Service dogs assist people with disabilities. They are taught to fulfill various commands to make it easier for a person to handle the animal and receive the necessary help from it.
Distinctive characteristics of a service animal
The main distinction between service animals and regular pets is that these creatures are specially trained to help people with disabilities. Service animals are most often dogs that have undergone special training and can provide high-quality daily assistance to people with physical, intellectual, or psychological impairments. The average pet is often unable to provide physical assistance to its owner, but it is great as an emotional support animal.
It is also important to understand the contrast between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals. The first type of animal is certified helpers for people suffering from acute forms of mental and psychological disorders. For example, a psychiatric service dog is often prescribed as a companion for veterans with PTSD. Emotional support animals, in turn, act more like friends and partners for people suffering from loneliness and depression. They are not considered assistance animals.
Who needs the help of a service animal?
Service dogs help people with physical, sensory, mental, and psychiatric disabilities. Their often “patients” are people with visual and hearing impairments or people with mobility issues. For instance, a hearing dog gives signals to its owner in the presence of extraneous sounds. This can be a doorbell, an alarm clock, or when someone calls the owner by name. There are cases when such dogs save the lives of their owners by notifying them of a fire or smoke alarm.
A separate category of service animals helps their owners cope with serious psychiatric disorders. For example, veterans often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. This malady is often accompanied by panic attacks, repeated flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares, and other symptoms that make life difficult for a person. Animals help to alleviate and eventually overcome these symptoms so that their handler can enjoy every moment of life.
How to get a service dog?
If you have any kind of disability you may contact a professional service animal training center. There you will receive advice from experts and you will be selected an animal that will ideally meet your needs. Also, many of such centers provide special education courses for future dog owners, where you will learn how to handle an animal. The first acquaintance of the service dog with the future owner is also best done under the supervision of specialists.
After dog training, you’re required to register your service dog. One of such services is Service Dog Registrar MyServiceAnimal. There you can find all the necessary information about the features of different service animals and choose the one that you like most.
Functions performed by service dogs
All animals have a beneficial effect on the emotional and psychological state of their owners. They improve mood, give a feeling of calmness and joy. In most cases, the dog becomes a loyal companion who is ready to help its owner at any time. All these factors have a positive effect on human health.
Service dogs can perform a wide variety of different functions. This greatly facilitates the daily routine of their owners. For example, a service dog can open-and-shut doors, turn on lights, pick up and bring required items to the handler. Moreover, these creatures monitor the health condition of their handlers, remind them to take medicine on time, and are taught to provide first aid in the case of an emergency.
There are also specialized tasks for service dogs related to the needs of their owners. Guide dogs help their handlers to navigate and look for the necessary items. Mobility assistance dogs can pull a wheelchair or be a prop for a man while walking. Service dogs also assist humans with seizures, allergies and react to any negative changes in the handler’s health.
Features of a service dog training
A professional dog trainer begins to teach a puppy how to be a service dog quite early. In the early stages of a service dog education, the puppy is taught the basic principles of good behavior, which all animals must adhere to. A dog must not bite, bark, growl, or show aggression in any other way toward people and other animals. In addition, the animal should not spoil the property of its owner or other people. The dog is trained to be reliable, flexible, and obedient.
In the next stages of training, the dogs are taught basic commands. It is important to note that initially all dogs are trained in one command list and after meeting its future owner the animal learns new additional instructions to meet the disability-related needs of the handler.
The most essential commands
The list of basic commands for a service dog usually consists of about 30 items. All these commands are necessary so that the animal can bring maximum benefit to its owner. Some of the simplest commands are “sit”, “down” and “stand”. You can also use the command “heel” to make the animal take a position on your left side.
There are also more specific commands like “watch” if you want to draw the animal’s attention to something, or “watch me” to make eye contact with the dog. You can also train your service dog to fulfill such commands as “wait”, “go to bed”, “paws up”, “quiet” and many others. The ability of a service dog to execute specific commands depends on you and your needs.
The laws about service animal
The main law establishing the rights of people with disabilities and their service animals is ADA. According to this act, a service dog can live with the handler without an additional fee, travel with a man in a cabin, and has access to any public place where the handler of a dog goes. In addition, there are local laws that may give service dogs even more privileges. But remember that the freedoms of the service dog that the government establishes with the ADA cannot be unreasonably limited.