Category Archives for Resource

Tips For Buying A Valuable Service Dog Harness


Now that you’ve found your new life partner and furry assistant, it’s time to outfit them with a practical harness to make both of your lives more comfortable and convenient. When looking for a harness, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the wealth of varieties available. Here are a few pointers to help you narrow these options down and better prepare you to make an important purchase.


1. Legal Requirements (or lack thereof)


Before purchasing equipment for you and your service dog, it is important to note that there are no specific legal requirements for what a harness should look like, or the information it should display. If there are vendors pushing you to buy specific harnesses or other gear for “legal” reasons, be skeptical. Your rights as the handler of a service dog are clear as listed by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act); no establishment is allowed to bar you entry based on your ownership of a service dog, with or without documentation/harnesses that illustrate that your dog is for a disability. Exceptions to this include if your dog is out of control (barking, jumping on people, etc) or if the dog is not housebroken (Brennan, 2014). For more information about your rights as the handler of a service animal, click here.


2. Type of Work Your Dog Will be Doing


Before making any decisions about harness design (color, style, material), the first step is to evaluate what needs your dog will be addressing.


Why do you have a service dog?

What will your dog be helping you with on a daily basis?


It might be helpful to make a list of each of the specific actions your dog may be performing to assist you on a day to day basis. This will narrow down the vast number of harnesses available to those that will provide your dog with the means to fully support you.

Here are a few of the most common types of service dog harnesses. Dozens of variations of each kind are available from a variety of vendors.



Saddlebag - These harnesses are best for those who need their service dog to carry medication, supplies, and other objects. They often have detachable parts which vary in size depending on what materials might be needed on a particular day.



Pull Harness - These harnesses are used for dogs who will be pulling a wheelchair or may need to open and move heavy things (Grace, 2016).


Great value on this no pull harness!

Mobility Support Harness - Also known as a brace, balance, walking assistance, or stability harness (Bold Lead Designs, 2014), this harness has a sturdy handle on top to allow the dog to support the owner.


Check out a great value on this harness!


  • It should be mentioned that dogs that provide balance and walking support should be at an age and size appropriate to support their handler


3. Size and Breed of Dog


These are both important aspects to consider when buying a harness, as certain brands and styles will work best for different types of dogs. Fit and comfort are very important when buying a potentially pricey harness that your dog will be wearing all day every day. Ensuring the health and happiness of your dog from the get go is an investment in the strength of your professional and personal relationship, and may prevent problems further down the line.


Make sure to measure your dog before ordering any harnesses, or consider buying a product that is custom made to ensure long lasting durability and comfort.


4. Your Home Environment


Besides size, breed, and your disability needs, the area you live should impact the products you buy. If your dog will be working in extreme weather, like rain, snow, high humidity, or very strong sunlight, then you should look into products built to withstand these conditions.


If your neighborhood is poorly lit, or if you will be spending a lot of time out with your animal in the evening, consider buying products with reflective material. This will ensure the safety of you and your animal at all times of the day and night.


Vendors


Here are a few vendors to get you started in finding a harness that is long lasting and useful.


The vendors listed below are ones which were easily accessible, reviewed, and appeared reliable. However, before buying any products, we always recommend that you conduct your own extensive research on what will work best for you.




Before buying a harness for your service dog it is important to remember that you aren’t required to display any legal identification of your animal, although it might make it easier to deter eager children or dog loving adults from trying to pet or play with your dog. Making a list of the daily tasks your service dog will be doing can help you narrow down the types of harnesses available, as can looking for brands that are appropriate for the size and breed of your animal. Finally, consider your home environment, including weather patterns and visibility, to find harnesses with durable or reflective material. Best of luck finding the perfect harness for your service dog!

Ready to Check out Vests?

Peek our vest page to get recommendations on our three favorite vests.






