How To Get A Service Dog - Dogs have been man's best friends due to their unswerving loyalty. Living with a disability is not easy, and it can be scary if you are alone.
Dogs have been helping people deal with loneliness and disabilities by being their constant companions during difficult times.
Their ability to connect and understand us together with its ability to be trained to perform many tasks makes them the best partner for any person.
So, how to get a service dog? First, choose a breed from the list, as per their specialties. Then, train your service dog by yourself or by a trainer. Don't forget to assess their training and Clear Public Access Test. Lastly, get Service Dog Certification.
How To Get A Service Dog? - What is a Service dog?
The law defines Service dogs as animals that are trained to assist physically or mentally impaired people.
Your dog must not be a pet dog but is to be specially trained to handle your disability. A service dog is a working dog but different from police dogs and search & rescue dogs. Your service dog is trained to help you as an individual.
It is also qualified to train a group of people with specific needs. Law does not permit therapy dogs or emotional dogs to be called service dogs.
Your service dog is not to be denied entrance to food-service establishments, businesses, state and local government offices, and organizations that serve the community. However, it should be leashed or harnessed and needs to be under your control.
Your service dog helps in pulling your wheelchairs, opening doors for you, picking up groceries from the store, and even switching off the lights of your house. In addition to this, it can also help if you have seizures issues or are hard of hearing.
Common service dogs’ breeds
The best service dogs are sharp and have calm personalities that are easier to train. Dogs that are reliable, easy to work under pressure, and not easily distractible are the ones to be trained as service dogs. Breeds of dogs with such qualities are selected to work as service dogs.
Your service dog must always be focused, attentive and responsive to your needs and not be bothered by crowds, loud noises, traffic, or other animals.
The breeds commonly trained to be certified service dogs are German Shepherd dogs and Golden Retrievers. There is no perfect dog guide for service dogs; however, the qualities of a few dogs make training easier. The most popular service dogs are
Qualities like friendly and easy-going nature combined with an eagerness to please attitudes are the basic qualities that make it your best choice. Athletic physic combined with high levels of intelligence makes it easier to make them well versed with your mental and physical needs.
It gets its name from its dense golden coat and is also a good choice for the role of a service dog. What sets it apart is its sociable and easy-going nature. It does not get easily agitated. They are active and require physical exercise. It will always try to please you.
What sets a poodle apart from other dogs is its trait for detecting allergens. As an owner, if you are suffering from allergies, a poodle is your best choice as its coats have less pollen. Sociable nature plus intelligence is another trait that works for it.
It remains the favorite choice of breed for service work. German Shepherds are immensely loyal, intelligent, and fearless and can assist you with several tasks. You can choose it to be your service dog since it helps with multiple disabilities.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Intelligence and loyalty are the excellent traits of these muscular friends. Its gigantic structure makes it possible to support your weight and help you get up the wheelchair. It is strong enough to pull your wheelchair in certain circumstances. A Bernese mountain dog is educated to fetch and carry items. As they are not friendly with strangers, it helps them from getting distracted.
Collie is often the best choice for epileptic service dogs as it is smart enough to be trained to sense impending seizures. If you have children who need help, the Collie is your best choice due to their good behavior with children. Its calm nature is helpful if you have PTSD and psychiatric disorders.
Great Danes prove to be great companions for the physically impaired due to their height and strength. Your kids who need psychiatric support find peace in its company due to its loving nature. Its sweet temperament helps train it for several dog tasks.
It is surprising to find the Pomeranian dog in the list of service dogs due to their small size. However, its intelligence and alertness help warn you of the signs and resulting complications linked with diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Asthma. It is the best choice for you if you have patients with hearing loss or mental disabilities. Due to its size, traveling becomes easier in small places.
American Staffordshire Terrier Dog
Its heavy build helps you with mobility services. An American Staffordshire terrier is smart and calm by nature and hence easy to train and suitable for performing multiple tasks.
How to get a service dog
There are many steps to getting yourself a service dog. Several groups support and train special service dogs to cater to your needs. If you have a disability, choosing an appropriate service dog would make your life easy. What are the steps to get yourself a service dog?
Analyze your situation – Adopting a service dog puts a huge dent in your pocket. There are fixed conditions for you to be eligible for a service dog. Few health conditions that guarantee you a service dog is
- Hearing loss
- Vision Loss
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- Suffering from Seizure
The severity of the above problems makes you eligible for a service dog. Eg. If you suffer from hearing loss, you should have at least 30% bilateral hearing loss. If you have epilepsy, there must be at least one seizure per month to qualify for a service dog.
Your service dog will be your constant support system and guide. It will stay in your house; hence your home should be dog-friendly. You need to provide it with a safe and stable environment to make it comfortable. You should also be able to take care of your dog's medical needs.
Choose the best breed – Once you have decided on the service dog, next, you have to select the breed. Currently, most breeds of dogs are being trained to be service dogs based on their nature, size, and qualities.
You will have your preferences based on your needs. The best way of selecting the dog breed is after discussion with your doctor and vet, as they will guide you as per your condition. Labrador and Golden retrievers are the most common breeds to be chosen as they are physically good.
