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Service dogs are frequently seen in public, and while these pups may be adorable, they are also working animals with specific tasks to complete. Understanding more about service dogs, why they are important, and how to act around them so you don’t interrupt their work or otherwise distract them is important.
Our article will help you learn more about service dogs and the tasks they complete and provide you with essential knowledge about how to act around these working dogs. Read on for facts about service dogs.
Essential Things To Know About Service Dogs
The following facts about service dogs are essential to know if you want to be sure that you understand the most about these helpful working pups and why they are so important to their owners.
There Are Different Types of Service Dogs
Even though ‘service dog’ tends to be a blanket term for these working pups, there are multiple different types of service dogs. These dogs are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as dogs that are specifically trained to help with a part of someone’s disability. They perform tasks specifically designed to help the disabled person with their daily lives. Because of this, service dogs are granted public access rights and are allowed to enter areas where pet dogs may not usually be permitted, such as restaurants and grocery stores.
It’s important to note that emotional support dogs are not service dogs, as they have not been specifically trained to help with someone’s disability. Instead, they provide comfort and companionship but do not complete specific disability-related tasks.
The main types you may encounter include a guide or mobility assistance dog, a medical alert dog, or a psychiatric service dog. These dogs complete varied tasks depending on their owner’s needs. Examples of the tasks that service dogs may complete include:
- Retrieving medication or water
- Opening and closing doors
- Acting as a support or guide when their owner needs to move
- Turning lights on and off
- Retrieving cell phones, remotes, or other household items
- Alerting their owner to allergy-containing items
- Alerting to changes in heart rate or blood pressure, or blood sugar drops
- Detecting and alerting to seizures
- Clearing rooms and checking behind their owners
- Identifying hallucinations
Service dog skills are varied, and this is just a sample of the many impressive tasks that these pups complete for their owners every day. Most service dogs are trained to help with a specific type of disability, and additional skills can be learned based on their owner’s needs.
Any Dog Could Be a Service Dog
The ADA does not list specific breeds or sizes of dogs that should be service dogs, and any dog can theoretically be a service dog. While larger breeds like golden retrievers, German shepherds, Labradors, and poodles are often chosen as service dogs due to their size and easy trainability, other dogs like dachshunds and even Chihuahuas might be able to complete service dog tasks that are fitted to their size.
Larger and stronger dog breeds may act as guide dogs or protection dogs, while smaller breeds are more likely to serve as medical alert, allergy alert, or certain kinds of psychiatric service dogs.
Service Dogs Don’t Need to Be Certified
The ADA does not require a specific training or certification course for service dogs. This means that a service dog does not need official paperwork or to complete an expensive training course—you can train your own service dog as needed.
However, the differences between trained service dogs and non-service dogs are typically easy to spot, as non-service dogs are not as well-behaved in public until they have had strict training. If you are considering training your own service dog, make sure they are able to complete at least one task that is specific to your disability, in addition to having good public manners, in order to have them legally protected as a service dog.
Service Dogs Don’t Need Identification
Even though most service dogs we see out and about today are wearing a vest, have an identification leash, or are otherwise identified, service dogs don’t legally need identification, according to the ADA. However, many owners will choose to identify their dog as it makes public access easier and informs others that their dog is working and necessary to accompany them wherever.
Fake Service Dogs Are Illegal
For some people, it can be tempting to pass a dog off as a service dog in order to gain the same public access rights that are granted to legitimate service dogs. However, this is a bad idea and illegal in most states.
Fake service dogs put everyone at risk because they are typically less well-trained, more likely to bite or attack when scared or startled, and generally less well-behaved in public. Passing off your dog as a fake service dog also makes it harder for individuals with legitimate service dogs to take advantage of their public access rights due to the suspicion and problems that fake service dogs cause.
You are not allowed to ask others if their service dog is real or what they might need a service dog for, but be sure to keep an eye on dogs that are ill-behaved, as this might indicate they are not quite what they seem.
Service Dogs Are Rarely Refused Public Access Rights
The public access rights granted to service dogs and their owners by the ADA are uniform, and most individuals can easily take advantage of these. There are only certain circumstances in which a business or other facility is allowed to refuse a service dog their public access rights, and these are typically due to a problem that the service dog is causing.
For example, if a service dog is causing harm or destruction in a building, threatening or attacking others, or becoming out of control, they are legally allowed to be removed from a building. Other than these extreme situations, the only questions that businesses are allowed to ask about your service dog (according to the ADA) are:
- “Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?”
- “What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”
Any other instances of being refused public access with your well-behaved service dog might be a violation of your legal rights. If you believe your rights have been violated, the best thing to do is consult a lawyer specializing in disability rights and the ADA.
You Should Ignore Service Dogs in Public
It can be hard to do, but it’s important to ignore service dogs in public as they perform their tasks and provide assistance to their owners. Never attempt to pet a service dog, deliberately distract one of these pups, or even make eye contact with a service dog, as that distracts them from their tasks and can have severe consequences for their owner.
Be sure that you keep children away from service dogs and properly educate them about these working pups. Don’t attempt to initiate a conversation with the service dog’s owner about their dog or their disability—this is rude, and it interrupts the dog’s focus.
The best thing you can do when noticing a service dog in public is admire them from a distance and let them do their job.
Learning More About Service Dogs
All of these facts about service dogs prove they are amazing working animals that help many individuals with disabilities achieve a greater quality of life and relief from certain symptoms as they go about their daily tasks. It’s important to understand these pups and learn how to act around service dogs in public to support their working activities and ensure both the service dog and their owner can safely navigate the space around them.