Besides offering companionship, giving you a sense of responsibility, and keeping you active, having a canine friend can provide numerous benefits to one’s health, lifestyle, and overall wellness. As a matter of fact, some dogs have the ability to make one’s life easier, especially when suffering from certain health issues or disability challenges.
If you’re reading this, higher chances are that you’ve come across the popular terms “Rescue Dog” and “Service Dog”, with the latter being fairly common among persons living with disabilities (PWDs).
So, what exactly are rescue dogs, and can they become service dogs? Read on for answers on this, how to find a service dog, and what Service Dog Organizations (SDOs) look for when recruiting service dogs.
What’s A Rescue Dog?
In the simplest of terms, a rescue dog is as the name suggests – a pooch that is rescued and sheltered in a new home after facing neglect, abuse, and abandonment by its previous owner.
This is usually done by accredited individuals, veterinarians, animal welfare institutions, pet clubs, and non-profit organizations. The dog is given the care they need by the rescue and eventually become available for adoption.
What’s A Service Dog?
A service dog is a dog with special trained to administer and perform tasks that help people with disabilities carry on with their day-to-day tasks with ease. The definition, according to ADA.gov is, "Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities." For instance, the dog can perform a multitude of tasks, including opening doors, pulling luggage, guiding the owner to their destination, or attending to their medical needs, alerting them to an impending emergency, and so forth.
Some studies have actually indicated that service dogs could help improve activity and quality of life among veterans suffering from PTSD. These dogs come in handy in assisting PWDs suffering from one of many challenges, including short-term memory loss, paralysis, visual impairments, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s, among others.
Can A Rescue Dog Become A Service Dog?
Can a previously mistreated or neglected dog become a service dog? The answer is yes, indeed they can! This is as long as the dog is in good health, can be trained, and has the temperaments needed to best serve their handler. In other words, a rescue dog can pretty much earn the title “service dog” and do a great job at it!
How to Get a Service Dog of Your Own
If you’re suffering from a disability, your doctor might recommend getting one of the 4 main types of assistance dogs. They might recommend a therapy dog or an emotional support dog if you’re suffering from acute stress or an issue may resolve through the mere comfort and companionship of a furry friend.
An ordinary service dog might also be suggested if you’re visually impaired or have difficulty hearing. If you’re suffering from a mental health illness like PTSD, depression, anxiety, or panic disorders, on the other hand, you might want to talk to your doctor to find out if you qualify for a psychiatric service dog.
Just like all service dogs, these four-legged friends have the legal right to access any public facility you have clearance for, including airplanes, trains, and hotel and lodging accommodations. They are all protected by the Amerians with Disabilities Act.
With your doctor’s written recommendation, you can then start your search online and offline looking for nearby organizations that provide service dogs or you can adopt a rescue and pursue training with an organization on your own!
4 Things Service Dog Organizations Look For
Earlier on, we established that even rescue dogs can qualify to become service dogs. However, there are several key things that service dog organizations consider when ascertaining a rescue dog’s ability to serve as a service dog. Some of these include the following:
The Dog’s Age
Most service dog organizations prefer evaluating post-adolescent and older dogs. This helps avoid the possibility that the dog’s behavior or temperament could change with puberty or growing older. Oftentimes, dogs between the ages of nine months and two and a half years are considered best for recruitment.
Health and Fitness
Many organizations check the dog for signs and symptoms that could indicate poor health, including weepy eyes, body sores, pest infestation, and unusual shedding. Also, an unfit dog will probably not serve its handler best.
Is the Dog Hypoallergenic?
While not required, hypoallergenic features may be considered to prevent or minimize the chances that the dog could cause allergies to its handler.
Most importantly, service dog organizations will assess the various traits of a dog before considering it suitable for service dog training. Some crucial temperaments they look for include:
Eager to please
Tolerance under pressure
Willingness to learn
Easy to train
Resilience under high-frustration situations
While just about any dog breed can become a service dog, evaluating the suitability of rescue dogs for the service dog job can take time. Professional assessors attest that only 25% of rescue dogs end up being suitable candidates for the job. With proper training and observation, a good number of these pooches end up becoming magnificent service dogs.
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Our rehabilitation efforts address the physical and emotional needs of rescued animals and prepare them for the second chance they deserve. You can make a difference by fostering, adopting, or making a donation toward these worthy animals.
Thank you for supporting Dallas Dog. Our mission is to create a safer place for animals by rescuing and rehabilitating those who are neglected, unwanted and abused across Texas or displaced by natural disasters nearby and finding them a permanent home. You can visit our website at www.dallasdogrrr.org to follow our amazing journey.