Want to learn some quick facts about Service Dogs? Keep reading and level up your Service Dog knowledge!
1. Service Dogs are highly trained professionals.
These hard-working dogs undergo hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of hours of training. Their training includes basic obedience and manners, intermediate and advanced skills, public access training, and job-specific task training. Each Service Dog’s task training varies to match their human partner’s unique needs
2. Service Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds.
No one can identify a Service Dog simply by looking at one. No breed requirements or other stipulations exist for a dog to qualify for Service Dog training. If a candidate has the proper temperament, loves to learn, and is physically healthy, then they’re capable of training to be a Service Dog. Of course, a Service Dog’s size should match their job. While smaller Service Dogs work just as hard and as well as their larger counterparts, it isn’t appropriate (or safe!) for them to training as Mobility Dogs!
3. Therapy dogs, emotional support animals, and other types of working K9s are not Service Dogs.
Only Service Dogs are Service Dogs. Only Service Dogs have public access rights while accompanied by the handler they’re trained to assist. The handler must have a disability as defined under U.S. federal law. Emotional Support Dogs are not Service Dogs. Dogs who only help with anxiety or depression by offering support are not Service Dogs. Therapy Dogs are not Service Dogs. Search and Rescue, Police, or Military K9s are not Service Dogs. You can learn more about the differences between these various types of working dogs here.
Fun Fact: The only other animal allowed to serve as an Assistance Animal in the United States is the miniature horse. Check out our guide on Miniature Horses as Service Animals for more info!
4. Service Dogs perform a diverse array of jobs.
Service Dogs assist people with a wide range of disabilities. Common types of Service Dogs include visual assistance, hearing, allergen alert, brace and mobility support, neurological assistance, sensory processing, psychiatric, and many others. The jobs a Service Dog can perform are limited only by a trainer’s capability and the laws of physics.
5. Each Service Dog team is unique.
All disabilities are different. Furthermore, each person with a disability is an individual, and so is the dog! A Service Dog is trained to help their specific person with their specific needs. Some Service Dogs open doors and help pull wheelchairs. Other Service Dogs alert to malfunctioning medical equipment or to the presence of deadly allergens. It’s important to remember that personality and temperament play a huge part in creating a successful partnership.
6. Service Dogs are still dogs.
They need time to play and goof off. Like all dogs, they have varying needs and wants. Some really enjoy being cuddled, whereas others want nothing more than a hard run in the backyard. Service Dogs require the same care all dogs do — they need exercise, feeding, watering, grooming, cleaning up after, and emotional support. Unlike most pet dogs, though, Service Dogs have time built into their schedule so they can decompress and just be dogs.
It’s also important to note that since Service Dogs are dogs, they aren’t robots. No matter how well trained, Service Dogs can have bad or “off” days, just like humans.
7. The law protects Service Dog teams.
Several United States laws work together to grant Service Dog teams access rights. These access rights include places of business, education, transport, medical care, and many other places. As long as it is safe to do so, a person with a disability accompanied by a Service Dog shares identical access rights to a person without a disability or without a Service Dog.
8. A vest doesn’t make a Service Dog.
Only a Service Dog’s training grants them Service Dog status and access rights. In order to be a Service Dog, two things must be true. First, the dog must be partnered with a person who has a legally defined disability. Second, the dog must help that person achieve more independence or a better quality of life through trained tasks or work. To sum all of that up, no amount of gear, paperwork, registration, certification, or anything else makes a dog a Service Dog. Only training (and a lot of it) makes a Service Dog, plus partnership with a person with a disability.
9. Service Dog handlers are people, too.
It’s easy to see a Service Dog out and about and get excited. Dogs are fun, and Service Dogs are beautiful and well trained. However, every Service Dog has a person. That person is just like everyone else — they have a life, people who love them, hobbies, preferences, things to do, things they believe in, etc. Service Dogs are awesome, but so are their handlers, trainers, and team members.
10. The puppy raisers, trainers, and handlers love the Service Dogs they work with.
It’s oft said that in the chest of every Service Dog beats the heart of a puppy raiser. When it comes to selecting, raising, training, and partnering a Service Dog, it definitely takes a village. Everyone involved in a Service Dog’s journey, from the breeder, rescue, or shelter all the way to the Service Dog’s forever partner, loves every step of the path and wants only the best for the dog and handler.
Generally speaking, most Service Dog handlers consider their canine partner their best friend, lifeline, and other half. Service Dogs get the best of all worlds — they get to spend all day, every day, with their handler, while doing a job they love. When the workday is over, they get to relax beside the person they love most.