Four-legged friends are amazing creatures, and they are capable of helping their pet parents in extraordinary ways. You’ve probably heard the term ‘Service Dog’ thousands of times. You’ve most likely seen a working pooch in your lifetime. But have you thought about what those well-trained animals are actually doing? Well, we’re here to help find the answers to your questions about service dogs.
What Is a Service Dog?
Many pet parents are surprised to learn there are a lot of different specializations for these furry workers. One thing remains clear – these four-legged friends are a special category of working dogs that show enormous skills and courage on a daily basis. These Fidos are specially trained to assist people with all kinds of disabilities and provide lifesaving support.
A lot of pet parents confuse Service Dogs with Emotional Support Dogs. It’s important to know these two kinds of pooches play two completely different roles. Service Dogs are for pet parents with disabilities, and these fur babies help their parents perform specific tasks. These Fidos must be handler-focused and highly trained for particular duties. The training time can last even up to two years.
Emotional Support Dogs are for everyone. They provide companionship, emotional support, and comfort to their pet parents. This pooch category doesn’t require training. However, you do need to get a prescription letter from a medical doctor or a licensed mental health professional for your dog to qualify. (1, 2) There is a wide range of conditions prompting one to obtain an emotional support dog from mood or personality disorders to anxiety and depression.
Types Of Service Dogs
There are many different types of specially trained dogs for particular services. These include:
- guide dogs
- hearing dogs
- seizure response dogs
- allergy detection dogs
- diabetic alert dogs
- medical alert dogs
- autism service dogs
- and PTSD dogs
Guide dogs and hearing dogs are trained to help navigate through the daily routine of their blind or visually impaired pet parents. A well-trained guide dog or hearing dog is able to alert his pet parent about important sounds.
The other types of service dogs can assist their pet parents in a variety of ways specific to the individual. These Fidos get training to work with people who have autism, who need seizure alert, who use a wheelchair, who need to be alerted about their medical issues such as low blood sugar, who have psychiatric challenges, and more. (3)
Common Service Dog Breeds
The most common breed of working dogs are retrievers and German Shepherds. This is because these breeds are among the most easily-trainable four-legged friends. They are very intelligent, are fast learners, and get a lot of enjoyment out of a job well done. The training sessions are not going to be difficult with these kinds of pooches as long as you commit yourself to set them up for success.
These special canine companions can range a lot in their sizes. However, each working dog must be able to achieve his task easily in order to help his parent with a disability. For example, a Dachshund pup is not a proper choice for pulling wheelchairs. Although, he can be an excellent hearing dog. Also, did you know many Fidos get rescued from shelters and trained to become these special best service friends? (4)
Training a Service Dog
The training is a long and committed process. It can last up to two years, and as a pet parent, you need to be very patient. The canines must be able to complete their duties by the trainer’s order by the end of the training. They need to pass the Assistance Dogs International Public Access Test successfully. This is a series of objective plans to evaluate the pooch’s behavior in distracting environments.
The training organizations have very high standards, and not every dog will pass the final test in order to be placed with pet parents needing their services. This is probably one of the reasons why Service Dogs trained directly by their pet parent became very popular in the last several years. Those pet parents who want to train their best friends on their own should seek a professional trainer for help. If you want to train your pooch, first consult with the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and they will help you find an experienced trainer.
Treating your Fido with small snacks during training time is very important. To find the best quality treats for your pooch, check out our shop here. (5, 6, 7) For more information about service dogs specifically for veterans, check out our article about Service Dogs Tend To Wounded Warriors.