Tag: service animals

Community Training a Service Dog

palm out on a stop signAfter 13 months I am ready to take Orenda with me into the world and get her used to the ways a service dog has to act, and not act.  It has taken me this long because she was rescued and so she hadn’t lived in a house and had to learn that.  She would destroy things in the house, like couch pillows.

She was anxious in a new place and when I was gone.  So I taught her:

  • relax
  • pee and poop outside
  • chew rubber toys not shoes and library books

For a while I had to put up a gate in a room and keep her there when I left.  But not now.  Not for some time now.

Also, I have low energy because of being depressed for a long, long time.  So I haven’t been as on top of training as I could have been.  Should have been?  Is there a point in saying that?  It just is.  I have learned that the state of being Disabled isn’t bad or good – it just is.  It took a long time to get that, when everyone tells you it’s sad and wrong.

So, I have been teaching Orenda, my tall yellow dog, to not pull on leash or in harness.  We work on it a lot in small bits of time.  “

  • “No pull.”
  • “Over.”
  • “Good Heel.”
  • “Walk Nice.”
  • “Good Walk.”
  • “Go Ahead.”
  • “Yes!”

Community training is taking a dog out into the world with you, to get him or her used to everyday things in the world.

  • How to ride the bus and subway.
  • Where to sit or lie when on them.
  • Not to lick the floor!
  • To leave dropped food alone.
  • Not to drink from puddles.
  • Not to lunge after dogs, squirrels, birds or cats.
  • Not to bark.
  • Not to go over to people unless told to.
  • How to go through revolving doors.
  • On and off escalators.
  • Turnstiles.
  • To go under tables in restaurants.
  • To stay on a mat until released.
  • To ignore people and other dogs.

You get it.

Last Saturday, I took her to class to see how she did.  I had been doing “Go To Bed” in the house with her.  I brought a mat I wove for my last Service Dog.  Before I sat down in class, I put down the mat.  I told Orenda “Go to Bed.”  I had to remind her a few times.  She tried to inch toward me so her butt was on the mat and the rest of her closer to me.  She did really well.  Better than I hoped.  She was very good.  I told her.

If you see a dog with a person, take a minute to look closely.  It might be a service dog.  They won’t always have a harness on.  Many do, but not all.  They don’t have to.  Some people train their own, like me. Before being a working dog, service dogs are ‘in training’.  They have to learn a lot before being fully trained.  My point is:

  • Don’t pet a service dog.
  • Don’t feed a service dog.
  • Don’t bark or meow at a service dog.
  • Don’t talk to a service dog.

Not before asking the person, the handler. This sounds simple, but all of this has happened to me with my last dog.  And he wore a red harness on black and white fur!

A lot of people seem to wish they could have their dog go everywhere with them.  They think it would be fun.  They are jealous and even sometimes pretend their dogs are service dogs!  This may be against the law. It makes watchers doubt service dog users’ need for dogs if you don’t “look like you need one” to other people.  There are many types of Disabilities, most you can’t see or tell.  You can begin to see how much work it is to train a service dog, even before task training begins.

People use service dogs because we need to.  It’s not fun to have to take care of and watch out for a dog and yourself all day long.  Even the best-trained dog is still a dog.  I have to take all the dog’s stuff with me too: food, water, bowls, a mat.  In winter, a coat, maybe boots.  Salt and ice hurt their feet.  Even if you love dogs, please leave that cute dog on the T alone and don’t distract them.  They could be working.

See this article that explains what makes a service dog.  Section II is the part to read.

The article is from the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) National Network publication “Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals”.

Animal-Assisted Therapy

girl with pony
girl with pony

As a mom of five, I have seen animals used to help people. The tests show that animals help people:

  • be healthy and happy
  • lower their heart rate
  • help heal faster
  • have hope and comfort
  • predict seizures.

Many animals can be used in animal-assisted therapy.  Dogs and cats are common.  Horses, goats, and dolphins are used too.

They are used in nursing homes.  Schools and doctors use them too.  The army and firemen work with dogs.  Animals work with people who have cancer as well.
For more information, please see:
Pet Therapy: How Animals And Humans Heal Each Other


Carl with his service dog Merrick
Carl with his service dog Merrick

As a person who has used a service animal for just over 15 years, I can tell you I get stopped constantly and asked a lot of questions. I once even got stopped by Bill Gates of Microsoft; he asked me if my guide dog was a bomb sniffing dog.

Below are answers to some of the most common questions I get asked.

  • People with disabilities who use guide or service dogs can go everywhere.
  • A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
  • Examples of Service Animal include those who guide people who are blind, alert those who are deaf, pull a wheelchair, alert an individual to a seizure attack, remind one with a mental illness to take his/her medication, and much more.
  • A service animal is not a pet.
  • Do not touch the animal or give him/her treats without the permission of the owner.
  • Service animals are not required to be certified. If the person tells you it is a service animal, treat it as such.
  • A person is not required to carry proof of disability or to say why he/she requires the use of a service animal.
  • A service animal must be on a leash if local ordinances require that.  But a harness, special costume or muzzle are not required and are only present when needed for the animal to do its job.
  • If the animal is out of control or presents an active threat the handler may be required to remove it from the site.
  • A business is not required to walk or otherwise care for the animal.
  • If an individual asks that you hold a guide dog, and if it is appropriate to the situation, hold the leash not the harness.
  • Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.
  • An Emotional Support Animal is not a Service Animal.
  • A Service Animal cannot tell when a traffic signal changes color.
  • A Service Animal does not always know where it is. It is up to the handler to know where he/she is at all times.
  • According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA), a service animal can only be a dog.
  • A business or service cannot charge a customer extra for having a service animal.
  • My service animal is still smart even if he doesn’t know how to give “paw”.
  • Yes, my dog likes to play fetch.

The next time you see a service animal, remember these answers and tips. Also, remember to ask the handler what you can and should do, and ask yourself how you would like to be treated if you had a service animal.