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What is a Service Dog?

Service Dogs are trained from a very early age to perform specialized tasks for people with disabilities. This makes them quite different from other types of working dogs. Continue reading to learn more about these special canine heroes.

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For more information on other types of working dogs, check out our articles about Therapy Dogs and Emotional Support Animals (ESA).

What does it mean to be a Service Dog?

“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” – Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

According to the ADA, only dogsmay be service animals (no other species). There is only one exception that the ADA has a provision for, and that is miniature horses, but they have a different set of guidelines than dogs.

What types of training does a Service Dog need?

Service Dogs are trained to perform specific tasks or behaviors to help people with disabilities. These are dogs that are thoroughly trained to stay focused, calm, and on-task when in public. Service Dogs display very good behavior and are comfortable and relaxed with all sorts of situations, groups of people, noises, and places. They can assist people who are blind, deaf, confined to a wheelchair, prone to seizures, need reminders to take specific and frequent medications for more complex and/or mental illnesses, etc.

Where can I take my Service Dog?

Service Dogs and the disabled person they belong to are protected by the ADA so that they may enter places that are otherwise forbidden to animals, such as grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, hospitals, etc. (There are exceptions in certain areas of hospitals where the presence of a dog may increase risk of infection/illness to patients such as operating rooms and burn units). In addition, they are allowed to fly in the cabin of an airplane with appropriate documentation, and they may live (with a person with a disability) even in housing that has a strict “no pet policy”.

What’s the difference between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Animal?

A Service Dog’s job is NOT to provide emotional support or to be a companion but to provide a specific service and perform specific tasks that a disabled person may not be able to do on their own. In other words, Service Dogs are not “pets”. These dogs are intensively trained throughout the beginning of their lives in specialized training facilities before being given to a person with a disability. They can be trained to perform a wide variety of tasks depending on the particular disability of the person they are going to help.

Read more:

ADA: Service Animals

Canine Partners for Life

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