If you have a disability such as visual impairment or a seizure disorder, you may be considering getting a service dog to help you. These dogs can be incredibly helpful in your daily life and may even save your life. But most people know very little about service dogs before they get one for themselves. Here are five important facts about service dogs that will come in handy as you pursue this endeavor.
1. Service Dogs Can Be Any Breed
Some people are under the impression that there are legal requirements as to what breed of dog can become a service dog, but this is not the case. There are certain breeds that are more suitable than others for this job. For example, a border collie will make a better service dog for a visually impaired person than will a chihuahua just because of their size! However, a chihuahua may be a perfectly suited dog for a diabetic patient who needs an alert dog. If you have a favorite breed of dog, don't rule out the possibility of having that breed until you talk to an expert.
2. Service Dogs Have Many Different Jobs
Perhaps you have never really considered a service dog because you assumed they were only to help the blind or diabetic patients. In fact, there are dozens of ways that service dogs can help you. Allergy alert dogs are trained to smell foods and alert their owners to the presence of certain allergens so the owners do not accidentally consume those foods and suffer health consequences. Psychiatric service dogs can tell when your mood is low and respond with kindness to lift you spirits. Wheelchair assistance dogs can provide a brace as you get in and out of a wheelchair. Of course, all of these dogs also offer emotional support at the same time!
3. Service Dogs Cannot Go Everywhere
Most businesses and public spaces allow individuals with service dogs to bring their service dogs with them into the establishment. However, service dogs are not allowed to go absolutely everywhere. Specifically, they may be excluded from a space if their presence puts other animals in danger or if the area presents a hazard to the service dog. For example, service dogs are not permitted in certain areas of zoos, many x-ray rooms and hospitals, and animal refuges.
4. Service Dogs Do Not Require "Papers"
You may have heard of people being asked to present documents showing that their dog is a service animal. It is not actually legal for a place to request this proof. There is no official, standardized documentation issued to service dogs. Before you bring your dog into a public space or business, owners and operators can only ask you two questions. The first is whether your dog is a service dog, and the second is what duties the dog performs. They cannot ask you for documentation. Your dog also does not need any identifying gear or vests. However, these vests are helpful to alert members of the public that your dog is working so they do not bother your dog.
5. Service Dogs Require Specialized Training
Unless you are an experienced dog trainer, you will need to hire someone to train you service dog or purchase a service dog from an organization that trains and sells them. Training a dog to perform assistance services is a very intensive endeavor, and it needs to be done very specifically. Failure on the dog's part to perform his or her duties could be dangerous, so select your dog's trainer carefully. Rely only on trainers with specific experience working with service dogs.
To learn more, contact a company like USA Service Dogs.