September is Service Dog Awareness Month

Like all awareness months tService Dog awareness is dedicated to raising awareness of showing app reaction to those dogs/animals who care for their humans  ever day of their working lives it is a time to honour them for making various lives better and safer for what they do to help. 

The start for recognizing service dogs having their own month of awareness was established in 2008 by actor Dick Van Patten after he visited a God Dog school in California, he was inspired to launch a funding drive to benefit the program but also all service dog training school within the US, that single fundraiser evolved into an annual celebration of the work that service dogs do.  

As many know Service Dogs can come from programs, but they can also be trained by the person who they are going to help, which is called Owner Training (not are legally recognized within the US and in many other countries around the world). 

Various programs exist around the world training these wonderful animals to help humans who need them, sadly because of the number of humans who need their help there isn’t enough programs or dogs to meet the demand, but also because most programs do not have the ability to cross train or get into specific training for how some conditions are those humans have to find an alternative option, this normally results in someone either going to a private trainer or organization or even trying to do the training themselves (with help of various trainers or though just experience and help of online resources). 

Some of the more common conditions which Service Dogs are trained in is Hearing Alert, Seizure Response, Diabetic Alert, PTSD, Mobility and Autism. But there are other conditions which they are also trained but these tend to be highly specific and outside of most programs established offerings. Some such is Gluten Detection, Allergen Detection (peanuts, almonds, wheat, coconut, copper, etc), Migraine Alert, Vertigo Alert, and the list goes on.

The training that goes into a Service Dog is various which is why there is only a small % of dogs that actually make it though most programs each year and why some some who do it on their own, why they might struggle to find the right dog that will work with them as it is well know all dogs have the potential to be a service dog in general but not all individual dogs are actually suited to be a public access service dog (some are best suited for at home work only for various reasons). 

The hours that goes into training of a service dog does vary, the established recommendation from the ADI is 120 hours, but anyone that has owner trained knows that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how much actual training and proofing goes into making your dog work for you. 

Along the lines that any dog can be a Service Dog there are a few breeds which are often found being used in programs they are the fab four the Labrador, Golden Retriever, Poodle and Collie. All four breeds have a high track record of success which is why they are commonly used for service work by various programs – but they are not the only breeds used for some programs some programs actually draw their dogs from local shelters looking to give the dogs they find a second chance. But also those who choose to train their own often have their own preference for the dog/breed that they would like to work with for various reason. 

I personally know of a Chihuahua that was a trained hearing ear dog, but also of a Chi/Jack mix who was also used as a Hearing Ear dog plus a other dogs of various backgrounds used as hearing ear dogs (there area  few programs that only train hearing ear dogs from the shelter). 

I personally have had a Standard Schnauzer, Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon and a Standard Poodle as my personal Diabetic Alert Dog, while my mate has had a Lab Mix, American Eskimo, Alaskan Husky Mix and a Husky as their Seizure Response dog (the Alaskan Husky and the Lab mix where also Seizure alert dogs).

Service Dogs in general are allowed wherever their hander is permitted, with means if it is open to the public then they are also allowed such as grocery stores, movie theatres, doctor offices and the like – if the public is not allowed then reasonable accommodation can be requested to allow the dog access – such as when it comes to employment, school and private religious settings.  

Depending on where you are located there are things that places are or can’t ask about when you enter, it is up to the specific country you are in to have set these rules and in some cases individual areas within a country can also set their own rules which are in addition to the rules that the country itself has set but in most cases can not take away from what is set at a country level. 

In the US that would mean that Service Dogs are are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) where as in Canada service dogs are covered under the Human Rights Code (yet Guide Dogs are also covered under the Blind Person Act). 

In the US a business can only ask you two Questions – 1 Is that a Service Dog? 2 What task/work is the dog trained to preform? 

In Canada it depends on the province as to what is allowed, BC, Alberta, Nova Scotia all require Certification for a service dog to have coverage under the provincial guidelines yet all service dogs are covered under the Code, it just means if you are denied access you have to make a Human Rights appeal (which takes on average 2 years and you have to be present in the province that it happened for the hearing failure to be there means it is thrown out and you might face a fine for bring the charge in the first place). 

In Ontario all you need is a letter from ya recognized medical profession and the animal you have can be considered a service animal (which means even a rabbit could be used as a service animal if that was what someone wanted – however, just because you want the animal doesn’t mean that the animal is allowed under city bylaws as being a service animal doesn’t override city bylaw nor does it over ride existing province wide BSL). 

Most common manners that are associated with Service Dogs is that they are well behaved and non aggressive – and business around the world for the most part understand that they have the right to ask a team to leave if the dog is not under control (such as pulling towards customers, jumping up on people/furniture, being a general vocal disturbance to the establishment). 

When it comes to the public interesting with a service dog it various from hander to handler as to what they are comfortable with, the general rule of thumb is that a person in public does not interfere or interact with a service dog, unless invited to do so by its handler. Which mans no making kiss faces at the dog, calling it over to you, photographing it or petting it. Sadly as handlers know all to well this happens almost ALL the time and for some creates a atmosphere of anxiety which can trigger their medical condition but also for some this interaction can in some cases cause the dog to fail to see the cue that their hander is going into medical crisis thus failing to be able to alert to it happening or having a hard time responding to it (because a stranger actually actively prevents the dog from going to its hander to do its job). 

I have had the above happen a few two many times, I will tell someone to please not touch my dog yet they will proceed to do so regardless of how many times I tell them to stop, often I have to get loud and a little rude to get them to leave her alone, at other times we physically have to leave the area just to make the point that they shouldn’t be touching her. 

My mate has had similar experiences, but has also been blessed with a previous service dog who couldn’t be easily distracted from his work – as in one day playing at a local dog park racing around and enjoying himself he stops chasing and racing around to come and alert them to a pending seizure (this happened infant of multiple other dog walkers/strangers) and shocked the world out of them that it even was possible since he was highly distracted at the time, yet for him he wasn’t distracted enough to prevent him from doing his job – yet that isn’t the case for all such dogs who serve some don’t have that ability thus it is always best to just not interact without permission being given first. 

So please take the time to educate yourself when it comes to service animals/dogs in the country that you are in, because laws and rules do vary and I know that the handlers will appreciate your understanding and knowing how to interact with them while out in public. 



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