How to Get a Service Dog - Things to Know & Steps to Follow
‘I need a service dog for my help, how can I get one?’
If you are having the same question then we have all the answers for you.
Service animals are assistance animals that help physically and severely mentally disabled people. These animals are trained dogs that assist the wheelchair-bound and other people that need help with their daily life.
Many people think that service animals and emotional support animals are the same, which is wrong. Both of these kinds of animals are different from each other and they serve entirely different purposes.
In this blog, we have explained everything about what service animals are and how they make their owners feel.
What is a Service Dog?
A service dog is a specific type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities. A service dog is not a pet. It has specialized training to do work or perform tasks that mitigate the disabilities of its owner.
There are different types of service dogs that provide varied services for individuals with differing disabilities.
It is different from other therapy dogs like ESA dogs. These dogs are covered under several laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act (FHA), and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).
How can a Service Dog help?
A service dog assists an individual with their disability by performing tasks that the person cannot do for themselves. For example, someone who is blind may use a guide dog to lead them around obstacles.
A person with extensive seizures may use a dog that can predict the onset of an episode and help get them to safety, or at least get them medical attention. A person with diabetes may use a dog to remind them when their blood sugar levels are too low.
A service dog is individually trained to assist its owner in performing one or more tasks associated with the disability. These tasks are based on the individual's specific needs and may include:
Assistance with navigation; reminding the owner to take medications, bringing items such as medication or food; pulling a wheelchair; providing balance support; picking up dropped objects, etc.
Service dogs can be trained to both physically assist their owners, by doing things they cannot do themselves (such as opening doors, retrieving objects, etc) as well as alerting them to medical conditions such as seizures, low blood sugar levels, and migraines.
A service dog may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. Different breeds have different temperaments which can affect the ability to assist their owner in performing tasks related to the disability.
The training required for service dogs varies depending on what tasks the dog will be performing and the individual's specific needs.
Who is a Service Dog for?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability."
Most states have similar definitions for service animals. Service dogs may be trained to perform a variety of tasks that alleviate the effects of a disability.
However, not all dogs are suitable as service dogs and there is often a waiting list for assistance dogs from reputable facilities.
If you want to get your dog from a reputed and recognized organization then contact your local assistance dog training facilities for more information.
How to Get a Service Dog - The Complete Process
Here is the complete process of how to get a service animal:
- 1. Analyze Your Situation
- 2. Choose an Organization & Program
- 3. Choose a Breed to be Your Service Dog
- 4. Training the Dog to Perform Tasks Related to Your Disability
- 5. Understanding the Laws & Rights Associated With Service Dogs
Before you start looking for a service dog, make sure that getting one is the right decision.
There are four different types of disabilities that qualify an individual to use a service dog. They are Physical Disability, Blindness or Low Vision, Hearing Loss, and Severe Disabilities Affecting Mobility (such as Cerebral Palsy).
When considering if getting a service dog is the right decision, consider whether your disability will impact your life for at least another year. You also need to be able to care for the animal's needs.
Once you have decided that getting a service dog is the correct decision for you, it is time to choose an organization to work with.
Many different non-profit organizations exist to help individuals train their own service dogs, but most reputable services contain the dog from birth until it is time for placement with a client.
Other organizations exist solely for placing trained dogs with individuals who have disabilities, reducing the wait time and cost of training.
Many people opt for a program that combines the cost of training and supplies with the time commitment required to train their dog, however, this is not always necessary.
Many different breeds of dogs have been selectively bred for specific purposes.
Any breed can be a service dog, but there are some which have been specifically bred to perform the tasks required by service dogs.
The two most common breeds used as service dogs are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds. For better results, it is better to choose the females of these breeds.
The process of breeding specific traits in dogs has been going on for centuries, but it is only recently that the requirements of service dogs have drastically changed.
It is important to make sure the breed you choose is suitable for your environment and can handle the tasks they will be performing.
The purpose of a service dog is to help a disabled individual perform tasks that they would otherwise have a difficult time doing alone.
Service dogs are not meant as a way for the disabled individual to avoid performing these duties on their own – it simply makes things easier and more manageable.
Under federal and ADA laws, no one can ask for documentation to prove that the dog is a service dog. You may be asked two questions: "Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?" and "What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?"
You may not be charged a fee for the service dog, even if there is a fee for pets in your area. You can't be asked to leave or remove your service animal from a place of business under the ADA.
You must have complete control over your service dog at all times when in public. This means they must either be on a harness, leash, or another tether, or they must be under voice control.
When out in public, your service dog must be well-behaved and remain calm. They may not bark repeatedly, growl at people or otherwise act disruptively. Your dog also must work quietly when needed – barking to alert you of danger is okay, but not excessively loud barking.
Your dog must be housebroken and well-trained to behave in public. Otherwise, you could face problems showing your dog off at home too.
When out in public, your service dog should walk beside or behind you, unless instructed otherwise. A service animal is never allowed to sit on seats intended for human passengers.
