Several people have neurological or physical limitations that can prevent them from living life to the fullest. If you're in this group, you may be qualified for a service dog. You do not have to add another dog to your family. Your German Shepherd or any other dog who has already been a part of your family for years can be trained to help you. This article will explain how to register your dog as a service dog.
What type of responsibilities does a service dog have?
A service dog is trained to perform specific tasks for the disabled community, such as opening doors, guiding the person through busy traffic, and retrieving items. While not everyone has a disability that will allow them to use their current pet as a Service Dog, some might. Sometimes your dog's size may make it difficult for them to perform specific tasks. For example, a Chihuahua is too small to help if you need a dog for physical stability, but a German Shepherd could provide help in that situation. However, a Chihuahua or another small breed dog can just as quickly alert you before a panic attack starts, as well as retrieving small items for you.
What human health conditions meet the requirements for a service dog?
Dogs can be trained to help humans with some of the disabilities that technological advances have been unable to address. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that an individual with a disability is a person with a physical or neurological impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Several physical disabilities, such as blindness, arthritis, and seizures, can make a person qualified for a Service Dog. Others include but are not limited to:
MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
Sensory disabilities and motor issues are not the only human health conditions that can allow you to meet a service dog's requirements. Several neurological disabilities can make you eligible, such as:
Substance abuse disorders
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Your GSD can be trained to help you in several ways if you fall into this category. They can learn how to distract and diffuse you from a panic attack, depression, and mood swings. If you are prone to self-harm, your Service Dog can rub, nuzzle or lick you if they detect that you are unwell. They can even instigate play or provide deep pressure therapy by lying on your chest to calm you during a panic attack.
Your Service Dog can remind you to take prescribed medications, making it easier for you to take several pills on time throughout the day, especially as an older handler. Your pet can be trained to use a dog-friendly phone and will call a support person or suicide hotline through a programmed number when necessary. If their person suffers from anxiety, a Service Dog can form a barrier between them and a crowd, helping them navigate it.
What is the process for getting my dog to become a certified Service Dog?
The process of getting your dog to become certified can be summarized
in these steps:
Do a temperament check
Have your dog trained
Pass a public access test
Register your dog
Practice with your dog
A temperament check must be done to ensure that your dog is the right fit for this type of job. Otherwise, your dog will be unlikely to pass their public access test, which requires them to be self-controlled even around novel sights and sounds. They must behave well in public settings, respond to your commands and learn commands well. Training will cover tasks that are specifically related to your disability. For example, if you are in a wheelchair, they can be trained to open doors for you. You can opt to train your dog yourself via several available programs or have them trained externally.
You can register your pet on Service Dog certifications. This is not a requirement, and you can choose to do so only if you decide that it is necessary. For example, some people may want their dog to have the training to receive assistance but don't necessarily plan to travel a lot with their dog. If you want to ensure that your dog can be readily identified, having a Service Dog identification card with you will help you to avoid conflicts in restaurants, hotels, and government buildings.
Is there a difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog?
There is a distinct difference between emotional support dogs and Service Dogs. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an emotional support dog is not considered a Service Dog, so they will not have the same freedom of movement as a Service Dog. There are some places where your Service Dog must be allowed to go, by law, but an emotional support dog cannot enter those spaces. Emotional support dogs typically require only a letter of diagnosis from the owner's doctor, and these dogs have limited legal rights.
An emotional support dog is trained for a specific owner, but they are not trained for specific duties. Emotional support dogs are thought of as essential companion animals for people who have a psychological disorder. They can ease anxiety, some phobias, and depression, but they cannot perform specific tasks to assist patients with these disorders.
Are some breeds better than others?
Al dogs have different skillsets and strengths, so no particular breed is better than another. Whether your dog is a German Shepherd, Poodle, or Pomeranian, the most important thing is that they are trainable, kind, and ready to work.
Unfortunately, if your dog sheds a lot and drools most of the time, it may mean that they may not be able to work as your service dog. If your dog has many other great qualities, that's not usually a deal-breaker, and they may still make a kind, loving Service Dog. It really depends on the depth of need you have.
Dogs that are ideal as psychiatric Service Dogs are generally different from those that help as physical Service Dogs, but some breeds are suited to both tasks. Golden and Labrador Retrievers are often found assisting people as Service Dogs since they are friendly and loving. They get along well with people and all types of other animals, and they handle both physical and emotional tasks well. They love to handle responsibilities and can hold things gently with their teeth or lead their handlers around inside their home.
Does dog age matter?
If you have a dog with you for several years but have recently developed a disability, you may wonder if that dog is too old to be trained as a Service Dog. The answer is that there are no restrictions regarding dog age or breed.
Your dog should be past the puppy stage, so it should be at least six months of age. If your dog is in his senior years and suffers from a chronic illness, such as arthritis, he may not be able to help you. A visit to the veterinarian will help you to be alert to any conditions, such as diabetes, which can impair your pet's ability to work effectively as a Service Dog.
Your male dog should not be aggressive, and neutering can help with this so that they can focus on the job. While dogs such as your female German Shepherd are trainable and loyal, being in heat can distract them slightly, and they may miss signs of illness in you that they would otherwise have detected.
Will insurance cover service dog training?
Your insurance will not cover Service Dog training. If you decide to purchase a trained Service Dog, your insurance also will not cover it. However, Service Dog expenses can be deducted from your taxes, and there are several other ways you can defray costs.
Where might you be required to provide proof of dog certification?
Your condo may require you to provide proof that your pet is a trained Service Dog. If you wish to enter some hotels, restaurants, and aircraft with your pet, you may also be required to show their certification. Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, a Service Dog should be allowed to live with its handler in a no-pets area without paying any additional fees.
The Air Carrier Access Act permits a Service Dog to fly for free. Your Service Dog should also be able to accompany you into a business place. Malls, restaurants, and hospitals are all included as places where your Service Dog can move freely under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
How to know a good service dog certification program from a bad one?
A good service dog program will have extensive experience in training dogs to help with your type of disability. They may provide in-person, group, and virtual one-on-one training. Most of their courses will last at least five weeks and are focused on specific areas, such as Medic Alert responsiveness. They are encouraging, knowledgeable, friendly, and patient with both you and your dog.
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