Now in its 10th year, National Service Dog Month highlights the dedication and sacrifice of the amazing animals that help people with varying degrees of disability achieve as much independence as possible. Dick Van Patten, an animal advocate, actor, and founder of a pet food line, originally established the awareness campaign in September 2008 with the name National Guide Dog Month. In addition to highlighting these amazing dogs, Van Patten started the campaign to benefits schools across the country that train service dogs.
What Do Service Dogs Do?
Most people are familiar with service dogs for the blind and visually impaired. These dogs lead people with limited or no vision as they go about their daily activities. Other common activities of service dogs include alerting the deaf or hard of hearing to important sounds in their environment and retrieving dropped items for those with unsteady hands due to a disability. However, these are far from the only people who could benefit from having a service dog. They also act in the following capacities:
- Wheelchair assistance
- Allergy alert
- Seizure alert, assistance, and response
- Autism assistance
- Mobility and brace support
- Support for post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric issues
- Diabetic alert
- Medical alert, assistance, and response
- Emergency medical response
- General guide dogs
While German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers are the most popular breeds of service dog, any dog with the right temperament, physical stamina, body structure, and health can undergo training to work as a service dog.
What Types of Training Do Service Dogs Receive?
According to Assistance Dogs International, a dog entering training to work with a disabled individual must complete four basic areas of training. These include obedience, manners, public access skills, and training for specific tasks. The total training time usually spans from 18 to 24 months, and dogs must complete a minimum of 120 hours of training in each area before receiving certification. Training is most effective when the service dog starts it as a puppy.
Once a dog receives a human partner, he or she must continue to exhibit excellent manners and behavior in public. While a disabled individual has the legal right to have a service dog in places of business open to the public, business owners also have the right not to have their day-to-day operations disrupted by an unruly dog. If the dog doesn’t appear up to the task of providing service for the handler, he or she may require additional training or dismissal as a service dog. Handlers can also apply for a new service dog upon the death or disability of their current dog.
We’re Here to Serve All Pets
The staff at Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo has great respect for service dogs as well as their trainers and handlers. Whether you share your life with a service dog or a companion animal, we’re here to help keep your pet happy and healthy. Please schedule an appointment for specific concerns and be sure to visit us at least once a year for a preventive care exam.
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