Responsible Considerations When Choosing a Service Dog

There has been a growing demand for service dogs among dog owners. While this is an admirable goal, it is important to be well informed before embarking on the journey of obtaining a service dog. Before getting a service dog, it’s important to learn about them, understand the laws, prepare for ownership, and consider any alternatives.

What is a Service Dog?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include:

  • Guiding people who are blind
  • Alerting people who are deaf
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
  • Reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • Calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack.

It is crucial to understand that service dogs are not pets but working animals with a specific purpose to assist people with disabilities. If you do not have a disability, then a service dog is not right for you. Emotional support or therapy dogs serve a different role and do not possess the same legal rights as service dogs.

Legal Rights of Service Dogs

Under the ADA, service dogs are permitted to accompany their handlers anywhere the public is allowed to go. This includes state and local government facilities, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. It is important for handlers to maintain control over their service dogs at all times and ensure their behavior does not disrupt the environment. Handlers should be aware of their rights and be prepared to calmly explain them to others who may question their access. It is worth noting that businesses and establishments can only ask two questions . . . 

  1. Is the dog a service animal required due to a disability?
  2. What tasks has the dog been trained to perform? 

They are not permitted to inquire about the handler’s disability, request medical documentation, or demand special identification for the dog.

Getting a Service Dog

If you are considering getting a service dog, it is essential to conduct thorough research on reputable breeders with a proven track record of producing dogs with the right disposition and health testing required for service work. Communication with the breeder should revolve around your goals of obtaining a service dog, and seeking honest references is recommended. Ideally, choose a breeder who specializes in genetic lines and is suited for the specific service work you require. This step is crucial as the temperament and genetics of a dog play a significant role in their suitability for service work. It is important to understand that a service dog is not a regular pet and should be treated as such. Consulting with a trusted trainer before acquiring a service dog prospect is highly recommended unless you intend to train the dog to perform the task yourself.

Things to Consider

Having a service dog entails a significant commitment of time and resources. Typically, it takes months of consistent training under a qualified dog trainer to teach the dog the necessary tasks. You’ll want to make sure you interview the trainer and be sure that you will work well together in the process. Additionally, intermittent remedial training may be required until the dog reaches 2 or 3 years of age. A service dog must be trained to perform in various environments, including parks, stores, crowded places, vehicles, airplanes, and noisy surroundings. Properly training a service dog is a complex and time-consuming process. 

The Cost

Financially, be prepared to invest between $20,000 and $50,000 from start to finish. Beware of trainers who promise to train your dog as a service dog within a short period of time and at a significantly lower cost. Unfortunately, there aren’t yet enough protective regulations in place to protect the consumer from this type of predatory baiting. It is essential to be cautious and seek out trainers who adhere to ethical practices.

The Commitment

If you are considering obtaining a service dog, it is crucial to understand and comply with the law while fully committing to the responsibilities involved. Service dogs are invaluable companions for individuals with disabilities. 

The Alternatives

However, for those who do not require a service dog but desire a well-behaved pet to accompany them in public, K9 Control Training’s advanced obedience board & train programs are effective and provide a more affordable and practical option. These programs include follow-up lessons and group classes to ensure your dog maintains consistent good behavior both while at home and out on the town! Contact us to learn more about our dog training programs.