Posts Tagged ‘service dogs’

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. 

Blame it on famous small dogs like Bruiser Woods from “Legally Blonde” or Toto from “Wizard of Oz,” but small dogs have the unfortunate reputation for being pretty and portable, but not very useful. They’re known as excellent lap dogs and fit snugly into a purse. And small dogs are the supermodels of the canine fashion world. But small dogs are much more than a pretty face. Some small breeds are highly intelligent and possess intuition that can be of great assistance to their handler. So, if you ever wondered, can a small dog be a service dog, the answer would be Yes, for the reasons highlighted in this article.

Why Choose a Small Dog for a Service Dog

Don’t be fooled. Small dogs are also intelligent, agile, and eager to please—ideal traits for a service dog. Because service dogs perform tasks for people with disabilities and are protected by federal laws, they’re often regarded as the epitome of a “helper dog.” Although more traditional service dog breeds are Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, small dogs can also function well as service dogs. 

When choosing a service dog, matching the right dog breed with a person’s needs is key. Also, lifestyle factors like the size of the home and work environment can play a part. Small dogs don’t require much space and can fit comfortably in smaller homes, apartments, or office environments. They’re less obtrusive than large dogs and can remain out of sight without attracting unnecessary attention. 

Are Small Dogs a Good Option for My Disability? 

It’s essential to match a service dog to a person’s disability, and not all disabilities need the help of a larger dog. Aligning a service dog’s qualities with a person’s disability requirements helps a dog fulfill the right tasks. 

1. Mobility Service Dog

Although mobility service dogs that prevent their owners from falling are typically larger, many people who have mobility issues don’t have problems with falling. For these individuals, having a smaller dog may be a better option than a larger service dog. Smaller dogs can jump on chairs and tables to retrieve items for their handler. They can also retrieve dropped items quickly and maneuver through crowds during emergencies. 

2. Sound Alert or Hearing Service Dogs

Service dogs for individuals with hearing impairments don’t have to be large or even medium-sized. Very often, small dogs can alert their handler to loud sounds just as well as larger dogs. Sound alert dogs notify their handler of sounds like knocks on doors, crying children, or alarms.  

3. Diabetic Service Dogs

Diabetes is a condition that affects blood sugar and changes the chemicals in the body. These changes emit scents that are imperceptible to humans. However, a dog’s sense of smell can be 100,000 times stronger than a human’s. Therefore, dogs can pick up the scent of chemical changes in the human body, helping identify critical changes like a drop in blood sugar. Diabetic service dogs notify their handler when they need insulin or are experiencing blood sugar changes. A dog of any size can fulfill this job. 

Small dogs can very well learn and fulfill service dog duties. 4. Seizure Response Dogs

Seizure response dogs assist individuals who are experiencing an epileptic seizure. After receiving extensive training, these dogs alert others for help by pressing an alarm, calling an emergency line, or obtaining medication to help their handlers recover afterward, which are similar tasks to a medical service dog. However, seizure response dogs also perform specific tasks related to seizures, sometimes even alerting their handler to an oncoming seizure episode. 

5. Allergen Service Dogs

Food allergies are on the rise throughout the world, requiring new methods in allergy detection. Allergen service dogs fill that need through their keen sense of smell. Using their noses, allergen service dogs can detect the scent of allergens like peanuts or gluten. Because allergen detection isn’t dependent on size, small dogs can succeed in this task. 

Good Service Dogs Come in All Sizes

Service dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and small service dogs can work as well as large ones. For some people, small dogs might be preferable. Smaller dogs typically require less dog food, which saves on costs. And small dogs fit in places that would be impossible for a larger service dog. As long as a service dog can perform the required tasks successfully and safely, size doesn’t matter—because good things can come in small packages! 

If you have a disability, you may qualify for a service dog. Colorado law aligns with federal guidelines. These guidelines allow a person with a disability to reside, travel, and perform their activities of daily living with a service dog. Colorado also takes the extra step to protect service dogs who are still in training (Colorado Revised Statute 24-34-803), enabling them to train with their handlers in public areas. Continue reading for more information on Colorado service dog requirements. 

