A service dog is essentially a living tool that affords those with severe disabilities the opportunity to perform routine activities of daily living. For the blind, “leader dogs” have been providing vital direction and assistance to their masters since 1939. Unlike therapy dogs (see below), which can be shared among many, service dogs are trained to provide service to a specific individual. They can be as vital to that person as a wheelchair.
Service dogs provide help for those with the most extreme physical disabilities. A good rule of thumb is that if a physical or emotional disability excludes someone from routine employment or driving a car, they are likely a good candidate for a service dog. Another distinguishing factor is that therapy dogs can be shared among many people. Service dogs are trained exclusively for the use of a specific individual.
The most frequent types of disabilities that service dogs can help overcome are visual impairment, mental illness, hearing impairment, mobility impairment, seizure disorder, and diabetes. Service dogs require training for these tasks and only about 1 out of every 1000 dogs is an appropriate candidate.
The most important considerations when choosing a dog for service training are those dog’s physical and emotional capabilities to assist with your disability. As a result, more often than not your current pet is unlikely to qualify. It’s like choosing a wheelchair – you would be much less concerned about its color or shape than its ability to meet your needs.
Always choose a dog that can meet the required physical demands. If the dog must assist with balance, a larger breed is appropriate. If you are hearing-impaired and the dog only needs to alert you to sounds, a smaller breed may suffice. Plus, they require less space and are less expensive to maintain.
All public facilities and transportation must accommodate those with disabilities and their service dogs. Criminal penalties apply to those who deny access.
Access to housing is equal for those disabilities and their service animals. It is illegal to charge additional rent or to increase deposits.
Anyone whose service dog has been injured or attacked has legal recourse.
Public establishments cannot require people to show proof of certification, but they can ask if there is a personal need for the service animal and what type of service it performs.
Therapy dogs and emotional support animals are those that have received proper training enabling them provide a source of assistance, affection, and comfort to people in nursing homes, hospitals, hospice, schools, disaster relief areas, and to those with mild autism and other special needs. They also provide a great deal of support for those experiencing anxiety, depression, and related illnesses.
Seldom will a dog be trained to perform both service and therapy functions, since service dogs receive training to ignore people other than their handlers while exactly the opposite is true of therapy dogs.
Nevertheless, therapy dogs can be every bit as critical to the lives and happiness of their owners.
Many dogs are not suitable for therapy dog training since they must have excellent temperaments and be tolerant of all kinds of human interaction. They must also be comfortable around other dogs.
Does your dog have basic dog training skills?
Is your dog typically non-aggressive when approached by other dogs?
Is your dog so large that he/she could inadvertently harm small children?
In most states, therapy dogs are permitted access to hospitals, libraries, schools, nursing homes, etc. only by agreement of that facility. However, the state of Texas does not specifically distinguish between therapy dogs and service dogs. In fact, there is currently no legal definition of an emotional support animal within the state. As a result, most entities provide the same accommodations to therapy dogs as to service dogs.
Man’s Best Friend can help get your dog prepared for testing for specialty certifications. Please set up an appointment with one of our Canine Behaviorist today.
As of January 1, 2013, Canine Good Citizen® will become an official AKC title that can appear on the title records of dogs registered or listed with AKC. Dog owners who complete the CGC as a Title process may list the suffix “CGC” after the dog’s name.
Since the program began in 1989, CGC™ has been considered an “award,” meaning that it has not been listed on a dog’s title record.