Bold Lead Designs. “Mobility Support Harness”. Bold Lead Designs. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. https://boldleaddesigns.com/products-overview/mobility-support-harnesses/


Brennan, Jackie, et al. “Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals”. ADA National Network. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet


Grace, Kea. “Types of Service Dog Gear: Vests, Jackets, and Harnesses”. AnythingPawsable. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. http://www.anythingpawsable.com/types-of-service-dog-gear-vests- jackets-and-harnesses/#.WFKCCaIrKRs










How To Get A Fantastic Service Dog With Minimal Spending

Want to get a great service dog but don’t want to break the bank doing it?

I'm assuming you’ve already done the research and have watched the same video on your favorite breed a hundred times. You know the breed, age, and temperament you want in your perfect pup and now it’s time to find your best friend for the next decade.

This is a complete step-by-step guide to finding your ideal match.

Here's how from A - P

A) After you’ve finalized the plan with yourself it’s time to ask your medical team for advice. What kind of dog do they think would help you the most with your disabilities?

B) Write up a list of things you cannot do for yourself, then go down the list and make sure these are things that your future partner can help you with. Pick out the top three most important issues you want your dog to help you with. For example: If you have a history of seizures, you want your dog to be able to sense them before they happen (according to Dr. Robert Weilbacher a dog should be able to sense a seizure minutes before they happen.)

C) Remember that in order for the dog to be a service dog it must provide a service that you cannot do for yourself such as: protection, emotional support, or companionship. This is in accordance with ABA rules, so make sure your top three things you cannot do for yourself fall into these categories. Service dogs and training are not cheap, so make sure you actually want one before moving forward

D) Strategize on ways to save some $$...your dog will cost anywhere from $100 - $5000 before the training! Lucky you, many states offer scholarships on training, here are links to several that do:

The annual cost of keeping an Assistance Dog will be around $1500 per year, so it’s best to be financially capable to stomach that kind of dent. We have an upcoming article on financial aid options for service dogs, stay tuned for that. Another way to save money is to plan on training the dog yourself, or rescuing a dog from the shelter to eliminate the breeder fee. To see a complete list of the fees, psych dog partners has a fantastic article breaking this down. In review on this several ways to save money:

1) Adopt Dog

2) Train Yourself

3) Get Financial Aid For Adoption

E) Make a list of all the breeders who specifically breed and train service dogs in your area, chances are there won’t be too many. But just in case try and find a breeder locally, you don’t want to go gallivanting across the country and pay for a flight for no reason. Think about it, you may have to make multiple trips out to the vendor for adoption, training, and follow up. Limit your travel costs if at all possible. If you can’t limit travel costs there are several credit cards that will give you a free flight based on monthly spending, see million mile secrets here.

F) If you will need to travel make a list of all the national breeders that interest you on a quick google search, included below are some reputable breeders:

G) Go down the list of breeders and cross off the ones that don’t have a dog for your specific disability. For example, if you see a breeder doesn’t have dogs for autism then you won’t be getting the training that you need to have in for your companion. Best to call the breeder and find out what they specialize in beforehand.

H) Most important in choosing a breeder! Ask for recommendations from people who have gotten puppies from them and make sure to check Yelp, Google, Angie’s list and other review sites for good reviews. You can check to see how long a breeder has been in business by plugging their url into a domain checker here.

I) Ask the breeder how long they keep their pups in the litter before selling. If it is only 5 – 6 weeks of time with mother and her pack that is a bad sign. You are looking for a more socialized dog in the 8 – 12 week range.

J) Make sure you interview the breeder and the breeder interviews you back! That is a sign that the breeder cares about the puppies they are producing, and means they are likely to help you should you have issues in the future. More time with the breeder means more investment on their part

K) Pick a breeder. How to pick a breeder? For more information check out this great article here.

L) Do you want to train the dog yourself? Or will you stay onsite to have the breeder assist you with training? Decide and agree on a price. The training cost will be between 1000 - 2000 anything more is excessive and anything less you should be warry of the breeder.