Definition of a Service Dog

A service dog is trained to carry out specific tasks to assist a person with a disability. The disability can be physical, mental health-related, or medical. Colorado follows the American with Disabilities Act by restricting service animals to canines and miniature horses. A canine does not have to meet any specific requirements regarding height or weight. Colorado does, however, ban pit bulls but not from performing as service dogs

The task a service dog performs must be related to their owner’s disability. The task(s) must be an act that their owner would not be able to perform easily or safely without assistance. 

How is the Service Dog Trained? 

To be a legitimate service dog, a dog must be trained to perform a task specific to their owner’s disability, as stated above. As an example, some service dogs are trained to bring objects such as medication bottles or walking canes. Others prevent their owners from falling by allowing themselves to be used as physical support. Training can be performed through a professional trainer or by the owner (or owner’s family). 

Identification Requirements for a Service Dog in Colorado

Although Colorado does not require any identification requirements for service dogs, it’s always good to register your service dog. Doing so prevents any problems or misunderstandings from occurring, allowing your dog to perform their duty with fewer interruptions. 

In Colorado, businesses are only legally allowed to ask two questions when it is not apparent that the dog is a service animal: 

Is this a service animal? What task has the animal been trained to perform?

Due to privacy concerns, business and private entities may not ask personal questions such as:

Ask the owner to declare their illness or disability.  Demand documentation regarding registration or training.  Ask the owner to have the animals perform their assigned task as a demonstration. 

Colorado does not require a service dog to have a vest or identification tag stating that they are service dogs. 

A registered service dog in Colorado can perform their duty with fewer interruptions.  Service Dog Registration in Colorado

Although service dog registration is not required by law in Colorado, it does provide peace of mind. Having an extra layer of protection and privacy for a dog and its owner can make all the difference. Service dogs perform better in calm environments with few interruptions, and registration allows just that. Having documentation at the ready garners legitimacy and respect from business owners and the public, enabling service dogs to remain undisturbed. 

People who are interested in training, certification, and registration in Colorado can inquire with Service Dog Certifications, their local service dog trainers, or county animal enforcement department in the Colorado area. 

Psychiatric Service Dog Requirements

Psychiatric service dogs are not the same as emotional support animals. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform a task that is tailored to meet a psychiatric patient’s needs. For instance, a psychiatric service dog may be trained to performing the following tasks:

Remind their owner to take their psychotropic medications. Apply deep pressure therapy. Interrupt any self-harm behavior. Alert others when a person with a psychiatric disability becomes agitated. Service Dog or Emotional Support Dog in Colorado

Colorado requires that a service dog or emotional support animal always be tethered or harnessed and must remain under their owner’s control at all times unless such a device interferes with their ability to perform. Any disruptive or dangerous behavior can have the animals removed from the area. Service dogs are working animals and can not play, be fed, or perform tasks for anyone else other than their owner. 

If your dog isn’t specifically trained to perform a task, you may still qualify for an emotional support dog (ESA). Emotional support animals are recognized as assistance animals, but do not have the same access rights as service dogs. ESAs provide support and comfort to owners that suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc., and can live and travel with their owners without having to pay additional pet fees.

You and Your Service Dog in Colorado

After your dog finishes their training, you are approved by Federal law to bring your service dog with you in public. Because a service animal adds to the safety, well-being, and quality-of-life of its owners, service dogs are allowed into general public areas. This includes buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation. 

If a service dog sounds like a good fit for your disability, you can speak to your healthcare professional for their consultation. Your healthcare professional may be able to point you in the right direction and help you obtain a service dog. It’s vital to ensure your service dog is well-behaved and able to tolerate the public. Aggressive outbursts, disruptive behavior, or violation of sanitary standards can prevent your service dog from doing their job. 

Service dogs are a joy to have and can lighten the load for many people with disabilities. Knowing what you can and can not do with your service dog within Colorado is essential for both you and your dog.