A Day in the Life of a Service Dog

A white service dog.

All dogs are special in the eyes of their human companions, and it’s no wonder. Dogs offer a constant source of companionship and unconditional love. But for people who depend on a dog to serve, assist, and protect their quality of life and independence, the human-animal bond reaches even deeper levels of trust and significance.  

At Berkeley Veterinary Center, we honor and celebrate service dogs and the pivotal roles they play in the lives of those who rely on their support. If you or someone in your care could benefit from having a service dog, keep reading for information about how to make your dog a service dog or how to get a service dog of your own. 

What Are Service Dogs and What Can They Do?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service dogs as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”

Types of service dogs and their daily duties include:

  • Seeing eye (or guide) dogs assist blind people and those with visual impairments by watching for obstacles and hazards.
  • Hearing or signal dogs assist deaf people or those with hearing disabilities by listening for alarms and other audible signals, and by alerting the individual if someone or something is approaching from behind.
  • Seizure alert dogs are incredibly tuned in to the signs and smells of an impending epileptic seizure or other emergency. These dogs can alert their owners to take their medication, and they know what to do when a seizure strikes.
  • Mobility service dogs are trained to pull wheelchairs, help handlers balance, pick up items, and even assist with getting dressed or undressed.
  • Psychiatric service dogs are needed by people with anxiety, PTSD, autism, depression, and other conditions to relieve stress, assist with medication, and maintain security and safety.

How to Make Your Dog a Service Dog

Any breed of dog can become a service dog, but certain breeds are more common, including German shepherds, golden retrievers, labradors, and border collies. Smaller breeds tend to be helpful as emotional or psychiatric service dogs.

The international standard for service dog training is a minimum of 120 hours over the course of 6-24 months. The cost of professional training can exceed $25,000. Nonprofit organizations exist that provide service dogs for those in need at a reduced or even no cost. 

Another option is to do the training yourself. According to the ADA, “people with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.” The Service Dog Organization of American is one resource that offers an online, step-by-step guide for training your own service dog. 

How to Get a Service Dog

If a service dog could improve the quality of life for you or someone in your care, we encourage you to connect with a reputable, experienced service dog organization or trainer. Be sure to do your research and seek recommendations before making an investment.  

Dogs are certainly special, intelligent creatures, and they deserve to live long, healthy lives. Please contact us if it’s time for your dog’s wellness visit.

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