M) Plan a time to fly out to the breeder and select your puppy with the breeder, not all service dogs make it into service so it’s best to give yours the best shot at success by controlling for the breed and age


  • When choosing a puppy look for the one that doesn't aggressively play or chase the toy. You want a puppy that has persistence but not so much that their impossible to train.

N) A rescue dog is the cheapest way to bring a dog into service most shelters will support you for a year of vaccinations and training and could save you close to $5000. Rescue dogs can become great service dogs and will immediately have a strong bond with their owner. However, a rescue dogs temperament can be volatile so investing in training upfront could benefit you in the long run.

O) Do not take home any dog until you have tested out several in the pack. You are going to have this dog for the rest of its life so take your time to pick out the one whose temperament you gel with the best.

P) Flying back home with your dog can be tricky. We’ve written an article on this subject. But here are the basics:

a. Call airline to check out their special requirements and tell them you have a dog

b. Get a dog vest and registration card

c. Be prepared to answer questions about your dog

d. Do not agree to any extra fees, an airline cannot legally charge you for having a service dog.

Follow these steps and checks and you will have a loving companion that improves your quality of life. The basics: strategize with your med team on the qualities you are looking for in your service dog, pick a cost-effective strategy with training, and look at reviews for a reputable breeder in your area.

Good luck and happy searching!

Want to tell us the story of how you found your dog? Email me here at adam@iservicedog.com

What Is A Service Dog?

What is a Service Animal?

A service animal is usually a dog but can be a miniature horse, bird, ferret, pig, or even a goat that assists a disabled person in specific tasks.

These disabilities that service dogs assist for can vary tremendously, some service dogs are even trained to dial 911 on the event of an emergency. From the ADA

Can I get a Service Dog?

First you must he have a disability though there are no limitations that this disability may fall under.

Secondly the dog must perform a specific task related to the disability. In legality only these two requirements are written in stone for having a service dog.

If you are currently looking for a service dog, check out our breed comparison.

Is There a Governing Body?

Kind of, there are three bills passed by congress that make up the foundation for the right to own a service dog.

1) The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was revised in 2010 to include definitions for service animals these articles give the over 20,000 service animals in the US and their owners protection to bring their dogs in businesses and on flights.

2) Furthermore, the Air Carrier Access Act allows service animals to accompany passengers on airplanes and the

3) Fair Housing Amendments Act covers the dog in housing.

What are Some Physical Impairments that Use Service Dogs?

Arithritis – For retrieving dropped items, opening doors, carrying items, pulling wheelchairs up ramps, turning on lights, and assisting in exchanges at banks or stores.

Ataxia - To aid in walking by being a less invasive counter-balance than another human.

Autism - Safety and an emotional anchor for the child, check out Autism Service Dogs of America for more info

Blindness - Used as a mobility aid and can be given orders such has “Find the door” or “Find the elevator.”

Deafness - Hearing dog to notify by touch of alerts or alarms, check out Dogs for the deaf for more info

Diabetes - Can detect low blood sugar with smell, check out Diabetic Assistance Dogs for more info

Cardio Disease – Can alert owner on drops in blood pressure by placing head on owners heart (signal for a heart emergency.)

Cerebral Palsy - Used for physical stability and seizure alert, dog can also be trained to roll its owner into the proper position during the event of a seizure.

Parkinson’s Disease - Dog is able to sense the “freezing moment” experienced by people with Parkinson’s, and can solve the issue by pulling forward gently on the leash.

Muscular Dystrophy - Will retrieve items dropped on the floor

Multiple Sclerosis – Balance dog to help sit, stand up, and get in and out of bed.

Psychiatric Disabilities – Used to interrupt repetitive injurious behaviors or to relieve stressful situations. Check out our article on PTSD Service Dogs!

Seizures – Dog can aid as a balance, roll owner over into the proper position, and even alert medical personnel when a seizure is imminent.

