Many people do not understand the difference between service dogs and emotional support animals. In fact, these two groups often get interchanged when discussing how dogs can be used to help people. Although both are able to aid their owners, the tasks each of these animals complete on a day to day basis differ quite a bit.
Service dogs are used to aid owners in tasks that would be impossible or extremely difficult for them to do on their own. They are also trained to perform these specific tasks, such as aiding in mobility, for their owners. Therefore, they are given protections under the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA). These protections allow service dogs to go to locations where dogs are typically not allowed. Emotional support animals are not given these protections because they are not trained to complete specific activities or tasks to aid their owners in mobility or other actions. Instead, emotional support animals typically are used to offer general support for their owners, such as a calming presence.
Despite the differences in protections and tasks, all owners interested in having their dog function as EITHER a service dog or an emotional support animal will benefit from having their animal trained to be well-socialized, experience new environments, and friendly. Although Beyond the Dog does not currently train for specific biological warnings such as glucose monitoring, seizure warnings, or black out warnings, we can and have offered to train a variety of service behaviors as well as general preparation for emotional support. For either option owners may wish to pursue, starting the dog with advanced obedience is a great foundation to eventual service tasks. Our All-Inclusive Program provides advanced obedience in and out of the home and we can fit the program to your needs. We can also add service behaviors such as walking with a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, and offering comfort in the form of hugs for our clients, depending on their needs.
In addition to our All-Inclusive Program, we often help clients prepare for and complete the AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluation. Becoming a Canine Good Citizen is great preparation for additional certifications you may wish to pursue (and many service or emotional support organizations do not require additional testing, so this is a great way to demonstrate the appropriate behavior of your furry friend). Additionally, this 10-skill training program is a great way to show off your dog’s skills! The test items are practiced within the context of the All-Inclusive Program whether you aim for evaluation or not. Here are some examples of behaviors we target, and evaluators look for: accepting a friendly stranger, coming when called, and reaction to another dog. If service training, Canine Good Citizen preparation, or general advanced obedience interests you, reach out to Beyond the Dog today!