Posts Tagged ‘defining service dog’

If you suffer from an emotional or physical disability you may be wondering what qualifies a dog to be a service dog. In this post, we will answer that question and give you some facts you will want to know when getting a canine for the purpose of service.

Can My Dog Be a Service Dog?

Many people ask the question of whether their current dog can be a service dog? The answer to this question is dependant on what you need your service dog to do for you. If you have a dog for emotional support or to help you with stress and/or anxiety, then there are no restrictions on the canine companion. In fact, an emotional support animal (ESA) can be anything from a snake to a horse but know there are restrictions on this type of “service” animal.

However, if you require a dog to do more than just offer comfort, then you will need the canine to be properly trained to do the tasks required. For example, if the dog has to pull a wheelchair, then a Chihuahua will not be considered a service dog as it simply would not have the strength to complete this task.

Obedience Training

Whether you train your dog yourself or enlist the help of an agency or professional trainer, your service dog must be obedience trained. This entails the basic commands of sit, stay, come, down, drop, heel and leave. Depending on the breed of dog you have chosen or already have this can take weeks to months to accomplish.

Socialization Skills

Another important quality your service dog must possess is socialization skills. A skittish, hyperactive or unruly dog will not do well as a service dog. Your dog must be quiet, calm, relaxed, alert, and of course, friendly.

Work Tasks

To qualify as a service dog your canine must be able to demonstrate the ability to do the work tasks that you cannot do for yourself. This can include fetching medicine bottles, opening drawers, or even alerting you to a drop in your blood sugars or of an oncoming seizure.

Public Access Training

How your dog acts in public areas is crucial to having a service dog. These working dogs must not respond to any of the noise, commotion, chaos, food smells or people when out with its handler. This type of training may take several months before your dog is desensitized to hustle-and-bustle of being in a public place. Some dogs may never have the ability for this type of public access training and therefore would not be considered a service dog.

Service Dog Rules

Because a service dog is there to help the handler there are rules your dog must follow when out in public. These include;

No sniffing of people or merchandise No barking at people or other animals No begging for food or table scraps No jumping onto people or objects No lunging at passing people or other animals No overexcited or hyperactive behavior No eliminating in an inappropriate area. Dogs must learn to relieve themselves on command. Handler’s Behavior

There are a lot of rules for a service dog to follow, but what about the handler? Some agencies may have you sign a form that both you and your service dog will behave accordingly when out in public. This can include;

Being prepared to answer the questions of “is the dog a service dog and what task does it perform for you?” Being polite, confident and courteous even if the people you are dealing with are not familiar with the American Disability Act and service dogs.

Although it is not required by law, a service dog vest and/or badge is helpful when taking your working dog out into the public. You may also register your service dog with a reputable organization. This informs people at a glance that your dog is there to provide you with a service and not just a pet you are trying to “break the rules” with.

Service Dog Qualification Is a Process

Having a properly trained and accredited service dog is a process that takes time. Even though you can take an ordinary dog and turn it into a service dog, it will have to exhibit the qualities it takes to do this important work. It is also highly recommended to start your service dog training when your dog is just a puppy. Teaching an “old dog new tricks” will be much tougher, and he may not be able to accomplish all the tasks and training required to be a full-fledged service dog.

The official definition of a service dog is that it’s an animal trained to do particular tasks for a person with a physical or mental disability. These tasks must be connected to how the person is able to function. The service dog works to compound, support and assist these activities or mitigate the person’s impairment. The ADA only allows dogs and miniature horses to become service animals.

Why train a service dog?

Training of a service dog might be facilitated by an expert through a program for service dogs. However, enlisting in professional programs is not a requirement. The individual with the disability can actually train his dog himself or herself.

Apart from making a disabled person’s life easier, it’s important for service dogs to get the proper training so that the animals can have access in public properties. Under the stipulations of the ADA, trained service dogs can be with their owners inside restaurants, hospitals, airplanes, hotels and other establishments. Service animals must be allowed access to wherever their handlers are allowed access.