Spinal Cord/Head Trauma - Helps with balance and dropped items

And many more….


Do I Need A Letter From A Doctor To Qualify?

No, it isn’t necessary to have one, if someone challenges the legitimacy of your service dog you will need to have proof of either your dog or your disability. We give out free identification certificates that you can carry around with you to solve this problem. Get certificate here!

Can an Institution Block Your Service Dog From Entering?

No! The ADA supersedes all local/state laws. Your service dog should be allowed in every building should you need it.


How to Fly with Your Service Dog

Flying with your service animal can be a head splitting anxiety fest. Should I call the airline beforehand? Does my dog have to be on a leash? Does she get her own carry on bag?

Flying in general is enough to make your head spin, and dealing with delays and gate changes can only compound to a negative headspace. So how do you do it with your companion? Especially one you rely on for your livelihood!?

Before we get to the list, know that it is your federal right to travel with your service dog, you are protected not only by the ADA, but also by the Air Carrier Access Act which states that you cannot be charged extra fees for bringing your dog through security and onto the plane.

Here’s How To Survive.

1) Be Prepared to Explain You will probably be asked by airport gate checkers, security, and front desk managers what your disability is and what purpose your dog serves you. Having a dog properly registered with a certificate/id and bright service dog vest can help butter this sometimes awkward interaction. Practice explaining who your dog is and what your dog does for you. Airport personnel are trained to ask if your dog is a working dog.

2) Registration Certificate Print of a registration certificate or card like the one found here at the iServiceDog registry can prevent a hassle or an otherwise uncomfortable situation from arising. Of note, the iServiceDog registry and others like it are all unofficial and are only meant to serve as a deterrent and convenience. By the law of the ADA you have to be taken at your word that your dog is a service dog, for more on what defines a service dog, check out our article here or read the excellent article on anythingspawsable.com

3) Flying Internationally - If flying internationally call your destination country before flying because your animal may need to be quarantined upon arrival. This is the case in most southeast asian countries like Korea and the Philippines. You may need to provide proof of vaccination and even blood tests. More information on flying internationally with your pet can be found at pettravel.com

4) Test Before you Fly - Go on a long car trip, use Amtrak, or if you're really adventurous hop on  a Greyhound with your dog before flying. Graduate up to the flight so you can make sure your dog will be a cool cucumber when she’s being propelled through the lower atmosphere at 500 miles an hour. Some dogs just won't be cut out for flying and that's ok. Check out our breed competition breakdown if you are looking for a chiller breed to travel with, better to discover your dogs travel tolerance closer to home.

5) Before you arrive – Take your dog on a long bathroom walk and cut water off three hours before the flight. Most airports will have a dog relief section so be on the lookout for those when you’re in the terminal. My advice: it should be the first thing on your to-do list when you get through security

6) Security – Per the recent changes you must now walk through security without touching your dog. You can still hold the leash, but all dogs must be inspected by TSA (U.S. Transportation Security Administration.)


  • Remember: TSA cannot request that you be seperated from your dog

Security personnel are familiar with service dogs and ADA regulations, so this shouldn't be their first rodeo with a service dog. Advise security personnel on how you would like to proceed through the metal detector with your dog. Some will have the dog walk behind them as support while others might prefer to go through separate entirely from their animal, the choice is yours. If the metal detector does go off, you will be subject to additional searching, though security will always ask you before they touch your dog.

Any other questions about TSA and service dogs call TSA Cares (TSA’s website for travelers with disabilities.) Also you can call the hotline at 1-855-787-2227

7) Know Your Airline Specific Requirements – This seems like a repeat but it's not. You must know your country specific restrictions on animals (if flying internationally or to Hawaii) AND your airline specific restrictions.  US Airways, Virgin America, and Alaska Air all require a harness or a tag that indicts your animals status as a service dog, don’t get caught out in the cold on this one! Here are links to informational pages on service animals for all the major carriers:

8) At the Gate – Let your airline attendant personnel know that you are traveling with a service dog, they will often allow you to board first. This is also a good time to ask the airline where they expect your dog to reside during the flight.

