We’re wrapping up the month of September acknowledging National Service Dog Month with the aim of calling attention to the hard work these valued companions do 24/7 and to educate on the difference between a service dog and a support dog (take a quick peek at our infographic below). At the end of this blog we’re providing important links for more information on service dogs and service dog training.
Over 80 million Americans consider service dogs a valued working partner and companion. A service dog is one who has been specifically trained to aid a person diagnosed with a specific physical or mental disability. This could include services such as guiding the blind or alerting the deaf, responding to seizures, or even reminding someone to take life-saving medication. Service dogs are classified as working dogs and are not to be considered pets. As of 2011, the Americans with Disabilities Act only recognizes dogs as service animals. (There is an ADA provision for miniature horses, but that’s for another day.)
An emotional support animal can be any type of animal and does not need to have specific training. According to The Spruce Pets,”Neither emotional support dogs nor therapy dogs are considered service animals in the eyes of the law.” Some states do allow Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) in public places, so it is best to check with your state with regard to access if you have an ESA. In all cases, the dog must be under complete control of the handler at all times.
The most common breeds trained to be of service are German Shepherds, Labs, and Golden Retrievers. However, different sized breeds can be trained to do different tasks. Characteristics of a good service dog are calm, attentive, and less-distracted qualities. One breed that has gotten a bad rap, but are known to make very good therapy and service dogs are Pit Bulls! (October is National Pitbull Awareness Month, so let’s get ahead of it and acknowledge these dedicated and loyal companions!) Pit Bulls are good matches for people with mobility issues and are even strong enough to pull a wheelchair. They are also known to be easy to train, which makes them a great candidate for service.
Remember that not all service dogs are obvious or wear vests, so always ask before petting someone’s dog. They might just be working!
For more information on service animals, here’s a link to the Americans with Disabilities Act: https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm
Service Dog Statistics:
AKC Service Dog Training - 101:
How to train your dog to be of service: