9 Tips for Choosing a Pet Sitter

9 Tips for Choosing a Pet Sitter

Select One Who’s Right for You

Planning a vacation or traveling for work? Instead of boarding Max at the kennel or burdening a friend with dog, cat or reptile duty, consider another option: professional pet sitters.

Selecting a Pet Sitter

Selecting a pet sitter takes a little more effort than dialing a random number you may see in the Yellow Pages. Elyse Marks, director of marketing for Fetch! Pet Care, the nation’s largest professional pet sitting and dog walking franchise, recommends the following guidelines when selecting a pet sitter:

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  • Check the company’s references; ask for at least three.
  • Ensure the company is fully bonded and insured.
  • Confirm that your sitter has undergone a criminal background check and has received proper training.
  • Pre-interview a sitter with your pet(s) present to observe interactions and establish a “comfort level” for both you and the pet(s).
  • Let your sitter know how you would like him/her to use their time in terms of walking, playing, feeding, cleaning, etc.
  • Verify that the sitter can accommodate both your pet’s daily feeding and walking schedule as well as your desired vacation schedule, even during the busiest holidays.
  • Ensure the company offers seven-day per week telephone and e-mail availability.
  • Provide medical and behavioral history about your pet(s) as well as veterinary and other emergency contact information, and gather all necessary supplies, including food, vitamins, and treats in one central location.
  • Ensure the company has “backup” measures in place should your sitter have an emergency that prevents them from completing your assignment.

Contact us for more information.

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3 Benefits Of Training Your Pet

While most people think of training as teaching your dog to ‘sit,’ there are actually many benefits that reach beyond this. Training isn’t just limited to new pups either – it’s equally beneficial for adults, senior dogs, and even cats to learn some new tricks! However, be mindful of your pet’s capabilities before starting any new training regimens and always make sure to move at their pace.

Take a look below for 3 key benefits that training your pet has to offer:

1. Training Helps Burn Off Energy

Training is a great way for pets to release excess energy as well as boost concentration. A training program for adults, senior dogs and cats will keep their body and mind active and stimulated. You can teach an old dog…or cat new tricks!

And, no matter your pet’s age, training is an excellent way to create and grow the trust and bond between you and your canine or feline counterpart.

2. Training Helps Their Health

Training, especially the kind that involves agility and tricks, can maintain or improve good health. This is because the training of this nature typically involves running or jumping, and other forms of physical maneuvering. Not surprisingly, increased muscle strength, stamina, flexibility, and balance are all areas that can reap the rewards of this type of training. Just as with humans, new physical challenges can help dogs and cats overcome physical and mental plateaus, keeping them interested and excited about daily life.

3. Training can Improve Intelligence

How To Teach A Dog To Shake A Paw - Canine HQ

Not only will you be increasing your pet’s wealth of knowledge, but their ability to learn new things can also improve. The more you practice training, the more efficient the learning process will become for them. With this inevitably comes an increase in your pet’s confidence – not only in themselves but also in you.

Starting a new training program with your pet is simple. Begin with short training sessions every few days, making sure to keep a few motivators (treats) on hand, and gradually increase the frequency and duration. It won’t be long before you, and your pet, realize the many benefits of training.

Remember, be patient & have fun! Contact us for more information.

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Ways To Keep Your Dog Occupied AUGUST 13, 2021|IN BEHAVIOR, HUMAN|BY FITBARK

Has your dog destroyed anything in your house? If he has, it’s probably because he’s bored. Dogs need to be mentally stimulated; otherwise, they will find their own ways to occupy themselves, which often leads to unwanted and destructive behaviors. Here are some ways to keep your dog entertained while you’re away.

Install a Doggy Door

If you have a fenced-in yard that your dog is used to going in, let him go out whenever he wants by installing a doggy door. This is sure to keep your pooch occupied while you’re at work. The outdoors has plenty of sounds and odors your dog is going to want to investigate. As long as he hasn’t shown any undesirable behaviors such as digging, allow him to scope out the backyard.

