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Service dogs and why they are important.

They are more than the family pet

By Paige Published 2 years ago Updated about a year ago 16 min read
A CCI service dog holding his/her vest

Service dogs are dogs trained to assist someone who has a physical or mental disability. (Miniature Horses can also be trained as service animals as a dog alternative.) But Dogs are the most common service animals.

There are multiple organizations that train all kinds of service dogs like a guide, mobility, psychiatric, and seizure service dogs. As well as Autism service dogs for children.

There are also many service dog organizations that train dogs for disabled veterans.

There are laws that protect a Service dog’s handler but not the dog. These laws are called the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That was signed by George H. W Bush on July 26th, 1990. The service animal part of the law came into place in March 2011.

Service dogs are important to protect the safety of their handlers while out in public.

They give their handlers independence and allow them to live to do things by themselves without the help from a human companion like go shopping, the doctor, or a movie with friends.

When the dogs can do their job. They can keep their handler, happy, healthy, and in some cases keep them out of the hospital.

These service dogs called medical alert or response dogs can help their handler avoid a health crisis while in a public setting.

Service dogs can go anywhere in public their handler can. There are exceptions that include, churches/other places of worship, hospital burn units, and operation rooms.

Service dogs can also go on Airplanes and sit in the cabin with their handler.

A new rule by the DOT. (Department of transportation.) decided on Dec 3rd, 2020, states that an Emotional support animal has no right to sit in a cabin with the handler/owner.

This will prevent ill-behaved animals from being allowed into the cabin and disrupting the flight by urinating and defecating on the plane or biting or running on a flight which is very very bad for passengers and legitimate service dog teams and organizations.

While not all Emotional support animals are bad behaved the ones that were not well behaved caused issues for the emotional support animals that are well behaved.

This new rule about service dogs on flights will require the dog’s handler to fill out forms stating the dog will not misbehave or disrupt the flight or have a bathroom accident.

It also includes that the dog was properly trained and who trained the dog. (It applies to owner trainers too.) so the airline will know they are letting a legitimate service dog on their airplane.

An emotional support animal is not a service animal. Service animals are mostly dogs or miniature horses and are trained for up to two years to help mitigate their handler’s disabilities.

While emotional support animals can only give comfort which is not considered a task by the ADA or state governments. ESAs have no public access rights at all and can only go into no-pet housing according to the Fair Housing Act.

Service dogs should never be ill-behaved anywhere in public. No urinating or defecating inside, sniffing or eating anything off the floor or biting people or merchandise (the only time A dog can pick something up is when it is a task to grab something for the handler.), etc.

If they do not behave they can be allowed to be kicked out of the public space if the handler cannot properly control their dog.

The dog must focus on the handler. Although scoping out the environment is ok.

It must not be distracted by that environment. The dog is important to their handler’s physical or mental well being so distracting them by feeding, petting, barking, other animal noises, and staring at the dog or taking a picture or video without the handler’s permission is rude, disrespectful, and In some cases illegal.

If the dog is tasking (ie helping their handler through a medical episode, calming them from a panic attack, or any other issue.) it is super important to leave the dog and handler alone!

If you try to distract the dog the handler could be hurt and possibly end up in the hospital or dead just because you decided to distract the dog from the very important job it has.

If a service dog comes up to you read the patches on their vest if it mentions something about following the dog you need to follow the dog. He/she will lead you to their handler if they are in distress, they will also occasionally be taught to bark for help in an emergency.

But that is very rare most handlers have decided against training their dog to get help. For the fear of the dog being taken from them and unfortunately, that has occurred more than once to multiple handlers in the service dog community. So many handlers have decided to not train this task or stop using it. If it has already been trained.

Fake service dogs or ESAs can also cause an early retirement from an attack from a supposedly friendly dog.

This can cause the service dog to become reactive or aggressive, severely injured or anxious causing them to need to be retired.

Pets don’t belong in public places especially if they are aggressive or not well behaved. If you can’t control your dog to keep them from causing issues to a service dog you might see them in public. Please leave the dog at home or find a daycare or a dog walker or sitter to keep an eye on your dog when you can’t be with them.

There are many places that train multiple types of service dogs and they are all over the country some of the famous places are

Canine companions for independence


The Seeing-eye

Guiding Eyes for the blind

NEADS Service dogs

Autism service dogs of America

America's Vetdogs

Guide dogs of America

MidAmerica Service dogs

Guide dogs of the Desert

Heartland Service dogs

There are many more organizations that pair service dogs with people these are just a shortlist of a few.

If you want to help the organizations mentioned above you can donate or even puppy raise.

Puppy raisers raise a puppy from 8 weeks to a year old and then give the dog back to the organization to continue advanced training to fully become a service dog. If the dog succeeds you get invited to the graduation ceremony to watch the puppy you raise become someone’s partner to help them lead an independent life.

