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September is National Service Dog Month

September is National Service Dog Month

Next month is National Service Dog Month, a time to celebrate all guide and service dogs! According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are specially trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. So, that means although we may love these furry partners, they are not considered pets!

While these highly-skilled dogs are most known for working with clients with visual impairment, they can also specialize in working with several other conditions. These include PTSD, psychological disorders, autism, mobility and hearing impairment, diabetes detection, and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs).

Service Dogs for Mobility Assistance

Mobility support dogs are typically partnered with people who have conditions like muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, have difficulty walking or standing, or are in a wheelchair.

These dogs are incredibly helpful for people who use a wheelchair or have trouble standing or walking on their own. They can perform tasks like bracing for a fall, retrieving dropped items, carrying items, helping people get up, and even pulling a wheelchair. This assistance can help people increase their independence and confidence.

Because of the nature of their work, these dogs are typically large. They need to be able to support the weight of their owner and often wear specially-fitted harnesses to help them complete their tasks. Breeds such as labradors and golden retrievers are typically chosen for the job.

Service Dogs for Autism

Service dogs are extremely beneficial in providing calming assistance for people with autism. They can keep the owner calm with pressure therapy, alert parents to a meltdown, and help their handlers stay focused.

While these dogs are great for adults and children alike, autism service dogs are frequently paired with children. They are trained to help kids navigate social settings, providing the perfect ice breaker to connect with peers. Their predictability and comfort, as well as judgment-free love and companionship, can help children improve communication skills and control their emotions.

Rights

The ADA protects service dogs to ensure they have full public access rights, meaning they can go to many places in which animals are typically restricted from entering. They can go into restaurants and stores, live in any housing, and travel on airplanes. The main condition of this law is that the dog must behave in accordance with service dog policy. This means they cannot display any aggressive behavior or bark excessively. The only places that are legally allowed to deny entrance to service dogs are places of worship and military installations.

Physical Benefits

The lives of people living with disabilities can drastically improve with a service dog. Besides helping with basic motor functions such as standing, walking, and sitting, they can also perform household actions like turning on the lights or grabbing a bottle of water out of the fridge.

For people who have limited mobility or are in a wheelchair, service dogs can provide even more mobility support. The dog can help people switch from their wheelchairs to bed, press elevator buttons, and even pay a cashier at the store. They can even help you keep your balance, prevent you from falling, or help you carry items you may not be able to hold. When mobility impairment hinders your day-to-day life, a service dog is a great partner.

Emotional Benefits

While physical benefits are the most obvious way a service dog can help a person with a disability, there are also emotional benefits:

  • Increased Social Confidence: A service dog can empower you to become more active in social situations. With your companion by your side, you may feel more comfortable conversing with strangers or initiating positive social interactions.
  • Companionship: A dog is man’s best friend, but a service dog is always there when you need them. It’s easy to feel isolated or frustrated when your disability makes daily tasks difficult, but a dog can help you combat that loneliness.\
  • Increased Independence: When you have your dog with you, you can rely less on your loved ones to help you with tasks. The toll of asking for help is lifted when you can transfer those needs to your dog.

Breeds

Some dog breeds are better than others when it comes to being a service dog. In general, you should look for a dog with a desire to be active, a calm demeanor, high intelligence to learn the tricks, and a friendly disposition.

Some of the best dog breeds for service dogs include:

  • Labrador
  • Golden Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Poodle
  • Border Collie

Finding a Dog

​​There are many resources for finding a service dog, and many ways to get your own pet certified. ASPCA, Humane Society, and even local trainers can help you find the perfect fit.

We hope you have a happy National Service Dog Month this September!

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