Get a Pool

Most dogs are natural swimmers. Some need an introduction to a swimming pool to understand just how fun a pool can be. Because some dogs are intimidated by new things, a step-by-step process is often the best way to address this. Purchase a kiddie pool and show it to your dog without water in it. Toss some toys or treats inside to encourage him to go in. Once he is comfortable with this, add water. Although this process may take time and effort, eventually, your dog is going to love playing in his pool.

If he enjoys frolicking in a little pool, maybe he would be crazy about swimming in a larger one. Ask yourself, “Should I check out pool builders near me?” You might really enjoy swimming with your dog on a larger scale. Swimming is a great way to tire out your pooch before you have to leave the house. If he is tired, he’ll sleep rather than misbehave.

It’s important to note that you should never let your dog near a swimming pool alone. Block off the entrance to a large pool or empty a kiddie pool. Your dog has a chance of drowning, even in shallow water.

Hide Treats

Before you have to leave for work, hide some of your pooch’s favorite treats around the house. This is going to keep him occupied for hours. Choose different spots to hide them so the game doesn’t get dull. However, be mindful about where you place the treats so your dog isn’t getting into something he shouldn’t.

Use a Dog Puzzle Game

This is another way to hide treats. With puzzles, however, your dog needs to think about how to get the treats out. These games help to develop your dog’s problem-solving skills. Some puzzles require your dog to shake and toss the toy around to get the treats to fall out. Others have moving parts that your pooch must remove or flip open to uncover a treat.

Turn on the Television

If your dog gets lonely when you’re away, try turning on the television. It can actually ease separation anxiety. The best part is that there is an actual channel that was created for dogs. If this doesn’t work or you’re looking for an alternative, try anything that is based around nature.

Create a Window Seat

Dogs love to know what’s going on outside. If they hear something and can’t see what it is, they often bark until the sound subsides. Clear a spot by a window so your dog can look out. Rather than making him run over and stand up to see out the window, put a chair or elevated stool nearby so he can sit and watch. Consider adding a bed or cover so he can lie down comfortably while awaiting your return.

Dogs need something to occupy them, especially when you’re not home. Luckily, there are various ways to keep your pooch mentally and physically active. If you let him find his own form of entertainment, you’re likely going to be sorry. His idea of fun might be to rip your carpet or couch cushions apart. Avoid these negative behaviors by actively choosing what his next form of entertainment is going to be.


About the Author: Kevin Gardner works as a business consultant and unwinds by getting out of the office to spend time with his dogs, Stuart and Pepper. He enjoys writing about the things he’s learned as a pupper parent and loves to share his insights to help others.

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Happy And Healthy: The Importance Of Wellness Care For Pets

veterinarian checking cats teeth

Have you ever wondered why we schedule your pet for a once or twice yearly wellness examination? Perhaps you’ve shrugged off a few of these exams, thinking that your pet seems healthy, so there’s no reason to bring him or her in… Or perhaps you care for a smaller or exotic pet, such as a rabbit, guinea pig, or bird, and haven’t considered that they could benefit from regular wellness visits.

Wellness care for pets is an important piece of the pet care puzzle. Making sure you adhere to your pet’s regularly scheduled wellness exams can have a lasting, positive impact on his or her health, longevity, and well being.

Medicina General Animal Salut - Veterinario a domicilio y centro

Why Regular Wellness Care For Pets Matters

Wellness care for pets is about so much more than just another round of shots (although that’s important, too!). By bringing your pet in to see us regularly, we are better able to detect diseases and other conditions that could put your pet’s health at risk if left untreated.

Regular wellness care is not just for dogs and cats. Small mammals, reptiles, and birds should also be seen on a regular basis. Paws, Purrs, And Exotics Animal Hospital is proud to offer comprehensive medical care for the little guys too!

