. Train the dog the basic skills yourself.   Buy the dog yourself, but outsource all the training to a professional.

The first option is to purchase a trained service dog. Although this choice comes with the highest price tag, it saves time on training your service dog. The second and third options involve some time to train the dog yourself. Training is typically the most labor and time-intensive aspect of getting a service dog. For some owners, outsourcing all the training can be the most cost-effective and least time-consuming path to owning a service dog. 

If you’re looking to train your own service dog, you’ll need to find a suitable service dog candidate. Take into consideration that the dog you choose must be capable of physically performing the required task. For example, a Chihuahua would be too small to serve as a mobility service dog to brace falls. Keep your safety — and your dog’s safety — in mind! Additionally, look for dogs that are calm, eager-to-please, and easy to train. 

Scouting for Your Service Dog Candidate 

Here are a few places in Florida that may have the ideal service dog candidate for you:

S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue, Inc.

Located in Northeast Florida, S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue, Inc. rescues dogs and cats, placing them into loving homes. Because their dogs are fostered and socialized, they’re adoption-ready and willing to be trained. 

Ayla’s Acres

Ayla’s Acres is a no-kill pet rescue located in St. Augustine. Their 45-acre pet sanctuary (which includes farm animals) allows rescued pets the freedom and space to heal and socialize. 

Training Your Service Dog in Florida

Once you’ve obtained your service dog candidate, it’s time to start training. These training schools may be helpful:

Mind Your Manners Canine Training

Mind Your Manners Canine Training is an award-winning dog training and behavior modification school in the city of Kathleen. Their training plans cater to every dog and dog owner, changing to fit their needs. Mind Your Manners offers service dog training, along with other basic obedience skills.

Southeastern Guide Dogs

Southeastern Guide Dogs offer service dogs and training at no cost, though an application and a wait time are required. Run by volunteers, Southeastern Guide Dogs also provides free psychiatric service dogs to veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Service Dog Training Law in Florida

If you need further proof that Florida is a service dog-friendly state, you’ll be happy to find that Florida state law covers service dogs beyond federal regulations. For instance, Florida Statute Chapter 413.08 covers dog trainers when training service dogs in public. 

Lastly, Florida Statute Chapter 413.081 protects the health and safety of service dogs by making the intimidation or harm of a service dog open to state penalties. 

Canines are very smart, even though their goofy grins and tail-wagging may distract from their intelligence. Service dogs, in particular, show their intelligence by performing tasks that help people with disabilities manage their daily lives. These unique tasks include detecting a person’s blood sugar through smell, helping retrieve life-saving medication, and helping visually impaired people navigate busy streets. One essential function that a service dog can do is to be the ears for its handler who is hearing impaired. This category of service dogs is called hearing dogs. 

What Do Hearing Dogs Do? 

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 15% of adults in the U.S. have some hearing impairment. Adults 60–69 have the highest rates of hearing loss. The Better Hearing Institute states that hearing loss can affect household income, costing up to $12,000 each year. People who don’t receive treatment or adequate assistance for their hearing loss are twice as likely to be depressed than those with no hearing problems. 

The World Health Organization defines deafness as “having profound hearing loss, which implies very little or no hearing.” For people who are deaf, having a service dog provides a direct link to the world around them. Hearing dogs can alert their handlers in various situations:

Kitchen help: update its hander of the status of oven timers, coffee makers, and kettles Communication: let their handler know when telephones and doorbells ring Child care: fetch their handler when their babies’ calls or cries Dangers: alert their handler of smoke or fire alarms Street safety: make their handler aware of oncoming traffic Where Can I Get a Hearing Dog? 

A hearing dog may be purchased through a reputable service dog organization, or you may train the service dog on your own. Hearing dogs, like all service dogs, are an expensive investment and can cost over $20,000. The cost depends on the organization and whether an individual qualifies for a price reduction. The following are organizations that specialize in connecting trained hearing service dogs to the right homes: 

NEADS

NEADS provides service dogs free of cost as the client agrees to fundraise $8,000, using the help of NEADS fundraising resources. NEADS offers service dogs for children, veterans, and the hearing impaired. 

International Hearing Dogs, Inc.

International Hearing Dogs, Inc. provides service dogs at no cost to clients. Although their dogs cost about $15,000 to house, train, and place, their fees are covered through donations.

Canine Companions for Independence 

Canine Companions for Independence provide hearing dogs free of charge for people who apply and qualify. Their dogs are Labrador and Golden Retrievers that are specially trained to be service dogs.  

The Hearing Dog Program

The Hearing Dog Program works diligently to match handlers to their ideal dog. Dogs are awarded to qualified applicants at no cost, though recipients are responsible for grooming costs and care.

How Do I Train a Hearing Dog?

Though many organizations offer hearing dogs to qualified people for free or a nominal fee, there aren’t many dogs available. You may fall on a waiting list, or you may not qualify. If you find the cost of buying a hearing dog is too high for your budget, you always have the option of training a hearing dog yourself.

First, you need to determine what breed or size of dog best meets your lifestyle and needs. Then you would find a dog that has the right temperament and traits for a service dog. Several months of audio-response and public-access training follow, documenting training progress in a service dog training log. This training may encompass everything from typical sit-stay commands to alerting their handler of knocks on doors and smoke alarms. Training takes time and patience, which isn’t always for everyone. If you have the time and inclination — and possibly someone to help — self-training may prove to be the most cost-effective option. 