If the dog develops an issue that cannot be resolved whether medical or psychological you can request to adopt the dog.

If a puppy raiser can’t adopt the dog for whatever reason. The dog will be available for adoption through the organization to the public. Or if they have other traits that would make them good at something else they will be given to a different facility to become a police, Military, or search and rescue dog. These dogs are often referred to as career changed dogs.

The dogs that do succeed will be greatly appreciated by their handler for the independence they give them. The dogs will work until they are at least 8 years old depending on the job they do. If it’s not mobility-related they can retire later if they have no health issues. If the dog has a mobility-related job they might need to retire earlier in order to not work them to the point of developing issues with their own mobility.

Once the dog retires from its job it becomes a pet and the handler can go through the process again to get what’s called a successor dog.

After the service dog retires the handlers can adopt the dog permanently (as some organizations don’t let the handler permanently own the dog until the dog can retire.) some organizations can take the dog back at any time for any reason.

There is no law against this as most dogs that are given to the handler actually belong to the organization first and handler second because the dogs are raised and trained for at least 2 years the process to get a dog from a program takes 2-3 years sometimes longer.

First, someone fills out an application and it takes a long time to get accepted. If accepted they go through a lengthy interview process and if they pass that. The wait continues and then once they get the call to go to the organization's facility to work with some dogs and then to be parried with a dog they have a connection with.

Normally people stay at a hotel or the facility has a room for a person. The people are taught dog language, behavior, how the dogs are trained, how to care for them, etc.

They work with a few dogs over the course of a week or two. If there is a dog they feel a special connection with. The staff of the organization help makes sure the person is paired with that dog.

Then they do team training with their new dog and at the end of the program, they graduate together as an official Service dog team.

Some service dog organizations are credited by the Assistance dog International an organization that certifies service dog or assistance dog organizations all over the world. That’s one place to go to help someone find a service dog organization in any country or state. It can also help certify service dog trainers.

Organizations aren’t the only places where people can get service dogs. More people have been training their own service dog as some service dog organizations cost a lot of money if not given out for free by that organization or they don’t train the kind of dogs they need for their disabilities.

Owner training is still expensive because people have to buy a well-bred puppy from a good ethical breeder in order for the dog to succeed as a service dog the parents of the puppy have to be temperament and health tested as well as the puppies to make sure the dog has no genetic behavior or medical issues that could develop during dogs working career.

They also have to buy gear like vests, harnesses, boots, collars, leash, normal dog care things, etc.

There are good aspects of owner training is that they don’t have to wait to be accepted to a sometimes expensive organization.

The ability to mold and shape the dog to be able to help you with what you need is great and helpful.

Dogs are smart animals and if you need them to help with a medical or mental health issue you can train the dog to help you. There are books and videos on this as well as other resources available to people who want to train their own service dog.

An owner-trainer often uses local training classes and programs to help their dog be able to succeed as a service dog. If the dog ends up not being able to succeed as a service dog they can do something else like dog sport or just be a pet.

If owner training is successful the owner can have a happy, healthy partner that will help them for the next couple of years until old age. Then after the dog retires they become a pet.

Then the handler does the process again if they want or they can go through a program if they decide not to owner train again or if their needs change.

Service dogs are not mistreated or abused in any way as some people claim. These dogs are given a job and they love it.

The dogs are treated with love and are given the best care in order for them to be able to be healthy and happy dogs to do their job. They get breaks and time to play with other dogs and people because they are so well trained they have much more freedom than a badly behaved dog would.

Dogs enjoy having a job and if they don’t have one whether a dog sport or service or therapy etc. the dog becomes destructive and that doesn’t make a good companion.

Service dogs love the job they get well treated by their handlers. They can even make friends with other service dogs like them.

They get to go everywhere their handler can and experience much more than a pet does. They help their handler live a life they want to not what other people want them to.

The dogs help their handlers get help and assistance without human help. This is what the handler wants because they want to be able to be as independent as possible and thanks to a dog they can do that.

Miniature horses can also be service animals with the right training. Unfortunately, the new flight rules regarding service animals ban mini horses from being on a flight.

Which is unfortunate for the handlers that require a service mini horse. Some people can’t handle a dog or they are allergic to dogs but not horses or their needs can only be met by a mini horse.

So they have a mini horse as a service animal. They can be guide and mobility horses.

They are actually better for mobility than dogs because they can bare more weight than a dog can.

The Americans with Disabilities Act added the rule that Mini horses can be used as service animals in 2011. At the same time as the other Service animals provisions.

People are jealous that some disabled people have service dogs or service horses so they fake service dogs to take their misbehaving pets into stores and make life much harder for real service dog handlers with actual service dogs. They cause lots of problems.

