Tru here. This posting is just some very basic Service Dog information; an introduction to the subject.
Above pictures start with Hero’s earliest training; learning to pull a cart. Hero’s next step (but often FIRST step) was training and certification for Canine Good Citizen (CGC), which shows you have made an effort to train your dog to be safe around other dogs and people. Link is at bottom of page. Minimum training standards for public access according to International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (www.iaadp.org) is in this link, along with recommendations for difference between terms “in-training” and “trained”.
IAADP and Assistance Dogs International (ADI) work cooperatively. ADI (www.assistancedogsinternational.org) says, “A well-trained Service Dog should be trained 1 to 2 hours per day over 6 months – in other words 180 to 360 hours.” Those are considered minimum standards.
Service Dog handlers must be prepared for plenty of people contact within as little as two minutes time. Photos below were taken (literally) two minutes apart at restaurant.
Much more intense in busy places like airport. So be prepared!! (This was shaortly after I shaved my head the first time; that was a beaded cap on my head and I was a bit self-conscious.)
This reaction from people is a huge difference from when I needed to use wheelchair without Service Dog. It did not happen often, but a couple times Hero or Blessing were ill and I was without Service Dog. It was not terribly unusual to hear parent say to child, “Do not look at her – it will embarrass her”. The general attitude was that they did not know what to say, so they avoided even looking at me (and taught their children to do the same). Completely the opposite with a Service Dog as assistant.
Notice the traffic-stopping color of Hero’s vest. That is because even as large as he was, people somehow would not see him & run into us with grocery carts, and at other crowded places. There was extra concern in parking lots also. People did not expect to see a dog so magically Hero was somehow invisible!
Service dog’s safety is the handler’s responsibility, so we must always be thinking ahead and noticing questionable things in our environment. Especially aggressive dogs; the newfoundland is not an aggressive breed at all, and again … service dog’s safety is handler’s responsibility.
In 2001 Hero was attacked when pulling me. Husband stepped between & was bitten, then he needed to take the rabies series of injections because they immediately left with the dog that attacked. Meanwhile I was a wreck – my body reacted like I myself had been attacked and I have never in my life been so very frightened — and so very angry. Hero ignored it and he was fine. In contrast, my second Service Dog, Blessing and I were attacked on the sidewalk by two dogs who jumped out of the back of an open pickup at stop light (in 2008??). My husband was not there. Blessing pulled them away from me on the sidewalk, but my wheelchair and I ended up on our side in the road. She never completely recovered emotionally from this attack, and never returned to optimal performance. She became hyper-vigilant with tendency for over-protection, which cannot exist in a Service Dog. An attack like that can easily lead to permanent disAbility for function as a Service Dog.
This factor of constant vigilance and thinking one step ahead of events is a major reason why unless I had a constant care-partner/coach willing and available to be watching, as a dementia patient I no longer feel capable of Service Dog responsibilities. That plus I cannot remember where the dog is; in or out. Can’t remember whether dog has gone potty. Whether dog has eaten, and other needs.
” Service Dog” in comparison to “Therapy Dog” requirements and Access issues:
After Hero retired as a Service Dog due to joint issues, he functioned wonderfully as a Therapy Dog at facilities. He seemed to know which patients needed his attention and he just quietly kept them company. No lunging or sharp movements. Just those eyes that felt like they looked into your soul & understood. I miss him so very much!
In USA, there can be a huge difference between Therapy Dog and Service Dog. Therapy Dog can be used in a facility or in a counseling office, etc. Or Therapy Dog can be a personal dog for the “Therapy” of one person; their handler. If someone’s dis-Ability (or dis-Abilities) can be mitigated (reduced) by mere existence of this dog, then the dog is classed as a Therapy Dog. Maybe the need to care for dog pushes the disabled person to get out of bed and get moving. Maybe the companionship of the dog meets emotional needs that otherwise would increase the effects of their disAbility. That is a Therapy Dog. With prescription from physician stating need for Therapy Dog, Housing and apartments must allow the Therapy Dog to live in the building. However, restaurants, grocery stores and other public places of business have no responsibility to accept the presence of a Therapy Dog.
In contrast, in USA if the dog is trained in tasks that will mitigate (reduce) effect of a disAbility, then the dog is considered a Service Dog. As long as the dog is clean, disease-free, and in control by the handler, then a Service Dog has un-restricted access to any public location, without extra fee to the handler. Places of business may not ask what our dis-Ability is, but may ask what tasks the dog has been trained to do that will “mitigate” dis-Ability of handler. Tasks are a very big deal in Service Dog world, and if considering a Service Dog, first priority is to decide which Service Dog TASKS will mitigate your personal dis-Abilities.
I always carried ADA “Business Brief” with me, for distribution at places of business. Another common misunderstanding is for businesses to ask for the Service Dog Certificate. USA has no nationally-recognized certification process for Service Dogs. Because of this we can self-train or hire someone to train our Service Dog (but then we must keep up the training standards). However, the “pet” license which Animal Control issues for dogs who are said to be a Service Dog, are no charge and state “Service Dog” on the license page. Copy that page & keep copy of that as well as ADA Business Brief with you at all times. There is a bit of conflict in Service Dog world over whether dog should be allowed to work “incognito” (without tag, halter, or jacket showing identity as Service Dog). When I represented Service Dog handlers at County level, this was my suggestion for identification tag, but I don’t think many counties have an ID tag, even now.
If I recall, Airlines have separate rules & for them you must also have doctor prescription. Also be prepared that since 9-11 police dogs have been around a lot in airports, and they seem to be allowed to growl at Service Dogs with … (forget the word and no substitute comes to mind) … but if our Service Dog growls in reply, then our Service Dog status is immediately questioned. Make sure your Service Dog is prepared to respond appropriately!!
I believe that every creature needs time “off work”. With Hero’s wonderful work ethic, time off was a specially-necessary issue for him. Our suggestion is to make sure dog’s harness is removed periodically and they are clearly encouraged to understand they are NOT responsible for their patient during that time. If Hero went too long without his time off, it became very wearing on him, and his stamina and enthusiasm for his job fell below his usual high standards.
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Here are some other Service Dog links:
PS: Again today, I forgot it was Monday and blog needed posted for “Truthful Tuesday”, so 7pm I remembered, so now it is almost 1am on Tuesday. Will post as-is and hope to revise later. If not, maybe will continue with Part 3 next Tuesday.
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Thank you, Tru. I acknowledge the work and research that it took to share this information with all of us!
Wishing you well and expressing gratefulness to you!
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Thanks for writing and sharing this Tru. It has answered some questions that I had. In regards to how people tend to flock to a person when they have a service dog – this can be bad for a person with dementia, PTSD, or other issue that may cause them to become agitated or confused. Bob Taylor at Dog Wish gave an example of how the dogs he trains are able to detect this change in emotions from the handler. The dog will then lead the person away from the situation which is causing the symptoms. That’s amazing to me.
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