How Do You Qualify? 

For most hearing service dog agencies, applicants must meet a set of qualifications to receive a service dog, even if you pay for one full-price. These qualifications ensure that the dogs are successful at what they do and don’t pose a danger to others. Here are a few standard qualification requirements. Applicants must be: 

18 years or older Have moderate to severe hearing loss Be able to participate in the training process Meet the financial and physical requirements to have a service dog Not have other dogs in the home

Qualifying for a hearing service dog typically requires a diagnosis and assessment by a physician or audiologist. Having documentation available prior to starting your applications ensures that you are prepared and makes the process less intimidating. Keep in mind that organizations receive hundreds of applications, and a response may take time. Remember to politely follow up if you have any inquiries regarding the status of your application. Obtaining a service dog takes time and effort but is worth the wait.

 

Dogs are adorable creatures. The fluffy fur and floppy ears seem just made for petting. But, in the case of service dogs, you should save your cuddles for others. There are many justifiable reasons why you shouldn’t pet a service dog. For service dogs, especially ones that are “on the clock” and working, a friendly pat on the head can ultimately distract them from the task at hand. 

Reasons to Not Pet a Service Dog

Unlike pets and therapy dogs, service dogs are always on the job and shouldn’t be addressed by anyone other than their handler. Here are a few reasons why service dogs shouldn’t be petted. 

1. Service Dogs Are Not Pets 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is a “dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.” These tasks are vital for the well-being and safety of people with disabilities. Service dogs often improve the quality of life, health, safety, and security of the people they work for.

2. Service Dogs Are Doing a Vital Job

People understandably mistake service dogs as very well-trained and well-behaved dogs. Though they are both those things, they’re also so much more. Service dogs are not always easy to verify, but they can perform life-saving functions, like:

Obtain emergency medication or enlist help should a medical emergency occur.  Raise the legs of an unconscious person to increase their blood pressure.  Detect low blood sugar, impending seizures, and determine if a dangerous allergen is present in the environment. 3. Interacting With a Service Dog Can Distract it From its Assigned Tasks

When a surgeon performs surgery, people don’t approach them to shake their hands because it would be a distraction and possibly life-threatening intervention for the patient. The same goes for service dogs. Service dog tasks may not be surgery, but the focus required from the dog is much the same as a surgeon’s. Dogs are notoriously distractible animals, and a high level of discipline is needed during their service.

Despite their copious hours of training, service dogs are still animals. Their instincts can overcome their training at any time, especially if a stranger comes to pet them. And any distraction from their tasks can put their handler at risk.

A service dog on duty is not always easy to identify. Therefore it’s better to refrain from petting service dogs at all times. 4. A Service Dog Could be Working, Even When it Doesn’t Look Like it 

People should never pet a dog without asking the owner first. This rule of thumb applies to all dogs, not just service dogs. For service dogs, however, it’s not always easy to tell if they’re a service dog or not, or even if the service dog is “on the clock.” 

Most service dogs don’t wear a harness, nor are they as easy to spot as visual assistance dogs or guide dogs. Because of this, it’s always safer not to spontaneously pet strange dogs. Always ask their owner first before petting. If a service dog owner refuses to have their dog handled or greeted, there’s no need to be offended. It just means their dog is at work and needs to concentrate. 

5. The Dog May Not be a Service Dog 

Many people believe when a dog wears a vest, it must be a service dog. However, service dogs are not required to wear vests, and, in turn, vests are easy to purchase. Unscrupulous people sometimes buy vests to pose their pet dogs as service dogs. These dogs lack the public access skills and training to interact safely with others, and they may bite or attack! 

Other Factors to Consider Regarding Service Dogs

People are naturally curious about service dogs. Most people are animal lovers and want to learn more about these life-saving dogs. So, it can leave strangers baffled when a service dog handler won’t answer questions or engage in conversation. It may seem rude. However, for the service dog handler, it poses personal questions about their disability that they may not wish—and aren’t required—to disclose. In addition, having their handler speak with strangers may again distract a service dog from their job. 

But Service Dogs Have Playtime, Too

Though service dogs’ work is crucial, their lives aren’t all work and no play. Service dogs receive training to know when they are not required to work. It’s during these times they can run around and play with other dogs. Some service dogs have defined times when they are working, and other work on call. Regardless, service dogs need downtime just like anyone with a job. When it’s time to play, service dogs are just like any other dogs. Some service dogs live with families. These families may even have other dogs at home that aren’t service dogs. Depending on their tasks, service dogs know when they can and cannot function as “regular” dogs. Trainers choose service because they excel at what they do and enjoy doing their work, so true service dogs prefer working rather than sleeping at home. 

Remember, it’s hard to know when a service dog is not “on the clock,” so it’s always best not to engage a service dog at all. If absolutely necessary, a person can address their handler instead. Service dogs need to focus on their tasks, and distractions could lead to dangerous situations for their handlers. So, the next time temptation strikes to pet a service dog, curb that emotion and think of all the reasons you shouldn’t pet a service dog. The service dog handler’s needs are priority over your desire to pet the dog.