When you see a dog wearing a vest or a dog in a place that’s not usually dog-friendly, it’s natural to assume that they’re a service dog. Service dogs are incredibly talented animals that we often take for granted. While many people know a service dog when they see one, most of them don’t realize how life-changing these dogs are for their handlers and how many service dog benefits there really are.

What is a Service Dog?

A service dog is a canine that’s been specially trained to perform tasks for a certain person. That person usually has a disability that the dog is able to help with. These disabilities are not just physical, but they could also be a mental disability such as sensory, psychiatric, or intellectual. These dogs are considered working animals instead of pets.

Service dogs can come in all shapes and sizes, but in order to successfully complete their training, the dog must have the right temperament for the job. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds are all commonly seen as service dogs, but it really depends on what the role is.

The law requires that a service dog is able to go anywhere that the general public is allowed. They also don’t require a pet fee for places such as apartments, hotels, and airplanes. Therefore, these dogs are not treated like your everyday pet because of the benefits they provide for their humans.

Unfortunately, there are many individuals that try to abuse this system. There are lots of dog owners that want their dogs to come everywhere with them, so they might try to pretend their dog is a working animal just for these service dog benefits.

How to Tell if a Service Dog is Legitimate

There are a few simple ways to tell if a service dog is legitimate or not. First of all, the dog should be very well-behaved. They should remain on a leash at all times unless they have a job that requires them to roam free.

Since they are working, service dogs should always be focused on their job, especially in public. They shouldn’t get easily distracted or try to seek attention from others. In fact, most of the time, service dogs will be so quiet and polite that you won’t even notice they’re there. If a service dog is not acting this way in a public setting, it’s likely that they’re not a legitimate service dog.

People with service dogs should also be able to answer two simple questions: “Is your dog required because of a disability?” and “What is your dog trained to do?” Anyone that truly needs a service dog will be able to answer these questions without hesitation. It’s important that people stop faking service dogs because that only makes things harder for the people that really need them.

Who Benefits from Service Dogs?

It’s a common misconception that service dogs can only benefit people with physical disabilities. The truth is, they can assist so many more people than just that. No matter what the disability is, a service dog can likely make it better, and they can be trained for tasks that you wouldn’t even expect.

Service dogs are commonly known to help people with visual or hearing impairments, but they can also help people with other disabilities that aren’t as noticeable such as panic attacks or high blood sugar. Plus, they are great companions for their handlers.

Service dog benefits don’t just apply their handlers, but they can also make things easier for those around them. These dogs can detect a problem before it even occurs, which allows them plenty of time to alert those around them. They can warn people nearby to call 9-1-1 if needed, making everyone more aware of the situation. So, really everyone can benefit from having service dogs around!

What Can Service Dogs be Used for?

While many people immediately associate service dogs with guide dogs, there are actually lots of special tasks that these canines can be trained for. They can help their humans with daily tasks or even fetch items in an emergency if needed. These special tasks help make the service dog benefits even greater for those who need them.

Here are some of the many tasks that service dogs can be trained to do:

  • Alert a diabetic handler if their blood sugar is dangerously high or low.
  • Alert their deaf or hearing impaired handler of sounds such as alarms or door bells.
  • Alert their handler if a dangerous allergy is nearby.
  • Alert others if their handler is in distress.
  • Assist someone with autism.
  • Bring a phone to their handler or someone else in an emergency.
  • Calm their handler in stressful situations.
  • Grab necessary medications.
  • Guide their blind or visually impaired handler.
  • Open doors and pick up items for a handler in a wheelchair.
  • Provide support for their handler if they can’t balance.

Of course, all of these amazing tasks don’t just happen overnight. It can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to fully train a service dog, depending on the dog and the tasks they have to learn. Regardless of what they are trained to do, the service dog benefits are equally as great for every individual in need.

Service dogs are incredibly smart, and they’re typically trained specifically to cater to their handler’s needs. For people that currently have a service dog, these dogs are essential to their daily lives, and their lives would be much harder without them. Therefore, it’s important for everyone to appreciate service dogs and acknowledge them for the amazing work that they do.

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