There’s more to service dogs than loyal retrievers helping the visually impaired navigate crosswalks. Today, dogs are lending a hand to everyone from veterans suffering from PTSD to children with cognitive disabilities. Here are answers to five of the most frequently asked questions about service dogs and service dog training.
What types of service dogs are there? Service dogs are those that perform a job or task (i.e. they do something) that mitigates the handler’s disability. The aid service dogs provide typically falls into the categories of medical, psychiatric, mobility and sensory assistance, but our four-legged friends are great multi-taskers. Dogs trained to comfort children with autism may also be Severe Allergy Alert Dogs or Mobility Support Dogs.
Do service dogs have to be a certain breed? No. Mixed breeds and rescues frequently go through service dog training, but there is a caveat. Purebred Labrador Retrievers or Australian Shepherds, for example, may prove easier to train due to the nature of the breed and knowing what to expect from them.
How much does it cost to train a service dog? How long does it take? It depends for both questions. A guide dog usually requires years of professional public-access training (the hard skills it takes to get a human from point A to point B), and that training can cost as much as $30,000. On the other hand, dogs helping children with cognitive disorders can be trained by caring parents for much less. On average it takes 18 months to 2 years to fully train a service dog. Our friend and fellow LINK Pack member, Brandy, is training to be her owner's second service dog. Brandy, A.K.A. Service Diva in Training, is learning everything from "leave it" with treats spread everywhere, to staying by her mom's side at the grocery store with squeaky carts circling her. Follow their journey with us!
What do service dogs have to learn? Obedience training is a must, and the LINK AKC Smart collar assists with positive reinforcement sound emission training, similar to a clicker. After obedience training, the Americans with Disabilities Act dictates service dog training to include instruction on specific tasks to help dog owners deal with their identified disabilities.
What's a "comfort dog", and how are they different? Therapy and comfort dogs are well-mannered pets whose owners donate time to bring solace and companionship to sick children, the elderly, victims of tragedy and others in need of a floppy ear to scratch. They are "pets with a prescription" and help someone in need feel better simply by being there. Therapy dogs are able to obtain titles after they've completed a certain amount of visits or community service. They're changing the world one furry hug at a time.