Service Dog Facts

service dog factsService or assistant dogs are my Super Heroes! Why? Because the things they do, and the services they provide are no-doubt incredible. They are trust worthy, reliable and they are always there for you. In most cases, better than humans (I know I am a bit biased about dogs, ain’t I?).

Now, these dogs are special because they have to undergo special training to help individuals or a group of people for performing a specialized task. I will briefly go through the service dog facts below, so you’ve enough information to get started in acquiring a service dog.

The process of training a working dog is hugely complex, and that’s the reason they cost thousands of dollars. But, you can get financial assistance and support based on your current situation.

These super smart dogs receive hours of rigorous training and preparation. And, they are guided by an expert to become certified assistants and companions. A service dog helps his handler by performing certain tasks. These tasks can be on a daily basis such as guide dogs for people with a disability. Or, they help during emergencies for example, police or search dogs.

Assistance Dogs International (ADI), describes “service dogs as specialists in aiding people with disabilities.” However, there is more to this definition. Because, service dogs are different than other working dogs such as police, military or rescue dogs.

There are broadly three types of Assistance Dogs:

  • Hearing Dogs who help individuals with hearing impairment.
  • Guide Dogs which aid individuals who are blind or suffer from vision impairment.
  • Service Dogs which undergo special training to assist people with different issues. For e.g., autism; psychiatric disabilities; physical disabilities; etc.

The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), specify that a service dog need to undergo at least 6-months of extensive training. This includes 120 hours of training at a bare minimum. These dogs receive special training, so they can do the following tasks:

  • Opening and closing doors.
  • Help in opening a refrigerator.
  • Collect and fetch dropped items.
  • Push an emergency button.
  • React to specific alerts.

Some Vital Roles played by Service Dogs

  • PTSD Service Dog
  • Autism assistance
  • Mobility assistance
  • Allergy Detection
  • Hearing Dogs
  • Guide Dogs
  • Diabetic alert
  • Seizure Response

Service Dogs and laws related to them

If you want to own a service dog, it is a good idea to become familiar with various ownership laws. I would highly suggest that you gain an understanding of various techniques, especially on how to handle them. No, you don’t need to be an expert. But, it is a good idea to become familiar by reading various help resources.

The law recognizes these canines as ‘working dogs’ which perform certain tasks to help individuals with mental or physical disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) describes service animals “as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. However, therapy dogs or ones providing emotional support are not regarded as service animals.

Places where Service Dogs can be allowed

ADA says, service dogs should be allowed to accompany the disabled person into all government offices, non-profit organizations and businesses. This includes restaurants and hospitals. The condition though is, they need to have a harness or a leash. Contrarily, they cannot enter sterile places such as operating rooms, burns units, etc.

Top breeds of Service Dogs

German Shepheard– Tops the list of the most sought-after breed for service dogs. They are highly intelligent, loyal and hardworking. German Shepheard are intelligent and easily trainable. They are the first choice as police, military, and assistance dogs.

Labrador Retriever– These dogs are highly adaptable, intelligent and gentle dogs, making them very appealing. They make excellent service dogs. Many people own these dogs and hence they are in highly sought after. Most individuals call their dog a service dog, to take them to places where they otherwise would not be allowed.

There is a clear distinction between service dogs and breeds. ADA gives a clear difference between dogs providing emotional support versus service dogs. A dog providing emotional support to an anxious person is not a service dog. On the other hand, if the dog takes a specific action to help a person having an anxiety attack is a service dog.

Golden Retriever– Although not all breeds of dogs can be used as service dogs. But a Golden Retriever is known for its ‘retrieving skills’. They are vigilant and gentle by nature which makes them ideal as a service dog.

Collies– This breed is becoming more popular as service dogs. They have an uncanny ability to detect seizures in advance. They have proven themselves to aid individuals suffering from anxiety and PTSD attacks. Their herding background also makes them an excellent choice during search and rescue missions.

Bernese Mountain Dogs– These gentle giants prove to be an excellent choice for people in wheelchairs. They are fully capable of getting the door in emergencies, helping in case of a fall and supporting the wheelchair, etc. Though not a typical choice for a service dog, with the right training they are cable of saving lives.

Identifying Service Dogs

Though there are no special rules, but service dogs usually wear a vest or harness. They also have a tag with instructions in case of emergencies. The pockets of the vest hold emergency medication for the handler. They rarely leave their handlers alone and are always alert.

Can you call your dog a Service Dog?

Not all breeds of dogs can be trained to become a service dog. And neither can you put a harness and leash and call your pet a service dog. These dogs receive rigorous training and discipline regimes to serve as one. They specialize in identifying a specific disability and act accordingly.  For example, a hearing dog cannot help an individual who has PTSD or visual impairment.

Are service dogs covered by insurance?

No, service dogs are not covered by your medical insurance not even the private ones. Medicaid or Medicare does not cover service dogs. But, if your income is restricted, and you have a disability, then you may be able to get financial assistance for getting a service dog.

Expenses incurred on a service dog are tax deductible and there may be other ways to defray costs. Please discuss this with your local service dog center or even your local city office. They will be able to guide you in the right direction.

Once you have a service dog, you can buy pet insurance policy to cover your investment. Insuring your service dog will help you to cover costs for veterinary care, supplements and emergency services.

Can you get a service dog for free?

Yes, you may get a service dog for free for example if you have a disability. There are various charitable organizations that provide them for free. Here is a useful resource.

Can I get a service dog for depression?

Yes, you can get a service dog for depression. But, you have to apply and go through a procedure. Here is a resource from Mental Health America, which can get you started.

A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a specially trained service dog. They can assist those with mental disabilities such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia and even bipolar disorder.

Few important things to keep in mind
  • A service dog can accompany its owner to all public places. Though other dogs cannot do so.
  • Individuals owning a service dog cannot be asked about their disability.
  • Sterile areas, such as operating rooms, burns units, etc. are some of the places where service dogs cannot be taken.

In this article, I have shared some interesting stories about service dogs

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