Service dogs are some of the most helpful working animals around today, and their presence often attracts a lot of questions and attention, though you can’t necessarily show it.
If you’ve ever encountered a service dog out and about in public and you are wondering about these amazing working animals, our article is for you. Below, we give you some of the most interesting fun facts about service dogs so you can be totally informed when it comes to these dedicated working pups.
What Are Service Dogs?
Service dogs are working animals that are known for their extensive training and the assistance they lend to individuals with disabilities. Service dogs are trained to help relieve specific symptoms of disabilities and perform certain tasks for their owners that make daily life more comfortable.
With the help of a service dog, many individuals are able to gain a sense of confidence and safety as they progress through their daily tasks.
Things to Know About Service Dogs
The following fun facts about service dogs are essential to know as you start researching these wonderfully helpful pups.
Service Dogs Have Been Around Since the Civil War
The history of service dogs is extensive, and while dogs have long been used by humans to assist with activities such as hunting, they rose to a prominent spot in the Civil War. Here, they accompanied their humans into battle, provided companionships to soldiers in camp, and helped soothe and guide soldiers as needed.
Granted, Civil War service dogs were less intensively trained compared to today’s service dogs, but their presence on the battlefield and alongside their soldiers provided great comfort and peace of mind to many.
The First Guide Dog School Was Established in 1916
As the First World War drew to a close, more and more individuals found themselves in need of a guide dog due to injuries and contact with mustard gas sustained during the war.
In 1916, the first guide and service dog school was opened in Germany by Dr. Gerhard Stalling after he noticed his dog watching and taking care of a blind patient he had momentarily left alone. By 1929, the first guide dog school in America, The Seeing Eye, was established in Nashville, TN.
Service Dogs Come in All Breeds and Sizes
Though many individuals think of larger breeds like Golden retrievers and German shepherds as guide dogs, the truth is that service dogs can come in all breeds and sizes.
Larger breeds might be suited for more mobility and guide-related assistance tasks, but smaller breeds can provide help when it comes to tasks like medical alerts and psychiatric service dog tasks. As long as the service dog being trained has the right temperament and is eager to learn, they can succeed as a service dog.
Service Dogs Are Protected by the ADA
Service dogs are protected by both state and federal laws. One of the most prominent federal laws that protects service dogs and the rights of their owners to take them into public is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Passed in 1990, the ADA was the first formal recognition of service dogs and their essential nature for many individuals with disabilities.
Service Dogs Are Trained in Many Tasks
The tasks that service dogs perform are varied, and there are many different tasks that you may see a service dog perform. In most cases, service dog tasks are tailored to the specific disability that the individual is utilizing a service dog to help with.
Examples of tasks that service dogs perform include retrieving medicine and water, turning lights off and on, closing and opening doors and cabinets, interrupting self-harming behavior, and detecting the onset of medical issues like seizures and low blood pressure.
Service Dogs Aren’t Required to Wear a Vest
Though many service dogs you see in public are identified by a vest or marked leash that informs the public they are a service dog, this is not actually required. It is not listed in the ADA or any other legislature as something owners must do when in public with their service dogs.
Identifying a service dog via a vest or another item in public is optional, but many individuals do this to ensure that others know their dog is working and to treat their service dog appropriately.
You Don’t Need Certification for a Service Dog
The ADA doesn’t require that service dogs complete a certain training program or obtain any kind of certification that proves they are a service dog. Individuals may even train their own service dogs if this fits their needs.
The only thing that is required for an animal to be considered a service dog is that they are trained to complete a specific task that directly relates to an individual’s disability.
Service Dogs Take Years to Train
Service dogs take years to fully train, and most service dog training organizations start this process when the dogs are puppies. As the dog grows, they learn more advanced techniques.
Most service dog training organizations will require that the individual adopting the service dog completes the last months of training with the dog. This enables the dog and their handler to start becoming bonded as they start their journey together.
Service Dogs Can Be Expensive
Because of the extensive training required and the fact that service dogs are typically purebred dogs, it can be expensive to add one of these companions to your care plan.
Fully trained service dogs tend to cost between $15,000 and $50,000 depending on training needs, but financial assistance or insurance is sometimes able to cover part of the cost. Alternatively, you could also train your own service dog to complete the tasks you need.
Support Dogs Aren’t Service Dogs
If a dog is providing therapy such as deep pressure therapy or working to calm an emotional outburst or other disability-related symptoms, they are a service dog. If you have a dog that provides comfort and support and is not trained to relieve or counteract symptoms of a disability, they are considered an emotional support animal (ESA).
ESAs don’t have the same level of public protections that service dogs do. However, they can be helpful in providing companionship and comfort to individuals with certain mental health conditions or disabilities.
After reading all these interesting fun facts about service dogs, you may be considering adding one of these helpful working pups to your treatment plan as needed.
The first step in obtaining a service dog is speaking with your doctor, therapist, or other medical professional about this and ensuring that you are a suitable candidate for a service dog. Then, you can start looking into adopting a fully trained service dog or training your own dog to complete service-related tasks that help you with your daily routine.