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Becoming a Service Dog: Training and Temperament Are Key Factors

service dog factors

Breeds That Make Good Service Dogs

Many breeds are well-suited to working as service dogs, including:

  • Labrador retrievers
  • Golden retrievers
  • Shelties
  • Newfoundlands
  • Terriers
  • Poodles
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Lhasa apsos
  • Collies
  • Mixed breeds

A dog's temperament and the type of work it will perform are more important than the breed. It's also crucial to consider the breed's average lifespan. Dogs that have longer lifespans are obviously a better choice. In addition to the emotional toll involved with a dog's death, training dogs with short lifespans means that a disabled person must adjust to working with a new dog multiple times throughout their lives.

A breed may not be a good choice if a disabled person will not be able to handle its care or if it was bred for hunting or herding, as those traits may make training more difficult. Breeds that can be aggressive or territorial usually are not recommended for service dog work.

Service dogs help thousands of disabled Americans become more independent. The first service dogs guided visually impaired people, but today, the dogs assist people who have a variety of disabilities, ranging from hearing loss to seizures to cerebral palsy. Before a dog can become a service animal, it must complete an extensive training program that includes several components.

Temperament Evaluation

Plenty of dogs that make good pets are not cut out to be service dogs. Dogs that are easily distracted, uncomfortable being approached or touched by strangers, or are aggressive are not good candidates. Evaluating a dog's temperament is the first step in determining if it will make a good service dog. These characteristics will help a dog become a successful service dog:

  • Calm temperament
  • Energetic
  • Doesn't react negatively if strangers pet him or her or if children pull on a tail or ear
  • Enjoys being with people
  • Anxious to please
  • Can focus on a task and ignore distractions

During temperament screening, dogs are exposed to a variety of noises. Since these dogs must be able to assist their owners during thunderstorms or in other noisy situations, it's important that they do not cower in fear when they hear a loud noise. Trainers also test the dog's reaction to pain, as owner's never know when the dog will be accidentally bumped or jostled in public. Dogs that will make good service dogs may yelp if hurt, but will not run away or attack the person responsible for causing pain.

Testers also evaluate how well prospective service dogs fetch. Although not all dogs will need to retrieve items for their owners, the test is also helpful in determining how easily a dog can be trained.

Training Begins

If a dog passes a temperament evaluation, training will begin. The training regimen varies depending on the type of tasks that the dog will perform. Service dogs provide a variety of services for their owners, including:

  • Pulling wheelchairs
  • Providing stability for people who are unsteady on their feet
  • Alerting diabetics when their blood sugar levels are dangerously low
  • Guiding visually impaired people
  • Retrieving items an owner cannot reach
  • Calming owners who experience post-traumatic stress problems

Trainers not only train dogs to perform specific tasks but also expose them to a variety of situations their owners might experience, such as taking public transportation, shopping, riding in elevators, and crossing busy streets.

How Do I Get a Service Dog?

Many people get their service dogs from organizations that train the dogs for a year or two before turning them over to their new owners. Others obtain dogs and then work with an organization that trains both them and their dogs. Some people even train their service dogs themselves, although this method is much more likely to be successful if you have had significant experience training dogs.

What Is the Difference Between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Animal?

Service dogs perform tasks that disabled people cannot perform themselves, while emotional support animals offer support and comfort to people who suffer from mental health or emotional conditions. Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals do not usually receive any special training.

Service dogs are considered medical equipment and can accompany their owners anywhere the public is normally allowed to go, according to the American with Disabilities Act. Emotional assistance animals are not given the same access under the law, although many businesses still allow owners to bring their animals with them.

Whether your dog is a service dog or a cherished pet, regular veterinary examinations are essential to its good health. Call us today to schedule a checkup for your pet.


Sources:

U.S. Department of Justice: Service Animals

https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

Service Dog Central: Frequently Asked Questions – Laws

http://servicedogcentral.org/content/faq/62

Paws Training Center: Service Dog Training

http://pawstrainingcenters.com/types-dog-training/service-dog-training/

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners: Finding a Suitable Candidate for Assistance Dog Work

http://www.iaadp.org/type.html

Assistance Dogs International: Dog Breeds & Behaviour

http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/faq-category/dog-breeds-behaviour/#what-breeds-of-dogs-make-good-service-dogs

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    I love Balboa Pet Hospital! Balboa Pet Hospital's staff is amazing! The staff is knowledgeable, caring and above all honest! I feel confident that my pets are getting the best possible care there. The staff has always taken time to answer all of my questions and if I think of something after my appointment, I can just email! I know I won’t have to wait too long for response.

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    LOVE everything about this place!!! The people are all super nice & caring. I never feel like they’re trying to sell me stuff I don’t need. The vets (especially Dr. Alice Chan) are wonderful, I always fee; comfortable coming here whenever Walle has an issue. They even help me file the insurance claims after each visit! Would highly recommended any pet owners to see them for their fur-baby needs.

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    My dog has been a regular patient since 7 years ago. Once in a while we visit other hospitals due to time conflicts. However, we always go back to Balboa Pet Hospital. My dog has bad allergy and the doctors and assistants always follow up with us after the treatments or visits, help us submit the insurance claims. It’s not a cheapest place to go but their patience and caring are irreplaceable.

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    I’m glad to have found Balboa Pet Hospital near my home. It’s definitely a hidden gem! Dr. Chan saw my dog, Oreo, for her skin problem last week, and my three cats, Pepper, Tofu and Cola, today for annual check-up. She’s very patient (especially with Oreo who’s shy to strangers), knowledgeable and approachable. The front staffs are also very friendly and helpful. They are so prompt to reply my email (within a few hours when I checked back my mailbox). All my pets are about 1-year-old and I’ll definitely bring them here for their health issues/checkup in many years followed.

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    Brought my dog here for a checkup and some minor concerns. Dr. Chan was very professional. She got my dog the treatment he needed and answered all my questions regarding my concerns. The rest of the staff were very friendly and gentle with my dog. You could tell that the staff are genuine animal lovers; definitely something you want when you entrust the health of your pet to someone.

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    San Francisco, CA

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