The Wellness Examination

Besides performing a “nose-to-tail” examination of your pet, your veterinarian will look at and discuss with you a variety of other aspects of your pet’s health, including:

Those Pearly Whites – Up to 85% of dogs and cats have some form of dental disease by the time they are 3 years old. If left untreated, dental disease can wreak havoc on your pet’s health, so it’s important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations when it comes to oral care. Certain exotic pets, such as guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas, and even some reptiles such as bearded dragon lizards also benefit from regular dental care.

Nutrition – All pets have their own specific nutritional needs, based on species, age, size, and lifestyle. Your veterinarian will work with you to come up with a balanced diet suitable for the health and well being of your pet.

Exercise – All pets need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation for a happy and healthy life. Your veterinarian can make recommendations for the amount and type of exercise best suited for your pet.

Emergencies – Despite our best efforts as responsible pet owners, sometimes we find ourselves dealing with a pet emergency. Having an established relationship with a veterinary hospital and your pet’s medical records on file can make all the difference in an emergency situation.

Contact us for more information and believe that all pets deserve access to high quality medical care, regardless of species. We look forward to seeing you and your pet soon!

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Six Major Benefits of Dog Training

major benefits of dog training

Have you ever held a new puppy in your arms and fantasized about all the wonderful experiences you will embark on together? Perhaps you have watched Lassie, Old Yeller, Max or Air Bud and found yourself considering how life enriching the experience of owning a dog can be, only to find yourself frustrated and confused when your new puppy begins destroying your shoes or jumping on all of your friends.

Many new dog owners become discouraged when they realize that many dogs are not naturally the well-behaved, obedient companions that we see in films or on TV. Just like children, they require consistent, good direction and patience to shape them into the pup we want them to be.

Training your dog is not only beneficial for you and your sanity, it has serious implications for the safety and health of your dog, the well being of the people and pets whom you interact with and the money you will spend on home repairs and replacement clothing.

Why Should I Train My Dog?

benefits of dog training

Many people, pet owners and non-pet owners alike, would agree that training plays a critical role in a dog’s development and ability to safely interact with their environment. Despite this, a majority of respondents in a Pet365 survey reported they had never taken their dog to a professional training class.

The consequence of not training a dog can result in everything from annoyance and frustration on the part of an owner to severe and preventable behavioral problems which can result in injury or death to your dog, family, other people or other pets.

January is designated National Train Your Dog Month by the APDT, so the following information has been written in honor of all the awesome dog owners out there who want to learn more about how they can transform their life and the bond they have with their canine companion through training.

Six Major Benefits of Dog Training

1. It is significantly safer for your dog.
The safety of your pup is of paramount importance – and as its owner, it is your responsibility. Ensuring your pet listens to your commands can prevent it from experiencing potentially deadly conflict with other dogs or wild animals, running into a busy road or generally harming itself in hazardous situations.

2. It’s safer for your home.
Training your dog helps ensure that your living quarters are treated with respect. Instilling manners in your pet means that it will know the difference between what is acceptable and unacceptable in your home, and it will behave with courtesy to the rest of your family. It will save a great deal of money on home repairs, and will significantly
decreases the likelihood that dog will chew its way through the irreplaceable piece of antique furniture which has been in your family for five generations.

3. It builds a lasting relationship between you and your dog.
A training regime will establish a fundamental connection between you and your pup. As you spend time together, creating boundaries, sharing experiences and learning to understand each other, a mutual respect will develop. Your dog will learn to trust and respect your judgment, and you’ll gain admiration for their potential and capabilities.

4. It’s easier when you take your dog out in public.
We’ve all seen instances where it looks like a dog is taking its human for a walk, rather than the other way around. By training your dog and building its confidence around humans and its fellow dogs, your walks together will be an enjoyable experience for both of you. Your dog will learn to interact safely and effectively with others.

5. It’s easier for the vet to work with your dog.
Veterinarians are not miracle workers, and cannot risk their safety or the safety of their staff attempting to work on a dog who is reacting violently to them. Pet owners who have not taken the time to desensitize their dog to being touched or worked on can risk overgrown nails, dental disease, untreated wounds or infections and the progression of disease which likely could have been prevented if discovered early.