High Intelligence and loving temperament male Collies and German Shepherd are also a good choice. A few tasks that the service dogs are trained for are helping humans sit and get up from the wheelchair and pushing huge loads.
The age of your service dog is to be taken into consideration as younger dogs are harder to train, and older dogs may start facing health issues.
Pick your provider – If you have a pet dog, you can arrange to train it; however, it will be expensive and time-consuming. Service dog providers are agencies that train dogs to handle mentally and physically impaired people.
Once trained, the dogs are put up for adoption. Few agencies agree to train your dogs. The agencies will help you find a service dog that suits your needs.
It is also possible to adopt a dog from the agency and train it as per your requirements. You need to select an agency with a good reputation and good past successful records.
Arrange to make life easier for your service dog – Since the service dog will be by your side 24/7, you should also make its life simpler.
You may need to find proper exercise essentials to keep your dog active. If you can't provide him with the proper fitness and mental stimulation, you can arrange for someone to do the same.
You will have to arrange for their food, bed, toys, and treats. Although few service dogs may wear a vest, it is not compulsory.
Get to know your comrade – You must bond with your service dog as it will be your constant partner. It is vital to gain its trust and the initial days are the best to do so.
For the service dog to help you with your needs, you have to spend time training it. It helps the dog in understanding your needs and adjusting to them. Attending the training sessions helps connect with your furry friend.
How to train your dog to be a service dog? And how to register your dog as a service dog?
Individuals with disabilities are allowed to train their pet dogs and are not required to use the services of a professional service dog. You will have to follow simple steps to understand how your dog can become a service dog.
Determine the type of dog you have – Even though all dog breeds can be trained to be service dogs, all dogs have different sets of specialties.
The breed is the common deciding factor to inform you about its characteristics and behavioral patterns.
You need to watch out for your dog’s strengths and weaknesses to see if they will be able to assist you. You should also be aware of your dog’s age and health conditions.
It is to avoid any further damage to its wellbeing. Aggressive dogs are not trained as service providers due to their temperament.
Select a trainer or Train yourself – Since training is time-consuming and tiring, you may opt for an external trainer. You can either hire a trainer or a training agency to help you train your dog to be a service dog. If you are not comfortable with an external trainer, there is no one better than you to train your dog as it helps increase your bond with it.
The actual training process – You will have to teach your dog the specific skill they will have to perform to assist you with your disability.
You must spend enough time training your pet dog. A few basic tasks that your dog requires to learn are sensing a medical emergency, reminding you of medications, and blocking the area in public places. The most important training your dog needs is to handle sound distractions in public.
Public Access Test – Your dog has to clear a Public Access test to check if it is ready to accompany you in public. List of criteria
- No Excessive barking or aggressive behavior in public
- No treats or affectionate moments on duty
- No excitement in public places
- Tolerate noise pollution and able to handle crowds
Service Dog Certification program - Even though your dog doesn't need to have a Service dog certification ID, there are few places where staff request proof.
You can arrange for these documents to avoid certain situations while traveling. If you do not have any documents, all public establishments will have to provide your service dog with proper accommodation.
Different types of service dogs
Service dogs are special working dogs who help you daily Service dogs cater to your different needs and are trained accordingly. A few types of service dogs are listed below.
Autism Service Dogs
If you are autistic, the dogs are specially trained to help you with your daily activities and perform routine tasks.
Even though autism is not a physical disability, your dogs may help you navigate through simple chores and help build confidence.
If you have an autistic child, the dogs will surely alert you in case of emergencies like your child wandering off.
Hearing Dogs – assist you if you have hearing problems. The autism service dogs act as your ears and alert you to sounds like doorbells, alarms, ringing phones, and babies' cries.
It helps you stay connected with the outside world. It will guide you based on the direction of the noise.
A guide dog helps humans who are blind or visually impaired. It is also called a seeing-eye dog and is trained to lead you where you want to go safely. It helps you climb the stairs as well as get down. It obeys your commands but is selective in following them based on the situations.
Seizure Alert Dogs
The dogs assist the handler during a seizure. If you are an epilepsy patient, your service dog is indispensable as it is trained to activate an emergency alarm, get someone to help during a seizure, give medication and protect you during the seizure.
Diabetic Alert Dogs
If you have diabetes, diabetic alert dogs are a must-have companion. It can deduct changes in blood sugar level and alert you. It will alarm you if your sugar level reaches a dangerous position. You can take medicine or insulin as per your sugar levels.
Allergy detection dogs
If you are allergic to certain kinds of food or substances, the allergy detection dogs can sniff the tiniest traces of allergens. It can sniff out the odor of things like peanuts or gluten. These dogs often work for your children with severe allergies.
Mobility Assistance dogs
Mobility assistance dogs are trained to assist people who are in wheelchairs. If you are disabled and in a wheelchair with restricted movements, it helps you by pulling your wheelchair, opening and closing the door, and bringing objects
. If you have other problems like arthritis, cerebral palsy, or spinal cord injuries, it is trained to help you.
Psychiatric service dogs
Psychiatric service dogs help people suffering from mental illnesses like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. People with such disorders are unable to take care of themselves and have regular panic attacks.
Here these dogs provide comfort by performing a few tasks like turning on lights before you enter the room and protecting your personal space.