Service Dog Awareness Month


Some dogs get up and get dressed to go to work like the human population. These dogs, often recognized by their vests or ID tags, are service dogs. September is Service Dog Awareness Month. How much do you know about service dogs?


Definition

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is defined as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” You may be familiar with seeing different types of service dogs: guide dogs; medical alert dogs; or psychiatric service dogs.


And other types of dogs have support roles for people, but do not meet the definition of a working dog to qualify for the accommodations under the ADA. For example, emotional support animals and therapy dogs play a significant role to the individuals they serve. But, these animals are not considered ADA defined service dogs.


Training

The AKC reports that both for-profit and non-profit organizations train services dogs. The cost to train a single dog can exceed $25,000. And standards are high for these dogs. Dropout rates can range between 50 and 70 percent.

A fact that surprised me was that service dogs do not have to be professionally trained per the ADA. So, an individual could train their own dog. The AKC suggests the ideal candidate have the following characteristics:

  • Be calm, especially in unfamiliar settings

  • Be alert, but not reactive

  • Have a willingness to please

  • Be able to learn and retain information

  • Be capable of being socialized to many different situations and environments

  • Be reliable in performing repetitive tasks


Interaction

It’s important to note that not all service dogs wear vests. And like all dog etiquette, requesting permission to approach or pet a dog is recommended. Service dogs are not considered pets, but rather working animals.


If you want to find out what it is like to have a service dog, you can check out a first-hand account on the AKC’s website: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/news/what-its-really-like-to-have-a-service-dog-national-service-dog-month/

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