Service dogs play an important role in the lives of people living with disabilities. More than simply pets, they act as physical extensions of their disabled master. If you’ve seen dogs wearing service dog vests and thought to yourself that you or a loved one could probably use the aid of a service dog, here are some facts you should know about them in advance.
1. Service Dogs Perform Tasks
Service dogs are often confused with emotional support animals. Emotional support animals (or ESAs) provide comfort to people diagnosed with anxiety or mental illness, but they aren’t trained to perform duties for the patient. Service dogs, on the other hand, are defined by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) as dogs that are specially trained to perform duties and tasks for a person with a disability. They can act as the eyes for a blind person, ears for a deaf person, or they can open doors and pick up things for people in wheelchairs, for example.
2. The Training Is Extensive
The training that’s required for a service dog is unlike any other. Starting as puppies as young as 2 days old, they’re initially trained via neuromuscular stimulation exercises enabling them to thrive in dealing with stressful situations and performing specialized tasks.
3. The Domain of the Golden Retriever
Technically, any kind of breed can be a service dog. Golden retrievers, however, are considered the most adept. Goldens love to use their mouths, so they’re easy to train to perform several kinds of tasks. Also, people have positive impressions of golden retrievers, so they’re more suitable to working in the public space amid other people. Pit bulls, for instance, are often viewed negatively and are at a disadvantage.
4. Dog Vests Are Optional
The ADA doesn’t require service dogs to wear vests. While they must be leashed or tethered (unless it interferes with their duties), they’re not required to wear anything else. It’s often advisable, however, to buy a service dog vestif only because people will be less likely to interfere with your service dog while they’re performing their duties.
5. Service Dogs Are a Commitment
People living with disabilities already have to deal with additional obstacles, so it might be tempting to do without a service dog. The extra effort that comes with taking care of a service dog, however, is far outweighed by all the benefits they provide.
If you or someone you care about would benefit from having a service dog, be sure to buy a service dog vest that is appropriate for the duties they are to perform.