They also try to register or certify their dog. However, all websites that claim to register their fake service dog are fake too.

All websites that state this are fake and are only trying to get your money. So then you will go out and misrepresent the service dog community with your little misbehaving dog.

Service dogs are important it takes up to 120+ hours of training over the course of two years or longer. Any dog can be a service dog with the right temperament and training.

However, there are certain dog breeds that are the most popular.

Golden retrievers

Labrador retrievers

German shepherds


Golden doodles



This is just a shortlist of dog breeds that are the most popular as service dogs again any dog breed can be a service dog with the right temperament and training (Even mixed breeds)

as long as the dog is interested and seems to be able to be trained can be a service dog.

Some people have small service dogs because they don’t require a big dog or they don’t need mobility or anything a big dog is often used for as a service dog.

Small dogs are also easy to take places. Some people also just need a smaller dog to help them with things that big dogs don’t or are too big to take care of and work with. So just because you see a small dog in public with a service dog vest don’t assume it’s a fake right away.

If it’s focusing on its handler, performing tasks, and not misbehaving in any way it’s not a fake.

The Americans with Disabilities act gives handlers protection so they don’t get in trouble for having their service dog in public.

These are the only rules that make a dog a service dog (with or without a vest.)

The dog must be well behaved and under control in some way.

The dog must know at least one task to be considered a service dog. But all service dogs know more than just one.

There are lots of things that service dogs can be trained to help their handler. Here is a list of some things they can learn to do.

Open/close doors

Guide/lead to a safe place or person.

Pick up objects

Give objects to the handler

Stand behind the handler and alert if someone is too close.

Check the house or hotel room for possible intruders

Retrieve something from a fridge

Calm down their handler from a panic attack, or meltdown

Wake a person from a nightmare

Turn on/off lights

Alert to a medical episode. Seizure, heart rate spike, etc.

respond to a medical episode by waking the handler up after passing out, seizure, etc.

Brace to help a handler stand

Forward momentum pull to help the handler walk and lead them.

Alert strangers or family members to assist during a medical emergency.

Throw away trash

Alert to noises (if the handler is deaf)

Pulling a wheelchair

Call 911 in an emergency using a special phone.

Pay for items in a store

Alert to an allergen in foods

Open/close curtains

Hold and carry specific items

Carry items in vest pockets

This list is just a few things a service dog can learn and do for the person they serve. They help their handler do a lot and give them something they wouldn’t have without a Service dog.

The independence gives them a lot of freedom they didn’t have before they had a service dog.

People with service dogs have been able to go to school, work, and live on their own thanks to what the dog provides, help, and companionship.

So remember if you see a service dog in public don’t interact with the dog. Talk to the handler but don’t ask about what’s wrong with them and why they need the dog. It’s very rude and inappropriate to the handler.

A handler is a person first and a service dog handler second so please treat them like a normal person.

They just want to live like me and you. They just need the dog to help them do that.

So please don’t distract a service dog in public leave them alone.

If you see a fake service dog contact staff of the public place you are in immediately and help get them removed as they are a public nuisance. Especially to actual service dog teams.

Service dogs are important to help their handler live life the way they want.

They mean the world to their handler and the dogs love having a job. It’s fun for them and it gives them something to do.

Service dogs are great tools for their handler to help them deal with disabilities it is not a decision to take lightly and is not something to come up with right after a diagnosis to mitigate disability medicines, treatments, etc should be attempted first as Service dogs are often a last resort depending on the severity of disabilities.

They also help people with disabilities that aren’t visible so if someone has a service dog they might need it for something you can’t see.

Not all disabilities are visible so don’t assume that just because someone looks healthy they don’t need a service dog.

Service dogs are Awesome and if you have a chance to witness one in action or meet a service dog and thier handler talk to the handler to learn more about service dogs and the important things they can do.

If you want to learn more go to and search service animals.

It is truly a privilege to witness a dog or mini horse be able to help a disabled person live the life of independence that they want to.

It is something wonderful to see. If you want to help a service dog organization.

I suggest donating or puppy raising or attending organization events to help them out. The organization will be grateful for your help as well as the Service dog handlers you’ll help support.

The Author with a friend’s CCI Service dog

A puppy in training
A service dog carrying groceries
The Author's friend's SD

Service dog flight form 2

Service dog flight form 1

Photo credit: Anything is Pawsible

A puppy in a big service dog in training vest
Mobility service dog
A canine companion for independence service dog and his/her handler

Guide puppy in training
A puppy wearing a puppy raising program bandanna.

A service horse

A service dog in training

How to interact with a service dog by @spoonfulsofkindness

A GSD service dog in training

A mini horse as a Service Animal


About the Creator


Hi, I'm Paige and I love to read and write. I love music and dogs. I mostly will write about my favorite things like dogs and music. I've been a writer for a few years now :)

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