I’m sure you have seen dogs wearing vests in places you would not expect to see dogs. So why are they there, and what is their purpose?
Published: May 1, 2018
By: Frances McGowin
I’m sure you have seen dogs wearing vests in places you would not expect to see dogs. If it was in a nursing home or a hospital, the dog could have been a therapy dog, just there to visit residents and patients for a few hours.
However, if you see a dog with a vest on in places like grocery stores, Walmart, or restaurants, that dog is a service dog, and, according to the American Disabilities Act (ADA), has been specifically trained to be a service dog and perform tasks that are specifically related to that person’s medical disability.
Therapy dogs are someone’s pet who is trained to provide comfort to many people. A service dog is a medical tool to help one person with a disability live an independent life.
Both dogs have important jobs, but their job descriptions and training are quite different. A service dog is trained to focus solely on one person. He is trained in public access commands and behaviors as well as task training and home behaviors.
A service dog trained by a professional service dog organization will have more than 2,000 hours of fulltime training. The dog must pass numerous tests and evaluations prior to his placement to a person with disabilities.
A service dog that is owner trained should also go through rigorous training and socialization to ensure that the dog will behave in all public settings, can tolerate long and intense working hours, will perform his tasks regardless of his surroundings, and is comfortable, calm, and relaxed in all settings.
Therapy dogs are trained by their owner at their owner’s own pace and will usually pass a temperament and simple obedience evaluation for certification. Therapy dogs should like visiting with all kinds of people in all kinds of settings.
Frances McGowin is the founder and executive director of Service Dogs Alabama, based in Hope Hull.