Service Dogs: To Train or To Find
Service dogs or assistance dogs originally were bred to be an assist a person with a disability. So, it is widely known that service dog is trained to a certain task in accordance to help said, people. The popular term of those dogs is medical service dogs.
When people hear about medical service dogs, they often think about a guide dog for therapy for blind dogs. One has to know that the dog that bred for therapy is not the same as a service dog because they have different purposes. While service dog is also an assistance dog, but an assistance dog doesn’t always be a service dog. Assistance dog comes in two categories, service and facility dog.
Service Dogs, Facility Dogs, And Therapy Dogs
One one point, Differentiating between each dog’s type is a must. Knowing about service dogs, facility dogs, and therapy dogs is not for political correctness. But, more than that, to know the distinction is a must if you want to get one because they have a different purpose and jobs and are not interchangeable.
Service Dogs are special dogs that trained to do or perform certain tasks that the owner have a hard time doing that. They are considered highly trained pets and work as a team with their owners, helping them to push their limit, to attain independence.
In the USA, service dogs are legal and can accompany their owner to the public places, even in the place that usually forbids pet such as hotel, grocery stores, restaurants, and public transportation. The ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights for everyone who need the service dog to be accompanied by it. Not only that, there are some other addition acts of law if the rights that were protected by ADA are not applicable in a certain situation.
There are many types of service dogs depending on what are they specialized in, such as:
- Guide dogs to assist blind and visually impaired people;
- Hearing or signal dogs, to help those who are deaf or hard of hearing;
- Medical alert dogs, such as diabetic alert or seizure alert;
- Mobility assistance dogs; And some other types.
A facility dog is specially trained to work with professionals or volunteers to perform a specific job. They are partnered with a facilitator in a health care, education or visitation setting. This type of Companions are trustworthy can perform nearly 40 or more commands. Facility dogs are often seen in:
- Courthouse dogs are generally handled by those who works in the legal field to help crime investigation, prosecution, and other legal proceedings;
- In educational settings, facility are often handled to promote interaction between the teachers and the students;
- In health care, facility dogs are used to assist healthcare professionals such as physical therapists and psychologists to help the symptom management and of the patients.
Therapy Dogs like the other assistance dogs are also specially trained but the purpose is to help to provide therapy, be it psychological or physiological. Usually, the handler is the owner, like medical service dogs. These companions usually have the stable and mild temperament, they are lovable in a heart-warming way. They are known to have easy-going and friendly traits and can be seen in various health facilities, schools, care center and many other institutions.
The difference between therapy dogs and service dogs is therapy dogs are trained to encourage the owner to socialize more. The dogs itself often interact with people while they accompany their owner. There is also a wide variety of what therapy dogs specialized in, like medical service dogs. Some of the therapy dogs are trained to encourage disabled children to gain confidence or to help people with a psychological problem such as PTSD.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Service Dog
Service dogs can be trained basically by anyone, but first of all, if you want to train the dogs you must meet certain standards. But don’t worry here are some quick tips for you to train a dog to become a service dog:
Age and Health to become Service Dogs
A regular visit to the veterinarian is a must to check the health conditions of your dog. They have to at least six months old and step into a mature phase already. Also, you should neuter your service dog so they will be less aggressive.
Test the personality
Depending on the breed, some dogs are potentially more aggressive while the other are more docile. It is neither good or bad traits, you have to adjust the personality of your dog to be on the right temperament needed for a service dog. The best trait is, if the dog is mild, calm, and collected, but also have an aggressive nature (such as alert and responsive, not the abusive one).
Find a Good Dog Trainer
As mentioned above, you can train your own dog to become a service dog, but some people don’t have the confidence to do that. Thus, need a reputable service trainer to teach their dog. Also, it doesn’t hurt to get an intensive and in-depth training for your dog. Speaking in legal terms, USA doesn’t require a trainer to be certified, but a professional trainer on a decent training community will be the best choice for you and your dog.
Start the Training
If you have made up your mind to train your own dog these are three phases to teach your dog:
- Heeling, the most difficult one for any beginner to teach. You have to maintain a relative position of your dog to the handler, regardless how he/she moves. It’s not as simple as “sit, roll, and come” here command.
- Proofing, time-consuming one, you have to tune out all the distractions of your dog and constantly be on command.
- Tasking, in other words, teach your service dog soon-to-be to learn one or more specific tasks, such as providing guidance or sense an alert (health-issues alert). This will be easier after you can do the former train.
Though it is better for you to find a reputable trainer because the time needed to train your dog is around 120 hours or more, it can be six months or even 24 months. The 30 hours alone are needed to train in dealing with distractions and some potential surprises.
Public Access Test
After all that hard and time-consuming training, you have to test your service dog’s capabilities. The basic requirements to become a service dog are:
- No abusive-aggressive behavior such as barking, biting and growling.
- Urinate on command
- Curbed excitement and hyperactivity
- Cessation of sniffing behaviors
- No solicitations for food or affection
Registration and Equipping
It will be better for your dog to be certified, so in the case of need, your dog already has it. Especially, if there is a problem raised by bringing your dog to a public place or public transportation (even though some states forbid the receptionist to ask about the certificate, but it better safe than sorry). Besides, it can ensure the dog’s competency so it will be more believable.
Find someone in need
By having your dog trained to be a service dog, doesn’t mean that it can accompany or assist you, or anyone, moreover in places that pets are strictly forbidden. You also have to search public service that legally made for a service dog to be able to enter with their handler. It will be the best for you to find local service dog organization or community to place or find a service dog.