Dogs touch our lives in so many ways. They are family members, sources of joy and comfort, companions, and, in many cases, lifesavers.
There are three categories of support animals:
Emotional Support Dogs: These dogs provide a level of emotional comfort to owners with disabilities, but these dogs are not required to be highly skilled/trained in detection or in helping to aid their owners.
Therapy Dogs: Therapy dogs provide comfort to people in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc. We’ve seen it ourselves with our dog, Sam. He was a therapy dog for autistic and disabled children. It was amazing to see what his weekly visits meant to those kids. Some facilities require that Therapy Dogs earn a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification for visits. To become a Canine Good Citizen, dogs and their owners take a two-part course through the American Kennel Club where they will learn ten basic skills to instill confidence in and out of the home. To learn more about the Canine Good Citizen Program click HERE.
Sam and Amy in 2010, training for Sam's Canine Good Citizen Certificate
Service Dogs: Service Dogs have been used in the United States since the 1920s when they were first trained as seeing-eye dogs to help the visually impaired. It took until 1990 for Service Dogs to be officially recognized as Guide Dogs with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are many kinds of Service Dogs: Allergy Detection Dogs. Autism Service Dogs. Diabetic Alert Dogs. Hearing Dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Mobility Assistance Dogs, Seizure Alert Dogs, Psychiatric Service Dogs that help people, like Veterans, deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Unlike Therapy Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs, Service Dogs are highly trained. One organization that is doing an amazing job in the training and pairing of Service dogs is NEADS, Inc. NEADS is a non-profit organization that has trained over 1,900 Service Dog teams since its founding in 1978. In addition to having a dedicated base of trainers, full-time and weekend puppy raisers, between 90-95% of NEADS puppies are trained in 7 correctional facilities throughout New England. With training from NEADS facilitators, the inmates in the Prison PUP Program can provide consistent training at a high level simply because of the amount of time they can devote to the dogs. This enables NEADS to place dogs faster to people in need and, in return, benefits the inmates in countless positive ways.
Michael Allard, Chief Operation Officer of Home Base, an organization dedicated to healing the invisible wounds for Veterans of all eras, explains why service dogs are so important for Veterans:
"After nearly 20 years of America’s longest war, over 3 million veterans have been deployed with an estimated 1 in 3 returning with an invisible wound of war. PTSD is among the most significant of these wounds. Symptoms include hyper vigilance, loss of sleep, nightmares, self isolation and anxiety to name a few. The impact is unprecedented with 20 veterans and 1 active duty service member dying by suicide every day.
Service dogs have increasingly been a healing source of support for veterans impacted by PTSD. At Home Base, we have partnered with certified and best in class service dog non-profits Canine Companions and NEADS to match trained service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD. Dogs are trained to interrupt nightmares and anxiety attacks, turn on lights, retrieve items and support their handlers in crowded public situations. And the companionship of a dogs does wonders to heal the heart and soul.
Finally, Home Base is also home to Gatsby, our official facility service dog for veterans and families who come to our National Center of Excellence from all over the United States care for care and support."
To learn more about Home Base and Gatsby, please click HERE
Labrador Retrievers are the most popular breed for Service Dogs due their friendly nature and their desire to work and please their trainers/owners.
Some Quick Facts about Service Dogs:
- Service Dogs are not pets. They are highly trained and skilled animals who are “on-duty” to perform specific tasks for their owners.
- Dogs are the only recognized form of service animals. Other animals like cats, pigs, and ducks (yes, ducks!) are recognized as Emotional Support Animals or Therapy Animals - each with its own set of rights.
- Service Dogs do not need to wear any identifying vests or tags so it is important to ask if you may pet someone’s dog. If a service dog is working, being pet may distract them from their job and leave their owner in danger.
- Service Dogs can learn and perform up to 60 different kinds of tasks and commands from alerting someone when they hear a smoke detector to retrieving medication from a refrigerator.
Doing Our Part:
Amy and I feel so strongly about the work NEADS is doing that we are donating 10% of all profits from our sales each month to this important organization and their causes.
To learn more about the work NEADS does, please click HERE.
My basset is both a therapy dog and my service dog. He has 2 different skill sets for each type of work. Not all dogs can do either job, a good place to start is basic obedience. Mini horses are also permitted by the ADA to be service animals. Training can take years and must be consistent but it is very rewarding to watch the progress