Let's talk about SERVICE DOGS, EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DOGS and THERAPY DOGS
Do you know the difference between all of the three working dogs listed above? This is probably one of the most unpopular topics for any dog breeder and trainer. And my somewhat pep talk a frustration. What are service dogs? This is a hard question as service dogs are trained for specific disabilities in order to perform the tasks that can help those individuals live without fear of anything getting in their way. There is no one overarching service dog, they are all different and these dogs are truly amazing and do some crazy things.
I cannot begin to count the number of a future working-dogs-to-be puppy inquiries and training requests I receive. Just to list a few:
“Can you guarantee your puppy would turn out to be a great service dog?”
“I need a service dog for my son, he is autistic. Are all your puppies good with children with disabilities?”
“Are your puppies certified service dogs?”
“Do you have online courses train my dog to be a service dog?”
“I need to make my dog a service dog so he can ride on the bus with me” (Yes, someone seriously asked me this)
“Do you certify service dogs?”
“I'm about to sign a lease but it has no pets policy. Can you certify that my dog is an emotional support pet?”
“I'm getting a puppy for my elderly parent, he recently became a widower and needs therapeutic company”
“Im a volunteer at the elderly residence and everyone loves my dog there when I bring her over to work. Can my dog be certified as a service dog?”
No - no - no - and more no.
Service dog training is completely different from pet dog training. It takes time and lots of effort (not to mention the financial aspect of it) to train a dog to become a certified service dog. Each and every service dog is trained to the particular requirements and needs of a person needing the service/assistance of a service dog and must be done by a qualified and certified dog trainer/cynologist. If your dog is trained to walk nicely on a leash and sit and stay, they are a pet dog.
If your dog comes up to you and nuzzles you when you are sad - they are still a pet dog.
If you want your dog to accompany you into stores or fly in-cabin on planes and so on. They’re still only a pet dog and these privileges are not for them. I'm sorry to spill the truth on you. Service dogs are task-trained. They are specifically taught to work for people with disabilities, be they physical, mental/psychiatric or emotional. A dog that solely provides comfort is not a service dog.
I see a lot of people acquiring dogs, labelling them as “my service dog” by strapping an amazon purchase “service dog” harness and then going about training them. This is not how that works. You cannot just select a dog, put a service dog harness on them and figure the rest out as you go. It takes countless hours of bree research (as different breeds are best suited/trained for particular tasks), then research on breeders, their dog's bloodlines (parents’ and grandparents' temperament, character, physical traits, health tests, past litters etc), and then research on certified service dog trainers (their credentials, programme curriculum and their k9 graduates).
I often receive requests from dog owners who tell me that their “service dog” pulled them over on a leash or has always been highly reactive.
That their “service dog” relentlessly chases wildlife on walks or has anxiety in social settings.
One time I got a request from a lady who told me that she got a dog from the shelter to be her son’s service dog, but that “service dog” was now biting the son could I please fix it? There is nothing wrong in getting a dog from a shelter to potentially be a service dog although this is possible it is extremely hard to learn the types of duties associated with a service dog. Some dogs are capable and have what it take however a large amount of service dogs are trained from super young ages to make sure they fit into the guidelines of what is required. However, I should make a side note here if you are dedicated to having your dog certified as a service dog I would still recommend getting a dog from a reputable breeder with predictable behavioural traits and health and genetics. So I’m sorry to say - none of those dogs described above are service dogs then. And they likely won’t be service dogs in the future either.
Please be honest about the dog you own.
Unless you worked diligently to train them as a service animal with specific tasks - they are a pet. A beloved, (hopefully) well-behaved, wonderful pet. But not a working dog, and you should not demand the privileges that are reserved for true service dogs. According to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities”. But this is not what makes up what a service dog is. They are the world to the people that require their assistance. Staying clear with this distinction protects the actual service dogs and their owners and all the hard work behind that service dog done by the breeder, trainer and owner.
Here is a good article on types of service dogs and what they do Dogster Know the difference and qualifications.
And if you are really determined to do it the right way you can start your research here at The Service Dog Ontario. website. Great resources and tons of helpful legit information along with the list of certified trainers and dog certification requirements.