Pets with Jobs: A Complete Guide to Service & Assistance Dogs

A fear for many individuals who deal with a disability is the worry that they will lose their independence. Having a service dog, however, can help with managing many of these limitations. Service dogs are dogs that have been specifically trained to provide assistance to individuals dealing with some form of disability. Usually, service dogs are trained to help those dealing with a specific condition. Diabetic service dogs, for instance, are trained to alert their owners when their blood sugar is falling too low. For individuals who are in wheelchairs, mobility service dogs help them cope with physical limitations by retrieving dropped items, turning on light switches, and hitting buttons on the elevator. Other types of service dogs are specifically trained to help individuals who are deaf, blind, suffer from seizures, or have mental disabilities. Dogs can also be trained to help in situations where the disabled is dealing with multiple issues such as being blind and wheelchair bound.

Service dogs are not pets, and not all breeds of dogs will make good service dogs. Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers are the breeds most commonly trained as service dogs. However, poodles and other small breeds are now being trained as service dogs for those who do not need mobility assistance. Good service dog candidates need to be intelligent, highly trainable, have a stable temperament, and a strong work ethic. Dogs used as service dogs are bred by programs that train guide dogs or may be taken from animal shelters. For program trained dogs, training usually starts when the dogs are puppies. Prior to training, these candidates learn socializing and basic commands in a home environment. In advanced training, professional trainers give service dogs the skills required to help with a specific disability. Formal training can take at least 6 months to longer than a year depending on the particular disability that the service dog is being trained to assist with. This guide explains, what makes a dog a service dog, proper etiquette, training, accessibility and laws, and the lifestyle of a service dog.

Understanding Service/Assistance Dogs

Service Dog Etiquette

Service Dog Training

Accessibility & Laws Regarding Service Dogs

Life of a Service Dog