Service dogs are not exempt from following human rules when visiting establishments with their handler. If a service dog causes a disturbance or creates any damages, a business or airline or any other establishment is allowed to ask the handler to remove their service dog from the establishment.

What are Service Dogs? Service dogs may also be referred to as: Therapy or psychiatric dogs that help those suffering from psychological impairment or other emotional difficulties. These dogs can be found at hospitals or retirement homes Guide dogs or signal dogs that help people with physical and mental disability. A blind person, for instance, will need a service dog for his mobility. A person suffering from neurological disability, such as someone with PTSD, might need a signal dog to warn him or the people around him of triggers before these happen.

Service dogs are considered more than pets because of these specific and important tasks they perform for their handlers on a daily basis. Any breed of dog can become a service dog, but the distinction is not acknowledged for other animals, whether they are domestic or wild. This means cats, birds, monkeys, or any other animals are not allowed to be designated as a service animal.

Below is the official definition of service dogs from the Americans With Disabilites Act: “A service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.”

Registering Service Dogs

Registration of a service dog is not necessary or required by law. Although it is not required, it may be beneficial for a service dog handler to register their dog in order to maintain their privacy. By showing their identification card when questioned about their service dog, the handler can avoid divulging private medical information to complete strangers. Since many people do not understand the rights of service dogs, having an identification card is a personal preference for handlers.

Highly trained service animals work for their owners with physical or psychiatric disability. There are different types of training as there are different types of work that the service dogs provide. These dogs assist their owners or masters to ensure that they can go on with their routines and activities without any incidents or problems. Above all, the service dogs must ensure their owner’s safety and health as it can become a life or death situation.

Below are just some of the tasks service dogs can do for individuals with disability or impairment, according to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners:

Service Dogs Basic Tasks Answers when someone’s at the door by pulling a lever. Brings or retrieves stuff to its owner, such as the mail, medicine bottles or any other items. Barks, summons or alerts someone in the other room, for the owner who cannot get to them. Helps his owner get around, or get up from his seat, or climb the stairs at the home or in public establishments. Be his owner’s steady support, in case he experiences an imbalance while doing activities. Carries medicine and other provisions for his owner in a specialized back pack. Service Dogs Tasks During Emergencies Brings the phone to his owner to call 911 or a relative. Knows how to bark at a speaker phone to signal for emergency. Interrupts or tags its owner during a trigger or psychiatric occurrence. Alerts other people when its owner is in distress. Leads other people to its owner, who could already be down on the floor after an episode or a suicide attempt, especially in cases of depression and mood disorders. Alert its owner in cases of fire or burglary attempts.

Service Dog Tasks

Psychiatric Service Dog Services

Psychiatric service dogs provide assistance to people with mental health disabilities navigate through life. Similar to other service dogs, psychiatric service dogs are trained to assist their handlers by performing these tasks:

Guide a disoriented handler – for people on medications or in the middle of a disassociated Provide tactile stimulation for anxiety attacks, panic attacks, etc. Identify hallucinations – for people who experience hallucinations Search a room – for people with PTSD who are hyper-vigilant Interrupt and redirect – for people with OCD who may self harm themselves

Psychiatric service dogs can provide tremendous benefits for their handlers, outside the services they provide, so that the handlers can lead normal lives. Caring for a dog requires the handler to get out of the house and forces them to interact with the outside world. The simple act of having to get out of bed and getting fresh air can reverse the symptoms of depression in people. Emotional support animals can also provide these benefits to their handlers. Service dog and emotional support dog handlers report greater self-esteem due to the independence that they experience with their service dog or emotional support dog.

Training for service dogs could take weeks and will depend on the tasks they have to learn and perform. Because of these tasks, the law, through the Americans with Disabilities Act, acknowledges that persons with disabilities or impairment need their service dogs at all times. Establishments and businesses are expected to recognize and afford individuals with service dogs the access or accommodation.

If you are experiencing any type of discrimination due to your need for a service animal, please contact the ADA.

Click on the links to get your service dog identification card or emotional support animal identification card.