9) On the Plane – Most airlines specify that your dog must remain in between your legs and in front of your seat. You can bring dog treats on the plane to keep your animal happy during the flight.

10) In Review – For true peace of mind, do your homework and make sure you call the carrier and destination of travel for special restrictions. Bring documentation and have your dog wear a bright vest to be seen easier by airport personnel. Be prepared to answer questions about your dog, and remember that you are protected by federal documents (ADA, Air Carrier Access Act.) Proceed through security, alert the personnel at your gate and have a great flight!

What Breed Is Best For A Service Dog?

Some of the most common dogs in America also make for some of the best service dogs. German Shepard, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. These dogs are intuitive, sensitive, and hardy enough to assist owners with almost any task. So which one is the best? Welcome to the service dog breed showdown!

Golden Retriever

Training: The golden is classically an easy dog to train and eager to please their human. They require fewer repetitions and can obey the most specific of instructions. They are a bit sensitive so some harsh scolding will not go well with these guys. But in general one of the most intuitive breeds to train.

Temperment: Golden retrievers easily get along with children and their friends and members of their friends tribe. Also they are usually gentle with other dogs and have even been known to take a cat or two as a friend. Who wouldn’t want to hug a golden retriever!?

Health: Golden retrievers are susceptible to genetic disorders and other diseases like Hip dyspalasia. Also of note, these dogs can get big, and not in a good way. Obesity is problem with golden retrievers and you shouldn’t allow your puppy to eat too much during his meal times.

Adaptability: Not great, it needs regular exercise and is best with a large backyard to run around in.


VERDICT - GOLDEN RETRIEVER

16/20


Labrador Retriever

Training: Labrador’s are easy to train, but have a bit more in the stubborn tank than Golden’s. Still you should have no trouble getting this breed to “sit” and “come” from an early age

Temperament: Labrador’s are high energy loving dogs. They come from a long ancestry that has built in them the innate desire to please their masters. And though they can be a bit rowdy and jumpy at times, the Labrador is a great dog for kids at an early age.

Health: Hip, eye, and heart problems are common at an older age. Similar to the golden retriever though these guys usually experience problems at a later age (year 7 rather than year 5.) And for that little nugget they still maintain a star rating of 4 for their general longevitiy compared to other breeds.

Adaptability: Labrador’s can handle any weather most of the time despite their stocky build. But because they are retrievers they need lots of exercise and a nice big backyard to roam around and chase leaves in. Expecially when they are puppies they are highly active. If your disability prevents you from going on long walks with this one, you might want to look elsewhere.


VERDICT - LABRADOR RETRIEVER

15/20


German Shepards

Training: “A good German Shepherd with a stable temperament is one of the most capable and trainable breeds in all of dogdom.” It’s no mistake that these dogs are used by the military and police to perform some very specific and dangerous activities. Heroic, and most of the time easy going, there may not be a dog easier to train than this one.

Temperment: Good guard dog and a solid choice for families anywhere. Intensely loyal to a fault, if the dog is not associated with other humans from an early age the German Shepard can become protective over its primary owner which may be a good thing depends on what you want

Health: Skin and infamous digestive problems are a concern for this breed. Though with a longer than average lifespan (11 – 13 years.) Hip dysplasia can also become a factor as with all other retriever breeds.

Adaptability: The German Shepard is not a dog that can sit still outside for long and be expected to remain still. That being said, this is a fairly adaptable dog for a retriever in its versatility. Depending on training the German Shepard can be molded into a docile housedog or a drug sniffing informant. This dynamic capability is unique to the German Shepard and a one-dog-fits all solution for many owners.