6. You can help other dog owners.

Once you understand how to train a dog, you have that skill forever. Not only can this help you with all the dogs you own, but once you’ve mastered training your own dog, you can share your knowledge with other owners. You can even start a career as a trainer yourself – and what could be better than working with dogs each and every day?

In Summary

January may be National Train Your Dog month, but the best time to begin experiencing the benefits of training your dog is right now – regardless of what day it is. Whether you already have a canine companion or are considering the addition of a furry family member, remember that training your pup is integral to optimizing your relationship with them and providing them the best life that you possibly can.

If you would like to learn more about dog training or are uncertain about where to start, we can help provide the information necessary to discover your dog’s true potential through science-based training methods. Please contact us for more information.

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Puppyhood Made Easy for New Owners: Socializing Your Puppy to Dogs & People!

Socialization prepares your puppy for interactions with new people and dogs for years to come. Here’s how to plan for and manage this very important growing phase in your puppy’s life.

The Puppy Academy student, Lulu!

The Puppy Academy student, Lulu!

The day has finally arrived when you planned on introducing your new puppy to the rest of the family, friends, and the family pup! These first interactions are in your puppy’s early socialization phase which means they are helping lay the building blocks for your puppy’s future interactions with new people and dogs. With the tips that we listed out below, plan these meetings ahead so your puppy has the best experience possible!

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Socializing with the Older Dog(s) in the Home

Some adult dogs just love their new siblings right away! But what if that’s not your case? We’ve heard in the past from clients that bring home a new puppy. Their older dog doesn’t immediately want to play with them and even seems to be bothered by the new puppy. This is totally normal! Every puppy and adult dog has different personalities and temperaments and in particular, with puppies who can have higher energy compared to an adult dog, in some situations it can take a few days of settling in and bonding to really start to get comfortable around each other.

We recommend that when you plan to introduce your new puppy to your older family dog, pick a neutral setting for their first-ever meeting where your older dog can start to build a bond with your puppy. If your pup is a little bit older and already has their vaccinations, start outside start outside with your new puppy and other dog going for a relaxed walk on a leash. Be prepared for the possibility of zig-zagging, sniffing, and tangled leashes, especially if you have a very young puppy that doesn’t know the “Heel” command yet! If your pup is on the younger side, utilize a playpen they can hang out in safely outdoors, and with your other dog on leash, let them approach and sniff out the playpen and new pup from the other side!

Next, when you move their meeting inside your home, put them in a smaller but easy-to-monitor area. Let your older dog get used to the new puppy and supervise their interaction. Sometimes playtime can escalate with a younger puppy that still doesn’t understand the limits between what’s acceptable play and what’s not. We’ll go into more detail about this in a later section. So to keep the interactions positive, keep them short at first, for five to ten minutes at a time with breaks in between to de-escalate excitement when needed!

Crate training is an invaluable asset when it comes to socialization with another dog in the home. Letting your puppy just hang out in their crate while observing the other dog (or vice versa!) helps them to get used to having the other dog present but also introduces them in a calm way. Lastly, crates and playpens also provide your puppy or adult dog a place to get some alone time from interacting with one another and time to recharge.

Socializing with People

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Meeting new people at home or outside during a walk, you might notice that your puppy may either get very excited or a bit apprehensive to greet someone. Depending on your puppy’s personality, let’s cover some scenarios and what to do!

 If you have family or friends coming over to your house to “meet the puppy” practice a little prep work with your guests! Before someone comes over, let them know that you are in the process of training your puppy to calmly greet people. So, when they arrive at your door, and if your excited puppy is jumping or barking for attention, your guests know to simply walk by your puppy without reaching down to pet them. This begins to teach your puppy that excited behavior won’t beget attention, in fact, the exact opposite. Only when your puppy is calm and settled, then instruct your guests that it’s okay to interact with your puppy. Essentially, you’ve helped reinforce that good, calm behavior will get your puppy the attention that they crave.

