Do you know the difference between a working dog, an emotional support dog, a therapy dog and an assistance dog?
Some might be surprised to learn that these terms are not interchangeable and actually have very different meanings.
Working dogs are trained for a specific function and help a human perform a job related task better i.e. police, search and rescue, explosives/narcotics search. Emotional support dog is a term that Canada adopted from the United States. There is no specific training or certification process for a dog that a doctor can assess and consider to provide emotional support to a person. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, have specific training (i.e. St. John Ambulance therapy dogs) to support groups of people and be handled by strangers in environments such as as hospitals, care homes and schools.
Finally, service dogs (including guide dogs) are highly specialized and specially trained to assist a handler in a way that allows them to have as normal a life as possible. Service dogs can help people with many visible and invisible disabilities, including PTSD, visual impairment, chronic illnesses, autism, hearing impairment, seizure detection/response, diabetes, allergies and physical assistance.
Assistance dogs are the only dogs protected by the Human Rights Code to accompany a human handler anywhere the public has access.
Tyson King is the owner and operator of VI K9 Service Dog Training. Unlike basic obedience and pet behavior training, service dogs are trained by King for a minimum of 18 months before they begin life with their handler, after which another six months are completed. team training.
While there are certain tests King’s dogs must pass to be certified, these are only province specific. Currently, there is no national standard for service dogs or animal-assisted human services (AAHS). Without having a national standard, room is left open for dog owners to abuse the system. For example, in Ontario, service dogs only need a doctor’s note and no specific certification, training or testing.
King says he’s seen people who have been able to get B.C. certification clearly abuse the system, too: so-called service dogs allowed to sit on chairs in restaurants, being carried or behaving Wrong, there are many “red flags” when a dog has not been properly trained as a service dog. Assistance dogs must be trained specifically for the needs of a handler. King’s team training ensures that dog and handler are trained together, where dog and human learn to understand and communicate with each other in specific scenarios such as responding to PTSD. or crisis alerts. Not every dog trainer can train for every service need. While King is capable of training service dogs for PTSD service, an obedience trainer will not have that skill set.
“Unfortunately with the standard that BC has set as a test, you have obedience trainers who train people to BC standards, but since they are not task trained, the dog is not actually can’t do anything,” King explains. Regarding the current certification system, King said, “It’s just not good enough…People want the luxury of being tracked by their pets, but not the proper work.”
Hopefully many of these inconsistencies and abuses of the system will be resolved and corrected with the National Standard which is currently being drafted and worked on by the Canadian Foundation for Animal Assisted Support Services in conjunction with other dog stakeholders. assistance such as trainers like Tyson. King and VI K9. “Legitimate service dogs are an important part of society and [their need] do not abuse. »
When it comes to having a service dog, training isn’t just about training the dog. King shares that many assessments take place to ensure the right breed of dog is chosen for the person in need. Some considerations include the size of the dog and the size of the person’s home, breed characteristics and behaviors, medical or care needs of the handler, lifespan of the breed (VI K9 removes dogs service at 75% of their life expectancy), etc. much more. Additionally, King recertifies VI K9 dogs every three years to maintain high standards and competence, and to ensure that any changes in service dog skills or handler needs can be identified.
For dogs trained in scent detection under life-threatening conditions, recertification takes place every year to ensure the dog achieves a success rate of over 90%.
It may be cute, but when you see a service dog in public, it’s important to ignore them and let them work. King appreciates that people often want to ask questions, but stresses the importance of respecting the handler’s privacy.
To find out more, see vik9.ca. King encourages people to call if they have questions or want to know more about service dogs.