Learn more about Assistance Dogs! Scroll or click on one below:
What is an Assistance/Service Dog?
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. (Defined by Title II and Title III of the ADA):
It is crucial to understand the difference between Assistance/Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals (ESA). The legalities of public access and overall services provided differ between these three categories and are not equivalent in the eyes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); therefore, their terms should not be used interchangeably. According to Federal Law, a Service Animal is not a pet. ADA states that an Assistance Dog has been individually trained to provide assistance or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a physical or mental disability which substantially limits one or more of the individual's major life functions. In general, Therapy Dogs have access by permission rather than by rights. Emotional Support Animals are protected only under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). They do not have any public access rights.
An Assistance Dog is a highly skilled dog that is to be used by the client themselves for their own rehabilitation, allowed access to any public place and any airline as long as they behave in accordance with ADA – (no excessive barking, aggressive behavior, toileting in inappropriate areas, etc.) The only places that are legally allowed to deny entrance to Assistance Dogs are private places of worship and military installations.
A Therapy Dog can be taken to facilities (schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.) with specific permission to brighten the lives with touch and entertainment therapy. If you are interesting in training your dog to be a therapy dog and have permission from a chosen facility, please go to the Therapy and Pet Dog Training Section here:
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a not the same as an Assistance Dog; it can be a variety of domestic animals and does not require training. ESAs provide therapeutic support to their handler through companionship, affection, non-judgmental positive energy, and create a goal and focus in life. If a doctor determines their patient would benefit from the companionship of an ESA in coping with an emotional illness, a letter may be written in support of keeping the animal with them in housing or while traveling in the cabin of an aircraft. ADA does not protect ESAs, they are only protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).
Below is a list of the types of Assistance Dogs that can be trained with your existing dog or newly adopted dog from a shelter, rescue, responsible breeder, etc.
If you have a disability not listed on this page, you may still contact to discuss your desires and needs to customize a program that is catered for you — or help direct you to another trainer or organization.
Assistance Dogs require
care, too, but the rewards are priceless.
Dogs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Also known as "Hearing Alert Dogs", these Assistance Dogs learn through operant conditioning to alert people with hearing loss to the presence of specific sounds such as phone alerts, doorbells or knocks at the door, smoke, fire and clock alarms, crying babies, sirens, another person, buzzing timers or sensors, etc. You can choose to have a "Home Helpmate" or train your dog for public access and home service work.
Assistance Dogs for People with Psychiatric Disabilities
Assistance Dogs can benefit not only physical disabilities, but psychiatric as well. Medical scans and Functional MRIs have clinically proven that the training process and companionship associated with Assistance Dogs in reality change the brain! Parts of the brain that are “misfiring” due to depression, trauma, or anxiety can greatly improve with the assistance of a well trained dog to be an unobtrusive helpmate in the most dire situation. These dogs can assist and alert people with many psychiatric and emotional disorders, including anxiety, PTSD, TBI, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and so forth. This type of Assistance Dog can provide, calming effects (Deep Pressure Therapy), physical exercise to make a positive difference to someone with PTSD or other psychiatric disorders, and even a sense of security in home and in public.
Training may include signaling to interrupt repetitive or injurious behavior, reorienting clients during flashbacks, guiding the client away from stressful situations, or providing environmental assessment (to ease paranoia). They can help a client remain calm in public places by preventing people from crowding around or rushing up behind the client, which will provide a comfortable space to alleviate stress. Although Assistance Dogs can take up extra space around you to ease your comfort, it is important to know a dog will still attract the public, so you will learn how to politely turn away unwanted guests, but also connect with the public again in an easier manner; Assistance Dogs gather much of the attention from the public and can be a great bridge to help reconnect without feeling self-conscious.
On a final note, these trained dogs can also help naturally by adjusting neurotransmitters in the brain to a more "upbeat" state (such as serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, etc.), help lower blood pressure, and overall stress. This is not to be confused with an Emotional Support Animal that does not require any training, nor gain public access. If you are more interested in an Emotional Support Animal, check out the Pet Dog Training where you can get positive training and behavior modification.
Assistance Dogs for mobility can increase the independence of a person who has limitations standing up, uses a wheelchair, has difficulty with steps or walking for long periods of time, or even those that would benefit from a dog to assist in balance. These dogs are trained to perform tasks such as turning lights on and off, helping to “brace” if a person falls and needs help getting back up, steadying their handler, retrieving dropped items, opening and shutting doors, carrying items in a dog backpack, finding help if someone falls, aiding people to and from seated positions, etc. Note: Mobility and balance assisting dogs must be of appropriate size and weight and depends on the handler's needs.