But what about puppies that just don’t want to settle down? Again, crate training is key in this situation. Place your puppy in their crate if they are just too excited and let them wait it out. The crate is simply helping you achieve the same result of teaching your puppy calm greetings. The alone time and space will help your puppy relax and, eventually, once they are calm enough, you can let them out to greet the new guests.

Another scenario you may encounter is when you are out with your puppy on a walk. For example, it’s inevitable that with a cute little puppy that some people will want to just run up and pet them! This is an opportunity for a great training session by engaging people to help teach your puppy a calm greeting! Ask them to give your puppy a treat for a calm, “Sit”, and only once your puppy settles and sits, then they can greet your puppy. If your puppy doesn’t know the command “Sit” just yet, just ask them to wait until your puppy settles down before approaching and giving them a treat or a pet.

What about nervous or more reserved puppies? How do you handle meeting new people? First, we recommend that you don’t force your puppy to interact with people or dogs for that matter if they are showing signs of being anxious or nervous. There is a common misconception that you should try to break a puppy “out of their shell” to get them to socialize, but in fact, that can reinforce their anxiety about strangers. This is when we encourage puppy owners to practice socialization through existence.

Existence Training

@heybert_co

@heybert_co

What does it mean to train your puppy to simply exist in new places or around new people and dogs?

Let’s look at what socialization means first…There’s a misconception that “socialization” means having your puppy meet as many people and dogs and places as possible in the first few months of life. We’ve seen two different outcomes from this belief. The first are puppies with explosive energy every time they meet a new person, dog, or go somewhere new. And second, reinforcement of apprehension in puppies that are more reserved or nervous about meeting new people and dogs.

So, existence is simply letting your puppy settle and observe things happening around them while remaining in a calm state like a “Sit”, “Down”, and or “Stay”. If your puppy doesn’t know those commands just yet, you can just hold your puppy next to you on a leash and let them watch as the world passes by. Or, practice redirecting your puppy’s attention with food and their leash, by calling their name and luring them back to you each time people or other dogs walk past them and reward your puppy for being engaged and calm in their setting.

Here are a few exercises that you can try! We do recommend that you read up on our “Place” command training blog before trying these.

-Start to teach your puppy the “Place” command at home. Designate a spot, like a pet cot, for example, and have your puppy just stay there while the family goes about their activities. This encourages your puppy to learn how to stay put in their place even when things are happening around them.

-Next, move “Place” training to your backyard or front porch using your puppy’s designated Place target (their pet cot). Again, have them go to their “Place” and just stay there while observing the yard, animals, people and dogs walking by, etc.

-Eventually, once your puppy can comfortably handle staying for periods on their “Place” at home and outside, move “Place” training to a public setting like a park. Practice the same steps from the previous exercises but be prepared that with a new setting there will be far more distractions and you may have to reset and give your puppy more frequent breaks.

Practice these “Place” training exercises for a few minutes at a time, rewarding your puppy with food or treats for staying in their place and remaining calm. As they continue to progress, you’re essentially training your puppy to be okay just existing in a variety of new environments around new people and dogs. Doing this will strengthen your puppy’s confidence but also encourage them to stay engaged with listening and staying with you.

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Playtime: What It Should Look Like & What to Look Out For

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Puppy playtime should be a balancing act of give and take. You will notice that when puppies play together, at some points one puppy will show submissive behaviors like a play bow or go belly up. Then there will be a switch when they will start to pounce or even play nip at the other puppy, and display more dominant behaviors. All of these actions are normal and help teach puppies the right ways of playing with one another and establish boundaries.

But, these are puppies we’re talking about and there will be instances that you need to look out for to interject during playtime. For example, if you regularly let your puppy play with submissive puppies, and they begin to demonstrate more and more dominant behaviors, this may continue to translate over to other play with other dogs later on, eventually escalating. By allowing those behaviors to continue on submissive puppies, you are empowering your puppy to “bully” other puppies and disrupting the balance in playtime.

