A Service Dog is a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for
the benefit of an individual with a disability. A disability is any physical or mental condition
that substantially limits a major life activity. Service dogs can be trained to perform a wide
range of tasks depending on the needs of the particular person with a disability. A service
dog can be any breed or size. People with disabilities who have service dogs have civil
rights protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. This states that
people with service dogs have access to nearly every place where the general public is
welcomed. For example, service dogs are permitted to ride in taxicabs, buses, and trains.
They may enter restaurants, theaters, hotels, and public schools. Service dogs are not
required to wear vests or to carry any certification papers showing that the dog has been
trained as a service dog. Also you may not ask the person about the nature or extent of
his or her disability. But, handlers of service dogs must obey local leash and vaccine laws
and must have their dogs under control at all times.
Here is a list of the common types of Service Dogs:
Guide Dogs assist blind and visually impaired people by avoiding obstacles, stopping at
curbs and steps, and negotiating traffic. The harness and U-shaped handle fosters
communication between the dog and the blind partner. In this partnership, the human's
role is to provide directional commands, while the dog's role is to insure the team's safety
even if this requires disobeying an unsafe command. Labrador and Golden Retrievers
and German Shepherd dogs and other large breeds are carefully bred, socialized and
raised for over one year by volunteers, then trained for 4 to 6 months by professional
trainers before being placed with their blind handlers
Hearing Dogs assist deaf and hard of hearing individuals by alerting them to a variety of
household sounds such as a door knock or doorbell, alarm clock, oven buzzer, telephone,
baby cry, name call or smoke alarm. These dogs are trained to make physical contact and
lead their deaf partners to the source of the sound. Hearing Dogs are identified by an
orange collar and leash and/or vest.
Mobility Dogs assist physically disabled people by retrieving objects that are out of their
reach, by pulling wheelchairs, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance
and counterbalance and many other individual tasks as needed by a disabled person.
SEIZURE RESPONSE/ALERT DOGS:
Seizure Response dogs help comfort and support a person who suffers from seizures.
They are trained to retrieve the phone or go and get help. Seizure Alert dogs are trained
to sense a seizure before it happens and warns the person to sit down in a safe place.
Psychiatric Dogs are trained to support and assist a person who suffers from a mental
illness. Anxiety and panic attacks are often reduced and even sensed and alerted prior to
the attack. People who suffer from social phobias are able to leave the house because of
the support and companionship of their service dog.
Photo by Mark Langton
Photo by Mark Langton
Therapy dogs are privately owned and are not considered service dogs. Therapy dogs come in all shapes
and sizes; real dogs with real personalities and real love to share. Some have pedigrees, some have been
adopted.A therapy dog's primary function is to brighten someone’s day. Dogs and their owners visit nursing
homes, hospitals and schools to provide emotional support. They put a smile on someone’s face, make their
day a little brighter, or bring back a cherished memory. Regardless of how residents look or how they feel,
the animals are happy to see them. Those who live or must stay in a care facility truly benefit from the
unconditional love and acceptance provided by therapy dogs. Typically, there is an immediate response to
the tail wagging greetings and warm paws.
There is another side to this work and that is physical therapy. Here dogs and their owners can work with a
patient alongside a health-care professional as a team. These teams may involve physical therapists,
speech therapists or any other health-care professional. The dogs motivate patients to work a little harder--
after all who can resist the unconditional love of a dog. Recently some teams have also been found to be
beneficial in crisis intervention and actual psychotherapy. The dog helps create a non-threatening
environment for those in need. Real therapy is provided between animals and people. These four-footed
therapists give something special to enhance the health and well-being of others. It has been clinically proven
that through petting, touching and talking with the animals, patients’ blood pressure is lowered, stress is
relieved and depression is eased.
All therapy dogs should be a minimum of one (1) year of age and have a sound temperament. They should
be very socialized and the owner should be able to read their dog. Each dog should pass the American
Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC), and a temperament evaluation for suitability to become a
therapy dog. The dog should also be comfortable around people who use some type of service equipment
(wheelchairs, crutches, etc.).
Koko waves hello and goodbye!
Photo by Mark Langton
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