Service Dog 101: What You Need To Know

What is a Service Dog?

There are thousands of assistance, or service dogs across the United States who serve people of varying disabilities and levels of ability in a multitude of aspects of their lives. For these dogs and their handlers, or those who utilize the talents of service dogs, this equally beneficial and enriching relationship allows both members to flourish and live fulfilling lives.

A service dog is a professional working dog that is specially trained to assist individuals or groups of individuals who experience a wide array of disabilities or medical conditions to live independently day-to-day.

Types of service dogs include:

  • Guide dogs for those with vision impairments
  • Hearing dogs
  • Seizure disorder response dogs
  • Mental health service dogs
  • Mobility assistance dogs

While they are a necessary part of life for many people who require assistance in their daily lives, therapy dogs and emotional support dogs (ESA’s) are not legally considered to be service dogs. 

Living With Service Dogs

Despite the common misconception, service dogs are not pets. They are always working and must be treated accordingly. It is not appropriate to distract service dogs by petting them, feeding them, making sounds to get their attention, or otherwise keeping them for performing their jobs. 

It is acceptable and well-within the best interest of a handler’s safety to ask anyone who is distracting their service companion to cease their behaviors immediately.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids establishments like restaurants, stores, and state and local government facilities from preventing service dogs entrance. With that being said, it is expected that service dogs be kept restrained in a harness or on a leash when in public spaces, as long as these restraints do not inhibit the dog’s ability to care for its handler.

Can Any Dog Be a Service Dog?

Dogs of any breed or size can be a service dog. There is no age restriction for professional working dogs but it is suggested that a service dog begin its training in the first two-and-a-half years of life because training does can take multiple months to years to complete. 

Many dogs have natural talents that allow them to be the perfect professional companion, but the primary factors that determine whether a dog will be a successful service dog are their temperament, social intelligence and obedience skills. 

Service dog in training

How Are Service Dogs Trained?

There are several ways to go about training a service dog. Some handlers choose to personally train their service dogs to their specific needs and disabilities and adapt their training practices over time to accommodate their evolving needs. Another common option is to have your service dog professional trained in private or group lessons.

Some of the specific behaviors and skills that an assistance dog should be evaluated on include its:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Cleanliness
  • Ability to focus in very distracting situations
  • Calm body language 
  • Not highly reward motivated, and a collection of others

Call Sit Now Stay today at (913) 735-7392 to set up a free training consultation and we can help you determine if your dog would be a good candidate for service dog training.

You may have a dog who you would like to take some lessons to improve its manners and temperament before ultimately moving on to service dog training, consider preparing your dog to take the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Program. This program is a prerequisite for registration with many therapy dog organizations.

Sit Now Stay offers training opportunities with a certified and award-winning staff that develops and reinforces the behaviors that are favorable for passing the CGC Program and/or completing specialized training for service dogs.

Enlist The Guidance of Dog Behavior Specialist

Our staff at Sit Now Stay houses a combined 30 years of experience with dog training and offer a multitude of programs which emphasize result-based training. We can help equip your service dog with all the tools necessary to provide the level of obedience and leadership needed to enhance your life.

Call us at (913) 735-7392 or contact us to set up a free consultation today!

service dog in vest