How to Get a Service Dog
The definition of a Service Dog is a canine that is trained to perform a specific task for an individual that is disabled. These tasks can be in depth, such as opening automatic or bathroom doors or alerting the person to an oncoming health issue (such as a drop in blood sugar levels). A Service Dog can also be trained for simpler tasks such as retrieving dropped items. Regardless of the work these amazing dogs perform, these types of animals are vital to those individuals that need them.
Getting a Service Dog
The type of dog you choose to be a Service Dog will depend greatly on your physical needs. Typically larger dogs (like Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds) are used; however, some smaller breeds have also proved themselves to be just as effective.
Step # 1 – Age and Health
The first step to finding the perfect Service Dog is to assess its age and health. Young canines with a clean bill-of-health are your best choice, as they are likely to respond better to training.
The Service Dog should also be at least six-months-old (well past its puppy stage) and be spayed or neutered.
Step # 2 – Personality
A “working” dog should have a cool, calm and easy-going temperament. He will also need to be alert and responsive and trainable. Hyperactive or overly “lazy” dogs will not do well in the service field.
Step # 3 – Service Dog Training
Training your Service Dog can either be done by you or a professional trainer. If you have the skills, time, and patience to train your dog, then you can certainly do so as there are no legal obligations to higher a professional. However, know that international standards state that a minimum of 120 hours over six months (up to 24 in some cases) is required for training a dog for service. It is also a requirement that at least 30 of those hours should be spent in the public dealing with the distractions and the other potential issues that can arise.
Step # 4 – Public Access Test
There is a test of Public Access that your Service Dog must pass. This includes;
- No aggressive behavior such as growling, biting, snapping, etc.
- No public urination or defecation (only on command)
- No sniffing behaviors
- No begging for food or affection
- No hyperactivity or excited behaviors
Step # 5 – Service Dog Registration and Equipment
When your dog is ready for service work, it’s best to register your service dog with a reputable organization. Once you have paid your fee and shown that your dog is indeed ready for service work, you will be given a special Service Dog vest, ID cards and (if needed) a specially designed harness. These tools all help identify your dog as a working canine, and therefore you will be given the rights that come with it.
What Are My Service Dog Rights?
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), a Service Dog must be allowed into all public areas which include;
- Malls and retail outlets
- Public transportation
- Gyms, bowling alleys, and other entertainment facilities
- Libraries and schools
“These facilities must allow service animals that are trained to perform a specific task or work in the water unless doing so would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other patrons or the sanitary conditions or function of the facility.” (excerpt taken from Nolo).
The ADA also protects those with Service Dogs from being charged extra fees for their assistance canine when flying in the cabin of the aircraft.
The Fair Housing Act also protects those with disabilities that require a Service Dog by making it a law that states landlords and building owners must make reasonable accommodation for these types of animals, regardless if the building is a “no pets policy” unit.
If you need a Service Dog to live a happy and normal life, follow these steps to ensure your chosen canine is up to the task. Once he is trained (either by you or a professional) register your Service Dog so you can enjoy the rights you are entitled to.