And that goes the other way, too! If you allow your puppy to take on the submissive role over and over during playtime with other more assertive puppies, you may inadvertently create anxiety in your puppy about playing with other dogs later on.

There is body language to look for when puppies are playing together that can help clue you in if something is about to happen. For example, less confident puppies may start to drop their ears, crouching behind you or other things, and giving you wide whale eyes, if the other assertive puppy isn’t backing down. This is a perfect situation in which you as your puppy’s leader should step in and break up the play. Both to teach them not to bully the other puppy, but also, if your puppy is the submissive one, to advocate for them.

In the event that your high-energy puppy is playing with another high-energy puppy, you might notice they are riling each other up. This playtime might result in lots of nippiness and noise, like barking or growling. Be prepared to also intervene if their behaviors start to become more and more frequent as they can escalate to a fight. Give your puppy a break from playtime, perhaps even redirect their energy into puppy training for a few minutes, before allowing them to play again.

Takeaways When it Comes to Socializing Your Puppy!

We covered a lot in this blog so we wanted to give a brief rundown of the key points to remember:

  1. Start in neutral settings, and controlled areas like a playpen when introducing your puppy to the adult family dog.

  2. When meeting new people, practice calm greetings. Prep your family, friends, and even instruct strangers that want to meet your puppy to only interact with your puppy if they are calm, and not jumping for attention.

  3. Don’t force nervous puppies to interact right away. Let them work on simply being around new people and dogs.

  4. Practice existence training by teaching your puppy to stay in their “Place” while watching activities happening around them at home, in your yard, and eventually out in public.

  5. Look out for submissive and dominant behaviors during playtime. It should be a balancing act. When you notice too much of one type of behavior, intervene and advocate for your puppy and pause play when needed.

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Service Dogs 101—Everything You Need to Know

guide dog golden retriever leads owner
  • government relations
  • service dogs
  • A service dog is a dog specifically trained to perform work for a person with a disability.
  • Service dogs are valued working partners and companions to over 80 million Americans.
  • Common service dog breeds include German Shepherd Dogs, Labs, and Golden Retrievers.

Our dogs are integral to our daily lives They follow our commands, work with us in various capacities, and act as faithful companions Dog ownership has increased dramatically over the last 100 years, and todaydogs as companions and working partners are valued by more than 80 million U.S. owners.  

Studies have shown that dogs provide health benefits, and can increase fitness, lower stress, and improve happiness. Service dogs encompass all of these abilities, combined with training to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities. During the last decade, the use of service dogs has rapidly expanded.   

Aservice dogs have become more commonplace, however, so too have problems that can result from lack of understanding about service dog training, working functions, and access to public facilities In response, AKC Government Relations is working with members of Congress, regulatory agencies, leading service dog trainers and providers, and transportation/hospitality industry groups to find ways to address these issues.   

The benefits service dogs can provide also continue to expand.  In the 1920s, a service dog was a Seeing Eye Dog and a Seeing Eye Dog meant a German Shepherd Dog.  In 2019, service dogs are trained from among many different breeds and perform an amazing variety of tasks to assist disabled individuals.

What Is a Service Dog?

A service dog helps a person with a disability lead a more independent life. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.”   

“Disability” is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including people with a history of such an impairment, and people perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. 

A service dog is trained to take a specific action whenever required, to assist a person with their disability. The task the dog performs is directly related to their person’s disability.  

For example, guide dogs help blind and visually impaired individuals navigate their environments. Hearing dogs help alert deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to important sounds. Mobility dogs assist individuals who use wheelchairs, walking devices, and who have balance issues.  Medical alert dogs might also signal the onset of a medical issue such as a seizure or low blood sugaralert the user to the presence of allergens, and myriad other functions.   

Psychiatric service dogs assist individuals with disabilities such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and other conditions.  Examples of work performed by psychiatric service dogs could include entering a dark room and turning on a light to mitigate stress-inducing conditionsinterrupting repetitive behaviorsand reminding a person to take medication.   

