Service Animals - Overview

Here at ATN, we accommodate people with disabilities everyday and clients with their Guide or Service Dogs are regular visitors.
Service Animals are animals that have been trained to perform tasks or assist persons with disabilities. Service Animals work for their handlers for a number of reasons. They may work as guide dogs for persons who are blind, hearing dogs for persons who are deaf, and they may work as special skills dogs for persons who have various disabilities such as autism, diabetes and mental health disorders.

Most Service Animals (dogs) are specifically bred for their jobs. Before being admitted to a training program, they are screened for characteristics such as trainability, pleasant temperament, and non-aggression.

Most service dogs work because they want to, not because they have to. They enjoy the tasks they perform and have been trained using rewards and praise, and have a strong bond with their human partner.

Meeting Person's and their Service Animal

People who use Service Animals are independent and want to be treated that way.

They will certainly ask if they require assistance; if you feel they may need assistance, simply say, "May I help you?" The Service Animal will usually be on the left side of a person who is blind, so if the person needs assistance, approach from the right, or opposite side of the Service Animal and offer your arm.

If the person who is blind is seeking assistance to cross the street, take them all the way across and up onto the opposite curb where the dog will know to resume his duties. Do not pet a Service Animal when it is in harness. Always ask the handlers permission as to whether you can pet the dog or not.

Never feed a Service Animal. The handler looks after the dog's diet very carefully, and the dog works most efficiently when the recommended diet is followed.

If a Service Animal is wearing its harness, vest, or backpacks, this means it is working and should never be patted or distracted by having its name called, be given excessive eye contact, noises made at it, or made the center of attention. These may all cause the dog to take its concentration off the job and put the handler’s safety at risk.

(info from dogguides.com)

The Importance of Bonding

The bond between a Service Animal (dog) and their Handler (human) is very important to the success of the team. Though the human may depend on the dog for certain things, the dog also depends on the human to provide praise, correction, food, and companionship.

The happiest and most functional teams are those that have developed a symbiotic relationship and learned to deeply trust each other. To keep this relationship healthy, the team must be together as much as possible and the dog needs ample work to provide stimulation and meaningful interaction. Others can inadvertently undermine this relationship by petting or talking to the dog, feeding it, or distracting it in some other way such as by trying to build a personal bond with the animal.