Service dogs are amazing animals who save the lives of disabled people every day. Here at The Major Barkana, we’re passionate about raising awareness and fundraising for these pups! We’ll be getting our own service dog prospect around January 2019, so we know firsthand how life-changing they are. Enjoy these awesome facts, and feel free to spread the info on!
Service dogs can assist people with a huge variety of disabilities. People with psychiatric conditions (PTSD, depression, anxiety, dissociative disorders, etc), diabetes, heart conditions, mobility disorders, and more can benefit from service dogs.
Service dogs are not trained to provide comfort. All dogs do this, but a service dog is made by the tasks they perform—and emotional support is not a task.
Businesses have the right to ask service dog handlers two questions: “Is your dog trained to assist you with a disability?” “What tasks does your dog perform?”
There is no legally required registration for service dogs. The individual only needs to be disabled and have their dog task trained to assist them with that disability.
Service dogs aren’t for every disabled person. They work best in individuals that have the capacity to care for a dog, but need the additional support of a living and responsive creature.
Service dogs are capable of alerting to amazing things! They can notice drops in blood pressure, signs a seizure will happen soon, PTSD flashbacks, alter switches, and many other events.
Service dogs are permitted access wherever the public can go, with the exclusion of religious centers like churches or temples.
Businesses have rights with service animals too! If a dog is actively threatening, disturbing, or making a mess of a business the handler can be told to leave. But, perceived threats (i.e. our customers are scared of pitbulls) don’t count. Tasks that make noise are also excluded.
Currently, only dogs and miniature horses are permitted as service animals (as recognized by the federal government, although some states may allow more types).
Service dogs can be any breed, and they are also exempt from breed restrictions. Chihuahuas, pit bulls, great danes, your classic lab and more can be amazing SDs.
Service dogs are not required to have all four paws on the floor. They can be by a handlers fact or on their lap, if it’s necessary for a task (i.e. deep pressure therapy or blood sugar alert).
It takes around 600 hours, or two years, to fully train a service dog. Because of the extensive behavioral and task requirements, most service dogs take a minimum of two years to train from puppyhood. This also allows for the dog to properly mature and tasks to be fully proofed.
Service dogs can cost upwards of $35,000! The cost varies widely depending on training paths, but the average program dog costs between $25,000-$35,000 to train. Owner trained dogs can cost as little as $1000, but the average is between $10-15,000.
Service dogs don’t need to come from a program. Program dogs are amazing, but often out of the budgets or needs of many disabled people. So, it’s legal to train your own service dog—with or without professional help. This is called “owner training.”
There are over 100 tasks service dogs can be trained to perform. Tasks aren’t basic obedience—those are specific skills that assist their disabled handler. Like medical alerts, deep pressure therapy, or mobility work!
Service animals are required to be under control of their handler at all times. This often means being on a short leash, but not always (like if it interferes with the task or needs of a disability)! It also means no excessive barking in quiet places, no threat/aggression to others, and that they must be housebroken.
Only 1 out of 100 rescue dogs have what it takes to be a service dog. Dogs are awesome, but finding the right temperament is a challenge! The current stats are the at 1/100 rescue dogs have the right temperament. 8/10 selected from an ethical breeder have success becoming service dogs. Worth considering if you’re going to invest two years and lots of money into training a dog! (P.S. There are lots of rescue dogs that become successful SDs! This is just to demonstrate how rare the temperaments are and what resources may benefit new handlers and owner trainers.)
Service dogs aren’t always perfect. Dogs are living creatures and, although they are legally medical equipment, they can have off days (unlike a cane or wheelchair). Don’t assume someone is faking their SD or SD in training if there’s a bit of a disruption or accident. (The dogs can get sick sometimes too!)
Some tasks can seem “out of control,” but they’re not! A service dog can perform tasks (actions to mitigate their handler’s disability) that seem disruptive, but they are totally allowed. This might involve jumping on their handler, climbing onto them, pinning them down, a bark alert, or more.
Service dogs aren’t just labs, golden retrievers, or poodles. In fact, any breed can be a service dog—all the way from a Chihuahua to Great Dane, and mutts often make great dogs too!
Miniature horses can be service animals, too. They still need to be housebroken, task trained, and not create any safety issue for an institution. They’re a great alternative for people who cannot have dogs, like for religious, allergen, or other reasons!
Small and large breeds can be service dogs. Breed size can play an important part in mitigating an individual’s disability! For instance, a small dog that can be held is perfect for being against the chest for blood sugar alerts. A large breed is great for heavy mobility work, like pulling a wheelchair or bracing.
It’s not considered ethical to work a disabled dog. Although it isn’t technically illegal, most handlers choose not to work a dog that’s disabled. Service dogs do a lot of hard work every day, so having optimum health is important. Handlers care lots about their dogs and want them to have an easy time working!
Service dogs must be under control of their handlers. This doesn’t always mean on a short leash, but rather that the dog can be controlled through voice, hand signals, or other means. It also means they can’t lunge at other dogs, ignore commands, or create any issue of safety or threat to others.
There is no registration for service dogs. Under the ADA, there is no required registration or ID for service dogs! They also aren’t required to have any sort of identification vest, leash, or other item. (And those “service dog registration” sites are a scam, the documents won’t hold up in court.)
Service dogs must do at least one task to mitigate their handlers disability. Basically, they have to do more than just provide emotional support! There must be at least one trained task specifically used to help the disabled handler. Most dogs are trained for a dozen or more tasks, but only one is required.
Service dogs must meet health codes and cleanliness standards. The dog is required to be well groomed, maintained, and with minimal odor. This helps prevent allergic reactions in others and keep no-pet institutions clean.
Service dogs are allowed basically anywhere the public can go. If it’s open to the public, it’s pretty much always allowed to have a service dog. There are a few small exemptions (talked about in other fact cards), but this is a good general rule of thumb.
Service dogs are allowed in hospitals and other medical centers. They are permitted anywhere there isn’t a sterile environment. If you can wear your street clothes, the dog can come with! So, they’re allowed in blood draws, but excluded from burn units and operating rooms, for instance.
Service dogs are allowed in food establishments. Restaurants and other food venues must allowed service dogs. They are excluded from restaurant kitchens due to health codes, in most cases, though! Main dining areas must permit them.
Some private establishments can make their own rules about service dogs. The ADA doesn’t cover churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other religious establishments or subsidiaries of religious groups. Private permission to bring a service dog is required (or the service dog may be removed).
Blood sugar levels can be detected by service dogs. Diabetic alert dogs are a common type and they can smell low or high blood sugar levels! This can help prevent handlers from ending up in comas or worse, especially when asleep or otherwise unable to check their own blood sugar.
Psychiatric alerts are a type of task service dogs can perform. Service dogs can be trained to alert, sometimes way ahead of time, to an upcoming anxiety attack, flashback, or dissociative episode. Some have even reported their dogs alerting to alter switches or hallucination episodes.
Seizure alert dogs are a thing! Handlers share that their seizure alert dogs can let them know one is coming anywhere from a few hours to a few minutes before an episode. New research is showing that seizure alert can be trained by scent, too!
Service dogs listen to your heart—and alert to issues! Dogs do more than just fill our hearts with joy. They can alert to cardiac episodes and, if their handler passes out, they can even lift their legs or call emergency services on a doggie phone.