The ADA considers service dogs to be primarily working animals that are not considered pets.   

Common Service Dog Breeds

Service dogs can range from very small to very large. The dog must be of a size to comfortably and effectively execute the tasks needed to help mitigate a disability. For example, a Papillon is not an appropriate choice to pull a wheelchair but could make an excellent hearing dog. 

Breeds like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Bernese Mountain Dogs possess the height and strength to provide mobility assistance, while Poodles, which come in ToyMiniature, and Standard varieties, are particularly versatile.  A Toy Poodle puppy can begin early scent training games in preparation for the work of alerting on blood sugar variations, while a larger Standard Poodle puppy may learn to activate light switches and carry objects.   

The most common breeds trained as guide dogs are Labrador RetrieversGolden Retrievers, and German Shepherd Dogs.   

Canine Companions for Independence, Inc. (CCI) maintains a breeding program of Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. CCI states, Breeder dogs and their puppies are the foundation of our organization.”  

The predictability of dogs in a breeding program yields improved results. According to CCI, “Our breeding program staff checks each dog’s temperament, trainability, health, physical attributes, littermate trends, and the production history of the dam and sire. Only then are the best of the best chosen.”  

NEADS World Class Service Dogs maintains a breeding program and also obtains puppies that are sold or donated by purebred breeders. Using primarily Labrador Retrievers, NEADS “works closely with reputable breeders to determine whether their puppies are appropriate for our program based on the temperament, health and behavioral history of both the dam and the sire.”  NEADS also selects alert, high-energy dogs from animal shelters and rescue groups as candidates for training as hearing dogs. 

Regardless of breed or mix, the best service dogs are handler-focused, desensitized to distractions, and highly trained to reliably perform specific tasks. They are not easily diverted from their tasks at home or in public and remain attentive and responsive to their owners while working. 

Is A Dog in a Vest a Service Dog?

Although some service dogs may wear vests, special harnesses, collars, or tags, the ADA does not require service dogs to wear vests or display identification.  Conversely, many dogs that do wear ID vests or tags specifically are not actual service dogs.   

For example, emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. But, because these dogs are not trained to perform a specific job or task for a person with a disability, they do not qualify as service dogs under the ADA.   

The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, “If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.” 

ESAs are not allowed access to public facilities under the ADA.  However, some state and local governments have enacted laws that allow owners to take ESAs into public places. ESA owners are urged to check with their state, county, and city governments for current information on permitted and disallowed public access for ESAs.     

Owners of ESAs may be eligible for access to housing that is not otherwise available to pet dog owners, and travelers may be permitted to bring ESAs into the cabins on commercial flights under specified conditions.  The requirements for access to housing and air travel for ESAs can vary by location and destination, and these rules are subject to change.     

Therapy dogs provide opportunities for pettingaffection, and interaction in a variety of settings on a volunteer basis. Therapy dogs and their owners bring cheer and comfort to hospital patients, assisted living center residents, stressed travelers in airports, college students during exams, and in other situations where friendly, well-trained dogs are welcome.  Therapy dogs are also used to relieve stress and bring comfort to victims of traumatic events or disasters.  Many groups that train therapy dogs or that take dogs on pet therapy visits have matching ID tags, collars, or vests.   

Therapy dogs are not defined as service dogs under the ADA, do not receive access to public facilities, are not eligible for special housing accommodations, and do not receive special cabin access on commercial flights.   

Courthouse dogs are another category of dogs that sometimes wear vests or display other ID, but are not service dogs. Several states have enacted measures that allow a child or vulnerable person to be accompanied by a courthouse, facility, or therapy dog during trial proceedings.  The rules and requirements for use of these dogs vary by state, and additional states are considering enacting similar laws.  Courtroom dogs are not protected under the ADA and are not eligible for special housing accommodations or cabin access on commercial flights.   