VERDICT - GERMAN SHEPARD

17/20 B


WINNER: GERMAN SHEPARD!

But really any one of these three will make a fantastic companion. The German Shepard tops out on our list because of its versatility and longevity. Happy breed shopping!


What Is A PTSD Emotional Dog?

Two weeks after coming home Bob (a veteran) is driving down the highway with his dog Sam. Along the way he starts to remember going on patrols with his unit and the drives that they had. Then Sam starts licking Bob’s face and cuddling with him. This cheers Bob up and makes him feel calm. The panic attack that would have come while Bob was driving is no more.

PTSD can be caused by experiencing or witnessing traumatic events. nightmares, anxiety, flashbacks and panic attacks can all be symptoms of PTSD. Service dogs can be trained to interrupt these attacks and help their owners to bring out feelings of love and companionship.

Check out this video of a service dog (Gumbo) as he reacts to his owners feeling of stress: 

What can a trained Service Dog do?

· Interrupt nightmares

· Interrupt panic attacks/ anxiety

· Help their owners with a feeling of calm. Help owners to reintegrate with society

· Keep strangers from getting close

· Video on how a service dog helped a Canadian Veteran to cope from PTSD:

Many breeds can be used as PTSD Service Dogs depending on the owner's needs. Most commonly used are Labs, Shepards, Golden's because of their calm disposition and emotional sensitivity. But for those who need a smaller companion, Poodles and Affenpinscher's can work well especially for those with Aviophobia (fear of flying).

How to get a PTSD service dog

· Patriot Paws - non-profit organization that trains and donates service dogs for disabled veterans. 

· K9’s for Warriors – non-profit organization placing veterans with service dogs: 

· For those who would like to train their own service dog, Companion Training offers video class’s so you can train your own dog from the comfort of your home. 

· Many states have state specific organizations that will train and donate service dogs for free.

For more case studies on Veteran’s experience with Service Dogs check out these stories on Vdogs

Where can I bring my PTSD Service Dog?

As with all Service Dogs your companion can go to any business with you. You do not need to show the managers any papers or provide a reason why the dog is with you. The only exceptions to this rule are if:

1) The Service Dog is out of control and the animal’s handler does not try and take action

2) The animal is not housebroken

Many handlers can find it helpful to put a vest or ribbon on the dog denoting it as such. An official vest on an extremely well trained animal will allow you to roam freely with your buddy.

For more information on where to bring your service dog check out our article that goes over ADA regulations.

Can Service Dog's get PTSD? Can I adopt an ex-military dog? 

Yes absolutely. Service dogs are tasked with the same conditions as soldiers. K-9’s can be used to sniff out bombs that machines and humans can’t. Check out this amazing article on Sergeant 1st class Mathew Bessler and his SD Mike. Upon Mike’s return he exhibited signs of PTSD, instead of chewing tennis balls, which he loved, he would chew rocks and destroy his teeth and gums.

After returning from service the dogs are held at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio where they were trained. If the SDs are deemed unfit by law enforcement agencies for further work, which is most often the case. The dog’s personal handler has the first priority in adopting, more than 90% of returning dogs are adopted by the handler. After that it opens up to civilian adopters. In fact, the dogs are so popular that the list of applicants is 18 months to 2 years long.

For more info on next steps to adoption call Lackland AFB at: (210) 671-3376

Words of Caution

· Make sure that you are getting your PTSD dog from an accredited business like those listed above. Many organizations will label service dogs as such without the proper training or breeding.

· While a service dog may help people with PTSD to reintegrate back into society, there is a chance that owners might come to believe that they can’t do tasks without the dog. For example: if a victim can only walk in a crowded place knowing that the dog is there to comfort him, it may become difficult/ impossible for the owner to learn that he can do this on his own.

PTSD Service Dogs can be incredible for veterans and others. It only takes a simple search online to see heart-wrenching stories of the value these animals bring in peoples lives.