Monday, April 15, 2013

How Does A Dog Get to Be A Service Dog?

A dog who  helps his or her owner to cope with a disabling physical or mental condition is -- in the United States -- considered to be a service dog.  Usually, this involves special training, and this training can be simple or complicated, depending upon what the service dog needs to be able to do.  Of course, some dogs are "naturals". I have a diabetic friend whose dog always "tells him" when his glucose levels are wrong. The dog was never trained to do this. He just knows.  But most dogs require training.  
Who is allowed to train service dogs?  Anyone, including the owner.
Do you have to pass a test?  No.  There are no official tests. Do you have to have a certificate? No. There are no official certificates.  Do you have to register?  No. There is no official registry.  In fact, American service dogs aren't even required to have ID cards or to wear special vests.
So how do you know that a dog is "really" a service dog?  
Service dogs are well-behaved.  A service dog walks obediently alongside his owner. He doesn't jump or lunge or bark at other dogs.  In restaurants or on public transportation, he sit quietly at his owner's feet or under the table and doesn't beg for food. 
Most service dogs do wear identifying vests -- not because it's legally required, but because it makes life easier for everyone concerned if people realize the dog is a service dog. Xingxing wears a vest. Xingxing loves his vest. He knows it means that he's about to go someplace interesting.
Service dogs can go anywhere, unless they cause a disturbance. If a service dog is unruly, or barks or lunges or snaps or causes any difficulty whatsoever,  that dog can -- and should -- be immediately removed from the premises ... and is probably not "really" a service dog, anyway.
So that's how you know.  
It may sound like a very permissive system.  And in some ways, I suppose it is.  But it works pretty well for most of us, most of the time.  And it's a lot easier and less expensive than a huge, government-run bureaucracy.
Now that we've got all that out of the way, I'm going to tell you about one of the most dog-friendly hotels in Arizona.

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