Can Your Dog Be a Service Dog?

black german shepherd

You can’t argue the incredible value and assistance that service dogs lend to people in need! Service dogs are capable of helping people with everyday tasks that they couldn’t otherwise accomplish, giving them increased independence. Service dogs can also help to support people emotionally, acting as a physical barrier in crowds to help keep their owners from getting overwhelmed, or using their own bodies to help calm down their owners.

Maybe you have a reason to want a service dog of your own. If you already own a dog, it seems only logical to try to make him into a service dog. But is this practical? Let’s take a look at what you need to know about service dogs.

Selection of a Service Dog

The dogs who begin training to become service dogs are specially selected for the job. Service dogs need to be able to work safely in public. They can’t react aggressively or fearfully to people or other animals, they have to be incredibly obedient, be focused, and they need to be intelligent. Because service dogs need to possess such a specific set of characteristics, they are specially bred for the job. A few dogs may be selected out of each litter to enter training, and very few dogs graduate the training to become service dogs.

Training of a Service Dog

The training of a service dog is a long and intensive process. Service dogs need to be taught the specific skills for the type of assistance that they will be providing. Training is typically performed by a professional dog trainer who focuses in training service dogs. The cost of training alone can be significant, due to the number of hours that go into training a service dog.

Toward the end of the dog’s training, he will be introduced to his new owner and the pair will be trained together. Both dog and owner need to learn how to work with each other, both at home and in public. Professional training can be key to a service dog’s success.

New Approaches

There is a growing practice in which dogs who have never undergone true service dog training are being designated service dogs. Some dog owners have begun purchasing service dog equipment – a vest, badge, and “certificate” – online for their own dogs. The reasons for this approach are varied – some owners feel that they need a service dog yet can’t afford to buy a professionally trained dog, while others see the service dog designation as a way to bring their dog into any public space.

Unfortunately there is a major flaw to this approach. Dogs who are not true service dogs may react poorly in public situations. Behaviors like barking and jumping up on people can not only put people in danger, but they give all service dogs a bad name. This practice has the potential to cause long-term issues for people who have real, professionally trained service dogs.

If you feel that you need a service dog, talk with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to provide you with resources for finding a service dog who is just right to help you with your needs.

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