As the old adage goes, sometimes you need a little help from a friend. While there have been strides in support and exclusivity for people from all walks of life, an extra helping hand makes the difference between a good day and a difficult one. In this case, an extra helping paw does too!

Finding out how to get a service dog requires some knowledge surrounding your local, state and federal regulations depending on where you’re from or what you plan to use your service dog for. Learn more on what defines a service dog and how to determine if a service dog is right for you.

What Qualifies a Service Dog?

A service dog’s requirements are pretty straightforward. According to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), “A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” If you meet one or a few of these requirements, you may qualify from the benefit of having a service dog.

Service dogs train from young ages to serve their human counterpart. Typically, a service dog begins their training by 18 months! It isn’t completely unheard of for an existing family pet to receive service dog training, but usually service dogs become bred at young ages only to serve.

Depending on the individual’s needs, a service dog’s training will surround what the handler requires. For example, if the service dog’s handler is blind, the service dog will train on guiding the handler wherever the handler specifies. If a handler is hard of hearing or deaf, the service dog’s responsibilities surround alerting their handler.

Regardless of the handler’s needs, service dogs cater to their individual’s required assistance. This makes service animals wonderful for people of varied special needs. No matter the use, service animals are up for the task.

Laws Surrounding Service Dogs

The laws surrounding service dogs are mainly governed by the ADA, or the American with Disabilities Act of 1990. This act governs the laws and regulations surrounding disabled individuals and their rights. How to get a service dog, and what defines one, is outlined within the laws of the ADA.

Under the ADA, dogs are the only type of animal considered a service animal. However, in 2011, miniature horses became added as service animals too! Miniature horses under the regulation of the ADA’s requirements have similar rights as service dogs as well.

While states and local laws exist in the protection of service animals, the right and regulation of a service dog enforces itself through the ADA. This means that the ADA’s regulations surrounding service dogs is what a handler will follow when responsible for a service dog.

A service dog must be clearly identified and leashed or harnessed when traveling with its handler. There aren’t many places a service dog can’t go, but there are exceptions. For example, a service dog isn’t typically allowed where they’ll compromise a sterile environment like a surgery room.

Therefore, knowing the laws surrounding service dogs help a handler maintain the rules for their dogs and themselves alike.

Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Dogs

Service dogs perform a variety of duties for their handler that aligns to their day-to-day life. An emotional support dog or other animal serves a different purpose. Both service dogs and emotional support dogs have regulations via the ADA, but their rules vary.

This means that if you have an emotional support dog, they have a more limited range of regulation from a service dog. Emotional support dogs train to provide many different services from stress reduction to comfort from anxieties, but they’re not allowed almost anywhere like a service dog.

Emotional support animals aren’t just limited to dogs either. An emotional support animal can literally be any sort of animal. From a rabbit to a peacock, there are no species qualifications for an emotional support animal.

How to Get a Service Dog

One might wonder how to get a service dog and if it’s worth it. While you may believe a service dog would enhance your lifestyle, knowing if it’ll benefit you requires following regulations.

Getting a service dog is no simple task. You’ll need to prove if you require assistance via a service dog. The first step in how to get a service dog starts with speaking to your doctor.

If your doctor determines you’ll benefit from a service dog, selecting the right dog for you starts by contacting the organizations responsible for the training of service dogs. Many organizations exist for various styles of service dogs needed – from veteran support to autism.

All in all, how to get a service dog starts with speaking to the right people. They’ll help you determine if a service dog is right for you and your needs.

Amazing Service Dog Breeds

Choosing the service dog for you starts with considering what you’ll need the most assistance with. While every breed of service dog is great, a few amazing service dog breeds are:

  • Labradors: Labradors or “Labs” are great service dog material. Not only are they strong and great at physical assistance, they have sweet temperaments and firm restraint that make them perfect travelers.
  • Pomeranian: Not generally thought of as a service dog, Poms are expert sniffers. If you’re diabetic or prone to bad asthma, Pomeranians have the type of sophisticated snout that can save your life!
  • Collie: These Lassie look-a-likes have grown in popularity for service dog duty as of late. Their abilities to detect seizures and friendly demeanors make them great for service.
  • Irish Setter: While they’re used far and few as service dogs, they’re paw-fect for a person needing extra assistance with mobility. They’re natural leaders and are able to harness good physical strength.

If you’re thinking of finding a support animal that’ll meet your needs, contact your doctor and learn what it takes to receive one.