Where to Find a Service Dog

Professional service dog training organizations and individuals who train service dogs are located throughout the U.S.  They work to train dogs to perform a skill or skills specific to a handler’s disability.  As part of their training, service dogs are taught public access skills, such as house training, settling quietly at the handler’s side in public, and remaining under control in a variety of settings   

Professional service dog trainers have high standards for their dogs, and the drop-out rates for service dog candidates can run as high as 50 to 70 percent.  Fortunately, there are often long lists of available homes for dogs that don’t make the cut. 

Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations train service dogs.  The cost of training a service dog can exceed $25,000.  This may include training for the person with a disability who receives the dog and periodic follow-up training for the dog to ensure working reliability.  Some organizations provide service dogs to disabled individuals at no cost or may offer financial aid for people who need, but cannot afford, a service dog.  Other organizations may charge fees for a trained dog. 

Persons with disabilities and those acting on their behalf are encouraged to work with an experienced, reputable service dog organization or trainer.  Carefully check out the organization, ask for recommendations, and make an informed decision before investing funds or time to acquire a trained service dog.  

How to Train Your Own Service Dog

 The ADA does not require service dogs to be professionally trained.  Individuals with disabilities have the right to train a service dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog trainer or training program. 

A service dog candidate should: 

  • Be calm, especially in unfamiliar settings 
  • Be alert, but not reactive 
  • Have a willingness to please 
  • Be able to learn and retain information  
  • Be capable of being socialized to many different situations and environments 
  • Be reliable in performing repetitive tasks 

Individuals who wish to train their own service dogs should first work with their candidate dog on foundation skills. Start with house training, which should include eliminating on command in different locations. Socialize the dog with the objective of having it remain on task in the presence of unfamiliar people, places, sights, sounds, scents, and other animals.  Teach the dog to focus on the handler and ignore distractions. The AKC Canine Good Citizen program can provide guidelines and benchmarks for foundation skills.  

In addition to socialization and basic obedience training, a service dog must be trained to perform work or specific tasks to assist with a disability. 

Under ADA rules, in situations where it is not obvious that a dog is a service animal, only two questions may be asked: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? 

The reply to a question (2) must affirm that the service dog has been trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. 

2016 ACE Award winner Teddie

Teddie, a Labrador Retriever owned by Krystal Greco of North East, Md., won the 2016 ACE Award for Service. Teddie assisted Krystal, who is paralyzed from the waist down, at home and at her part-time job.

The Epidemic of Fake Service Dogs

Federal laws provide special accommodations to the disabled and limit the questions that may be asked about disabilities.  Unfortunately, too often these laws are abused by people who fraudulently misrepresent their dogs as service animals.  

This harms the truly disabled, confuses the public, and affects the reputation of legitimate service dog users Even worse, a poorly-trained fake service animal can be a danger to the public and to real service dogs.  In response to this growing problemthe American Kennel Club in 2015 issued a policy position statement on Misuse of Service Dogs.   

In 2016, the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans created “CGC Plus”, a minimum standard for training and behavior for the service dogs their members provide to veterans. CGC Plus requires dogs to pass the AKC Canine Good CitizenCommunity Canine, and Urban CGC tests, plus demonstrate proficiency in performing three randomly selected specific services for a disabled person.  The 2016 federal PAWS bill incorporated the AKC CGC into service dog requirements for Veterans’ Administration-funded dogs.   

State and local governments continue to introduce and pass laws that make it an offense to misrepresent a service animal.  In 2018, 48 measures were introduced to address fake service animals.

The AKC also workwith the American Service Dog Access Coalition, a charitable not-for-profit organization comprised of major service dog groups, service dog access providers, advocates for the disabled, service dog trainers, and policymakers seeking to improve access for legitimate service dog teams while incentivizing high-quality behavioral standards for all service dogs, and educating the public about the crime of service dog fraud.      

Service dogs are more than pets and more than companions.  The important work they do enhances independence for children and adults with physical, cognitive, and developmental disabilities, and improves the everyday lives of thousands of people across the country.

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