What is a service dog ?

A service dog (also know as assistance dog) is a companion that is specially trained to assist its owner. A medical certificate proving an injury or disability is required to purchase and train an service dog. So not just anyone can use one.

Before training, the dog is tested for aptitude, and then the entire team (handler and dog) takes a certification exam. The service dog team is then tested annually to ensure their skills remain up to date. A service cap approved by the support function must be worn by the assistance dog, and the handler must be identified. Service dogs help disabled people gain independence and safety. So the dog helps increase social participation and reduces the need for other support and care services. The National Board of Health and Welfare found in 2014 that this benefits society. Handlers usually own assistance dogs.

Working service dogs with a disabled handler are known as service dogs. (Service and signal dogs; sos-dogs), diabetes dog, epilepsy dog (alerting service dogs), guide dog (former guide dog), service dog (deer dog), mental health dog (NPF-dog), signal dog (for the hearing impaired), and therapy dog are all examples of assistance dogs (care dog).

According to Wikipedia

However, an service dog’s handler can use an assistance dog for many different purposes. Co-training adapts it to the handler’s needs. A medically alert service/assistance dog warns its owner when their body temperature is too high or too low, or when an epileptic seizure is imminent.

A mental health dog can help a person with a long-term mental, cognitive, or neuropsychiatric diagnosis by calming them and providing structure in their lives. A service dog can help a disabled person pick up, carry, close doors, and support a wheelchair.

A signal dog alerts a deaf person to environmental sounds like a fire alarm. Guide dogs are trained to assist people with severe visual impairments. Their training includes avoiding obstacles, finding posts and stairs, stopping at crosswalks. They can also retrieve items that the guide dog handler has dropped. Sweden has around 300 guide dogs. The National Association of the Blind owns all guide dogs.

The teams are usually trained together under the auspices of an assistance dog organization affiliated with Assistance Dogs Europe and Assistance Dogs International, which have developed a set of rules and standards for the certification of assistance dogs, with the exception of guide dogs and therapy dogs. Certified assistance dogs and assistance dogs in training are issued a special service tag that allows them to accompany their master or mistress in areas where dogs are not permitted.

What is a therapy dog?

A therapy dog is a dog that works in health, education and/or care. For a dog to work best as a therapy dog, both dog and handler must be well trained – the dog must be thoroughly tested and the handler must be able to read the dog’s signals and handle situations accordingly. It is also not for nothing that the dog has come to be called “man’s best friend”, as dogs have an amazing ability to accept people without judgement. Having a dog around facilitates conversations, increases happiness, lightens the mood and reduces people’s sense of isolation and alienation. The dog often acts as a social lubricant, opening up spontaneous conversations and contacts. It is also very much about the dog’s straightforward way of communicating and their clear signalling, which makes them pleasant and trustworthy to be around.

Therapy dog interventions are often based on referrals written and determined by licensed healthcare professionals (physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses as well as doctors) and are always carried out together with the dog handler.

A therapy dog’s role is not only to be a pleasant companion and to have a warm and soft coat for the patient to pet (although this is an important part of the therapy dog’s work) but also to train e.g. motor skills, speech, memory and social contact with the patient and to activate them through play and walks to brighten the patient’s life and to make training fun!

What effects can a social service dog have?

Many people can attest to the benefits of having therapy dogs in their community. These experiences are backed up by research, which demonstrates the ways in which people are affected by their interactions with dogs with quantifiable evidence. We’ve also compiled a list of key contributions that a social service dog can make below:

  • Make contact and open up conversations
  • Increase ability to concentrate
  • Motivate physical activity
  • Facilitate interaction with other individuals
  • Enable participation in education
  • Reduce worry and anxiety
  • Provide comfort and reassurance when life is difficult
  • Break social isolation
  • Reduce stress

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