Until recently, I had no idea that service dogs go through hours, days, and months of disciplined training in order to guide, support, warn, and help save human lives. It costs thousands of dollars for professional organizations to train service dogs. However, these dogs can be freely obtained for those who qualify. Our furry life savers deserve our respect, but are often scrutinized due to imposters. Fake service dogs may be anywhere, and it has become impossible to pick them out.
What Does a Service Dog Do?
Service dogs are trained to aid individuals with disabilities. Their training prepares them to perform one of several tasks. These include (but are not limited to) autism support, PTSD support, visual guidance, and recognizing chemical reactions indicating low blood sugar. Service dogs help people perform tasks which they cannot do on their own.
What Kind of Dog Can be a Service Dog?
Despite popular belief, any dog can become a service dog. One person may have a Chihuahua, while another has a Great Dane. She is recognized as a service dog after training, which enables her to assist one person with a specific disability. Rules may differ from state to state, but here in Texas, service dogs assist those with PTSD, physical, mental, developmental, or intellectual disabilities, as well as, hearing, speech, or visual impairment.
Where Can a Service Dog Go?
Your service dog can go anywhere you do in order to perform his job. This includes restaurants, department stores, and airplanes. However, he will not be allowed in areas from which we are typically restricted. Such areas would include restaurant kitchens, the cockpit, or the restroom of the opposing gender. However, that should come as no surprise.
If your service dog is not “under control with either a harness or a leash,” (according to Texas law) you may be asked to leave. There are two questions you can be asked while in the company of your service dog. The questions are as follows:
- Is that a service dog?
- What is your dog trained to do?
You have probably seen service dogs wearing vests, but they are not a requirement. Registration can be completed for free, but you are under no obligation to do so for your dog. Businesses risk being fined, and sued for violating rights, and denying access. At the same time, it is possible (although illegal) to throw a service vest on a dog who has not been trained to assist with a specific disability. Fake service dogs are a hot topic of debate.
How do You Spot a Fake Service Dog?
You don’t! A person could lie about the two questions above, and you wouldn’t know. You wouldn’t be able to ask for proof. Apparently states are cracking down on fake service dogs, but there isn’t much to go on. Fake service dogs could be everywhere, and no one would know it. They do not need papers. They do not need to demonstrate any skills. Wearing a vest is not mandatory. Fake service dogs are truly everywhere, and nowhere.
Emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs here in Texas, and will have more restrictions. They may receive access which the average dog does not, but they cannot go everywhere. I love dogs, even fake service dogs. However, I would never proceed to masquerade my girl around as a service dog. It’s illegal, disrespectful to true service dogs, and could impede their duty.
Service Dogs Rock
In the past I worked with adults with intellectual, mental, and developmental disabilities for three years. I was their fitness trainer, nutrition coach, and friend until I moved out of state. Service dogs are trained to help a specific person for life! How awesome is that?
If the weather was nice enough I would take some of my groups to this one park with a giant stairway. We would go up and down the stairs a few times for exercise. We met an active man who would run up and down the steps while doing sketchy moves. One day he told me, “you’re a hero, man.” I’ll never forget that, but I’m no hero. Service dogs are heroes.
The German Army used dogs in World War I. No, they weren’t attack dogs, they were messengers, and assisted with the wounded. However, certain cultures have used dogs in battles in the past. These days the military uses dogs for tracking and detection, as do the police. Some of these dogs find traps, and save lives.
Service Dogs Can Also…
- Provide keys, a phone, or medication
- Interrupt dangerous behavior
- Turn on the lights
- Open doors
- Keep people stable
- Pull a wheelchair
- Alert someone of a noise, or chemical changes in the body
- Massage muscles
- Find runaways
- Protect a person during a seizure
Service dogs are trained to do many things, and they are not considered pets. They may spend a lifetime helping someone in need. They don’t speak our language, or have hands, but they still keep people alive and safe. Yes, it is true that we must have trained them, and domesticated them in the first place. We have had a relationship with each other for many years. They have become man’s best friend for many different reasons. Perhaps to them we are the heroes, but sometimes I think it’s the other way around. Service dogs are badass!
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I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.
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