Service Dog Awareness Month


A golden retriever service dog in-training sits next to his handler. Golden retrievers are considered one of the best breeds for service due to many essential traits they possess.

September is National Service Dog Awareness month.

“I wish more people were educated on the true definition of a service dog such as emotional support not being a service dog, only dogs and miniature horses, and the fact that online registries do not hold any legitimacy or legal standing,” said Brandi Garcia, a private dog trainer.

According to the American Disabilities Act or the ADA, service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Any breed, big or small, can be a service dog.

At 7 weeks old, prospective service dog puppies are temperament tested using the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test, which puts the puppies up against different situations and scores their reactions to test confidence and trainability.

This means that although every breed can be a service dog, not every puppy is capable of handling the pressure of it. Service dogs are held to a high training standard and are expected to have little to no reaction to much of anything.

“What I love most about training is being able to see the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired from school successfully applied to the dogs I’m working with. I love seeing my clients radiate with excitement when their dogs are making positive changes,” Garcia said

Colorado is one of the few states that allow service dogs in training the same rights as fullytrained service dogs, as opposed to requiring they come from a program. The ACC campus has quite a few students who utilize service dogs of all different kinds of breeds. Service dogs aren’t just for the blind or veterans; they can be used for psychiatric disabilities, mobility disabilities, and invisible disabilities.

When asked what inspired Garcia to pursue dog training, she responded “I have many memories with my father, but one that stuck with me was when he had me join him while he trained our Rottweiler, Rocky, how to walk nicely on a leash. When he handed the leash over to me, I was hooked”.

Some of the most common service dogs are called the “Fab Four” when deciding on the breed of dog the handler wants. These breeds are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles and Collies. The reasoning is that they are typically very biddable, or trainable and have the most stable temperament that can handle the pressure of being a service dog.

A few common tasks service dogs perform are deep pressure therapy, which is the dog laying across the handlers’ legs with all their weight for pressure, retrieving objects such as water or keys, retrieving medication, pressing handicap buttons and guide work. These tasks help service dog handlers have independence and an easier time mitigating their disability.

While it may be compelling to stop a handler and ask to pet their dog, it could be interrupting what they were in the middle of doing and could distract the dog from doing its job. Service dogs are considered medical equipment, and love doing their job and helping their handlers’ day to day lives.