What is a Service Dog

A Partnership in Wellness

If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store or a local restaurant and been startled to see a dog peering up at you like it’s perfectly normal for him or her to be there, you’ve probably seen a service dog. So what is a service dog exactly? Take a look at what separates service dogs from the typical household pet.

Service Dogs and the ADA

The easiest way to understand what makes a service dog is to consider the definition provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It states that a service animal is a dog that has been trained to complete tasks for someone who has a disability. Those tasks might include reminding the dog’s owner to take medication, guiding him or her across a street, or detecting a medical episode, such as a seizure or dangerous blood sugar levels. As long as the dog has been trained to perform a specific task related to the disability its owner has, it’s a service dog.

What Makes a Service Dog Different from an Emotional Support Animal?

The ADA does not consider emotional support animals to be service dogs. This is because they are not trained to perform a specific task related to the disability. Instead, they provide comfort to their owners just by being there, which does not require training. Of course, some dogs provide both emotional support and help with certain tasks for which they have been trained, in which case they are considered service dogs. Though emotional support animals are allowed in some public places, they do not have the same federal protections as service dogs, so they are not necessarily allowed everywhere.

The Importance of Proper Service Dog Training

Service dogs do not have to be trained by professionals. However, they are expected to not only perform tasks related to disabilities, but also behave in public. If they growl, bark, steal food, lunge at people, or are otherwise not well behaved, business owners can ask that they be taken outside. Not everyone has the time or patience to properly train dogs, which is why service dog training programs are so popular. Plus, the service dog’s owner is supposed to be able to control the animal before taking him or her out in public, which is why training for dog owners with disabilities is also recommended.

If you feel that a service dog would benefit you, it’s best to look into training programs for both yourself and your dog. This way, not only can your dog help you manage your disability, but you can be confident that you can handle him or her any time you’re out together.

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