While attending the SoCal Animal Rescue Team pet fair I encountered a variety of dogs. Some were marvelous pets, some were up for adoption seeking forever homes, and some were remarkable medical alert or service dogs. To my wonderment, one of the medical alert dogs resembled a Maltese. I had always been under the impression that only certain breeds and the larger size dogs would be suitable for service type responsibilities.
This assumption is only partially correct. While most breeds can be service dogs, the type of service they provide may be limited due to the characteristics and temperaments of their class. Nonetheless, I was surprised to find out how many different types and sizes of dogs could be trained to be certified as service dogs for us humans.
Service dogs can provide assistance in a number of different ways for their human companions. Some dogs can be trained to warn a diabetic individual if their blood sugar is at dangerous levels. Some canines learn to guide those individuals whose vision or hearing is impaired while others may be trained to provide a variety of therapy services to seniors and children such as allowing the seniors and children to pet them, hold them, read to them, or simply have some play time with them.
Depending on the need of the person, a certain breed of dog may be more suited than another to be trained to assist. For example, according to the organization Guide Dogs of America, the three types of breeds most suited for assisting the blind and hearing impaired are Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, and German Shepherd. These breeds of dogs are chosen due to their health, willingness and temperament.
However, for those dogs that assist with therapy, according to Therapy Dogs, Inc., any breed of canine may be suitable to be a therapy dog if they meet important guidelines such as having a calm disposition, enjoy human interaction; must be at least one year old, and be current with their vaccines. To have your dog certified as a service dog it is important to research the certification guidelines and qualifications for the type of service you wish the dog to provide.
It should also be noted, that some dogs will never be suited for service positions even if they are the "correct" breed. The requirements to be a service dog are very high due to the responsibility they have to bare while assisting their human companion. Therefore, if an individual is in need of a service dog for a certain issue they have, when choosing a canine companion it is important to find the right dog for your need, not the one whom you may find the cutest or most desirable.
To learn how to make your companion a service dog each state has various training programs for dogs. To learn more how to make your dog a working animal research service dog training academies in your area. And understand that training a dog to be a service dog is different from obedience and other training programs your pet may experience.
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