Common Tasks Associated with Service Dogs
Retrieve items, locate exit alarms, turn on lights, assist with mobility, provide assistance in emergency situations, provide the needed companionship.
How to Handle a Service Dog in the Workplace?
Having a service dog means the law is on your side. According to ADA, no one can discriminate against you because of your service animal and no one can reject it either. But there are some things that you should take care of.
Your service dog can not be disruptive to the other employees. Your service dog may need training just like you.
This means that it must stay out of people's way and wait quietly if told to do so by the owner. Of course, they may not disturb others by barking or otherwise causing a distraction.
Your service dog can not be disruptive to the workplace. They may not beg for food or attention, urinate on the floor, defecate on the floor, sniff other people's belongings or act in any way that intrudes upon another individual's rights. They must also be able to get along with other dogs.
You must be able to work at all times, even if your dog is having a bad day. This means that your service dog should not become too emotionally distressed in public places and they should remain calm through challenging situations.
What are the Different Types of Service Animals?
The following is a list of the most common service animals:
Guide Dogs – these can be any breed or size (although many are Labrador Retrievers) and they provide assistance by way of visiting locations, helping to locate items, and guiding the owner through crowded areas. These dogs are used by blind and visually impaired people.
Hearing Dogs – this type of service animal is trained to assist the deaf or hearing impaired in their everyday lives like alerting them when someone is at the door, a phone is ringing or a smoke alarm goes off.
They also assist deaf people with telephones and televisions by doing things such as turning up the volume, answering the phone, and relaying messages.
Seizure Response Dogs – this type of service animal works with its owners to detect oncoming seizures, giving them time to sit or lay down before the onset of a seizure.
They also help to protect their owners during seizures by staying calm or removing the owner from dangerous situations, such as driving during an aura.
Medical Alert Dogs – these can be trained to alert owners who are diabetics when their blood sugar is getting low, helping them to take action so that they don't become too low.
Other dogs can be taught to alert their owners when they suffer from severe asthma and need their inhaler or when they experience a severe drop or increase in blood pressure.
Psychiatric Service Dogs – these service animals work with people who have post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and similar conditions that cause them to have difficulty with daily life.
These dogs can help them by doing things like waking their owners from nightmares, interrupting self-harm, and avoiding the onset of panic attacks.
Mobility Assistance Dog - a service dog that is trained to help people with disabilities physically maneuver through their daily lives. They can be trained to turn on lights, open and close doors, retrieve items from storage areas, and more.
Allergy Detection Dogs - these service animals are trained to detect allergens in the environment before their owner becomes allergic.
They can be taught to alert their owners of oncoming allergies by waking them or getting them out of bed, scratching at doors and windows, pawing people, or doing other things that draw the person's attention to them.
Autism Support Dogs - these service dogs can be trained to help children and adults with autism and offer them emotional and physical support in the following ways:
Acting as a physical or verbal cue that alerts their owner that they need to take a break from an overwhelming situation. Reminding the person to do specific tasks, such as brushing teeth or eating. Helping their owners transition into new environments.
Service Animals vs. Emotional Support Animals
Service animals differ from emotional support animals. A service animal is trained to perform a task for its owner while an emotional support animal provides comfort just by being with them.
In addition, a person with a disability can only have one service dog at any given time although they may have several emotional support animals.
In order to train your pet as a service animal or emotional support animal, your veterinarian will need to evaluate it and verify that there is a connection between the animal's behavior and your diagnosed disability.
In order for an ESA to be considered, a person must have an accredited letter from their therapist or mental health professional confirming their disability. They must bring this letter with them whenever they plan on taking their pet with them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can my pet be a service dog?
Currently, there aren’t any set guidelines for training your own pet to perform tasks. There are only regulations about what owners of service animals must do in order to qualify and maintain their status with the ADA.
This means that if you want to train your pet as an ESA or a service dog, you're free to do so, but be aware that you will not receive the same benefits that you would if your pet were trained by a recognized service dog organization or facility.
What qualifies a person to get a service dog?
A person can qualify for a service dog in one of two ways. They can either have an obvious, physical disability that is easily noticeable or they must be able to prove that their mental illness (including depression) or emotional disorder causes them to experience "marked distress" or an "extreme limitation" on their daily life.
Can I have more than one service dog?
Yes, if you are suffering from multiple physical or mental disabilities then you can have more than one service dog.
However, the only exception to this rule is if you already have a service dog in training.
In that case, you can receive another service dog when your first one is declared fully trained and ready for active duty.
How much do service dogs cost?
The cost of having a service dog varies. It depends on the tasks that the dog is required to perform but on average, the cost could be anywhere between $15,000 to $50,000.
How long does it take to train a service dog?
Today, the average time it takes to train a service dog is about one year. However, there are some facilities out there that can train dogs in as little as six months.
There are also cases where organizations will work with an individual for two years before they allow them to take their service dog home.
If you need your service dog as soon as possible, be sure to contact a few different organizations or facilities and ask how long it will take them to train your service dog.
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