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What Is A Service Dog and Why Does It Matter?

Yes, I am going to get on my soapbox for this one, you were given fair warning!

Time and time again I see people with “service dogs”, but are they REALLY service dogs?

We see it when out to eat at restaurants, dogs sitting next to their owners, being fed off the table.  Dogs at the mall, pulling on the leash, being petted by all those that will pay attention, or even worse trying to attack an actual service dog that is on-site working with their handler (yes I have witnessed this).

THESE ARE NOT SERVICE DOGS!  I see this and I get so mad.  A true service dog performs a task for their owners, they have a job to do and they take it very seriously.

People who put a vest on their dogs because they want to take them everywhere….shame on them.  People who do this are ruining the public perception of what an actual service dog is and does.

A true service dog does not sit on a seat at the table getting fed, they do not pull on the leash to say hi to people in public, they ignore other dogs and people, and they are not to be petted while working. PERIOD, end of story.

There also tends to be a lot of confusion between a service dog, a therapy dog, and an emotional support dog.  Here are the definitions:

Service Dog:  A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Therapy Dog:  A therapy dog is defined as a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament.

Emotional Support Dog:  An emotional support animal is an animal (typically a dog or cat though this can include other species) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship.  They do not have the same rights as a service dog under ADA rules.

All three have very important roles, BUT those roles are very different and should not be taken advantage of.

The reality is, most dogs are not cut out to be service dogs, heck most are not fit for therapy dogs either.   The training it takes to get to this level is considerable and must be done right to ensure that your dogs had the coping mechanisms and knowledge on how to behave in public.  Yes, this is a thing!

If want to explore these options and what each of these means for your situation and what best fits your family, let’s talk.

Don’t just slap a vest on your dog and fake it.  You are putting your dog at risk, the public at risk, and you will contribute to ruining public access to those who truly need it with their trained service dogs.



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