Have you ever seen a dog wearing a looking harness with the words “Service Dog” proudly blazoned across it? Or maybe you have thought about employing the services of one or training a service dog.
Dogs have been our friends and partners for ten of thousands of years, ever since the first domesticated dogs helped us hoo-mans hunt, guard, and protect.
That deep bond and partnership nurtured over centuries still hold true. Today, service dogs are frequently seen in our employment doing all kinds of superdog things, like sniffing out explosives and drugs, searching for the missing, helping the mobility impaired with their daily lives, and alerting us to medical conditions that we cannot hope to predict.
Needing extensive training and the perfect temperament, not all dogs can be service dogs. In this blog post, we’ll examine what a service dog does and what makes a good one.
What Does A Service Dog Do?
Mobility assisting service dogs perform a variety of tasks to assist their disabled handlers. The most common type of service dog is a guide dog, which helps people who are blind or have low vision.
These dogs are trained to navigate around obstacles and safely guide their handlers to their destination.
Other types of service dogs include hearing dogs, which alert their deaf or hard-of-hearing handlers to sounds; mobility assistance dogs, which help people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
Service dogs provide an invaluable service to their disabled handlers, and without them, many people would not be able to lead an independent life.
Medical alert dogs are trained to detect the onset of certain medical conditions, for example, changes in their handler’s blood sugar levels for someone with diabetes or an impending seizure.
A psychiatric assistance dog can provide companionship, love, and support to those in need. They are often used in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care facilities to brighten the days of patients and residents.
Studies have shown that dogs can also help people to recover from physical injuries more quickly. The simple act of petting a dog can help to lower blood pressure and heart rate, which can in turn speed up the healing process.
Psychiatric assistance dogs can also be helpful in schools, providing a calming presence for students who may be dealing with anxiety or stress.
In addition, psychiatric dogs can provide valuable assistance to people with mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety disorders.
By building relationships with these dogs, people can learn to develop trust, confidence, and self-esteem.
What Makes A Good Service Dog?
Calm – They do need to be able to handle a variety of situations and remain under control. Hyperactive dogs are definitely not suited for service dog work!
Their handlers must be able to trust them to behave appropriately in all kinds of environments.
Not easily distracted – A well-trained service dog must stay focused on the task at hand and cannot stray from its duties. It would be disastrous to have a guide dog take off after a squirrel!
Obedient – A good service dog is always attentive and responsive to its handler. A disobedient or defiant dog is going to make a very challenging service dog!
Physically capable – Mobility assistance dogs have to be large enough to perform tasks that their handler needs assistance with such as opening doors, retrieving items, providing balance support, and more.
Clean – Many service dogs are employed in hospitals and other sterile healthcare facilities. While service dogs don’t have to be hypoallergenic, a heavy-shedding, heavy drooling dog might not suit those environments.
Friendly – Psychiatric dogs provide emotional support to people who are going through difficult times. They need to be friendly and empathetic so that they can make people feel comfortable and loved.
Loves Attention – Many psychiatric assistance dogs will get an overwhelming amount of attention from love-struck patients. This is especially true when service dogs visit hospitals and help people recover. An ideal service dog will thrive under the attention, and not get impatient or moody.
If you’re considering a service dog, there are a few things to think about first. The most important decision is what kind of service dog will be best for your needs. There are guide dogs, hearing dogs, service dogs, and psychiatric service dogs.
Once you do, then it’s off to look for your new partner!