PSD versus emotional support dog - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-13-2010, 10:41 PM Thread Starter
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PSD versus emotional support dog

Upon my countless research, I've come up with some questions regarding these two different types of dogs. a PSD is a service dog, and a emotional support dog is mostly just a companion. the ESD pretty much, by the ADA law has no rights into the public with the exception of getting around a no pets rule with a lease and being a companion on a airliner. BUT those both need full medical back up from a qualified provider which seems to be quite a process.

So, as I was reading more, obviously a service dog must be performing tasks for the disabled handler to need such a service. But how many task does the dog need to be able to perform in order to qualify as providing a service? I read on one 'official' site, assistance dogs int'l, that it's a min. of three. Is that true? Is it more? What qualifies a task, a task?

I can think of several tasks for the dog to do, like reminding me to take medicine in the morning/evening, providing balance support when I get dizzy or light headed (vestibular problems, never get blown up haha) giving different commands like 'watch my back' to give some reassurance in public to be more trusting and not so hyper vigilant, giving a hand motion or a random word/cough/trigger to start barking and quickly a stopping command to give space in a said 'personal bubble' and turning on a light after waking up from a nightmare to orient myself and comfort before turning off a light again...etc etc...the list can go on.

Are these acceptable tasks for a service dog or not? I have full medical back up for this on PTSD side and neurology side for TBI symptoms.
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-13-2010, 11:46 PM
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Under the ADA's definition, a Service Dog is "a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate its handler's disability." The ADA does not specify the number of tasks the dog needs to be trained, although it's generally a whole series of tasks that Service Dogs are trained to perform, on command, for their disabled handlers.

I would not recommend teaching your dog to bark on command. You can create a "personal bubble" if you need people to give you room by training the dog to place itself between you and other people, without barking. In most public venues, barking would be considered inappropriate for a Service Dog - and stores and other places *CAN* ask you to leave with your dog if the dog barks (or growls or lunges) at other customers. So that is not a task I would train, as it would give the impression of your dog being badly behaved / untrained.

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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-14-2010, 07:36 AM Thread Starter
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It was mostly an example, a couple people I know that recieved dogs from foundations for a PSD it is one command they know. It's like a two second thing where as an example the handler coughs and the dog lets out a almost playful bark/gets excited for about two seconds and as soon as the handler touches the head of the dog it's the signal to stop.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2010, 01:14 PM
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As far as I can find there is no minimum number of tasks a service dog is required to perform. I know some groups require 2-3 minimum but I think they don't technically need more than one to be a service dog.


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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2010, 02:29 PM
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I can think of several tasks for the dog to do, like reminding me to take medicine in the morning/evening, providing balance support when I get dizzy or light headed (vestibular problems, never get blown up haha) giving different commands like 'watch my back' to give some reassurance in public to be more trusting and not so hyper vigilant, giving a hand motion or a random word/cough/trigger to start barking and quickly a stopping command to give space in a said 'personal bubble' and turning on a light after waking up from a nightmare to orient myself and comfort before turning off a light again...etc etc...the list can go on.
Some of these may be legal tasks for some but not for others.

The dog must be trained to do something that the handler can not do for themself.


* "reminding me to take medicine in the morning/evening"

In most cases setting an alarm clock/ using an alarm on a watch allows most handlers to do this for themself. ... OR ...
If you only need a reminder in the morning or evening when you are home why would you need to take a dog whose only task is to remind at these times with you to go grocery shopping in the afternoon?


* "providing balance support when I get dizzy or light headed"

Many people get dizzy or light headed for a second or two so this would only be a task if without the dog you fell or were dizzy to the point that you were unable to walk.


* "giving different commands like 'watch my back' to give some reassurance in public to be more trusting and not so hyper vigilant"

This depends on what you have the dog do to "watch my back". Barking, looking threatening -- NO. And many people are leary and hyper vigilant in certain circumstances. Apporach me in a parking lot at night and I will probably warn you not to come any closer. Only a task if you become upset enough not to function (can't breathe, can't move, can't stand) and then the dog can only do a passive non-aggressive task such as standing quietly between you and the approaching person.


* "giving a hand motion or a random word/cough/trigger to start barking and quickly a stopping command to give space in a said 'personal bubble' "

A SD in public is not allowed to bark or act in any manner aggressively. See above.


* "turning on a light after waking up from a nightmare to orient myself "

Only a task if the handler is not able to turn a light on themself such as they are so fearful they can not move or they freeze and not able to think of turning on a light. If they can not turn on a light switch because they are unable to get out of bed because of mobility reasons then there are lights that can be turned on from bed such as a bed side lamp or a "clapper" type. If the dog is needed then this is a task in the home but not a resonable task to take a SD in public.


* "comfort before turning off a light again*

The DOJ states "comfort" is not a task. (Comforting is a bonus) And once you reach the point that you no longer need the light on then unless you are not able to move - get out of bed or reach over to turn a bedside light off - then that is not a task for a SD.


* "...etc etc...the list can go on"

You can not go through a printed list of tasks and decide training such will make your dog a SD just because you a PWD. You need to know what you can not do and need a dog to do for you.


In the SD world there are what is known as a strong task, a weak task, and a bonus.
Strong Tasks can be demonstrated in court on command. The PWD must also be able to convince a judge that it is a needed task. The judge must also be convinced that this is something that the dog was trained to do and not something that the dog does naturally.
Weak Tasks are those that are needed but not always able to do on command.
Bonus is something that makes life more pleasant but not something that makes a dog a SD.

This is why many agencies and organizations say you need to train your dog 3 or more tasks. Some will be strong and some weak. Very few PWD have only one need.

There are also SDs that are only used in the home as they have no need to be taken into the public. These are SDs that are trained to wake the handler up in the morning and other in-home only tasks.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2010, 10:34 PM Thread Starter
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Then prove me to me why over half of the board needs a service dog. I can't quite tell the basis of your post, if it's biased or not. I could go point by point for a rebuttal but at this point it just seems silly. This is case by case basis, to be short with problems....I really don't like to go advertising but it is medically stated its not just two seconds of losing balance but to the point of not being able to stand/walk for a long duration of time. "watch my back", well no I really don't go places because of hyper vigilance and am NOT comfortable with people in my personal space and especially behind me where I cannot see what's going on.

As far as other 'tasks' I simply asked about, I only asked to get information. Why is it national service dog training organizations train some of the tasks I asked about if they are frowned upon? I'm not stating I;m worse off than others, but I do qualify for a dog this way but it's suggest by some of my medical providers its a good outlet and something to do rather than sitting at home and not trying to function in normal life.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2010, 11:51 PM
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I have no idea why over half the board needs a SD. To begin with I have no idea of what board you are speaking of.

My post bias? Bias for or against what? As to go point to point for a rebuttal - why? Your post was asking questions and so I was under the impression that you wanted answers. Again you say you want information and so I was trying to give you some and that is why I was going point to point.

If you go back and reread my post I did not say any of those tasks were frowned upon except for teaching a SD to bark to keep people away from the handler. I did say that is not an acceptable thing to teach a SD. The only time barking is acceptable for a SD is if it is trying to attrack attention to the handler if the handler in a dangerous medical situation and is not able to summon help themself.

I also did say that not all of those items you mentioned were acceptable tasks for each SD. I did try to give information on items that would be a true task and when it was just something that a person taught their dog.

I did not ask you to go into details about your disabilities and if you ever read any of my posts in this area you would see that often I warn people not to do so on the Internet. I also did not make my answers personal as to your disabilities but generalized them.

No one on the Internet can tell you what tasks will make your dog a SD. That is a legal issue and it is for you to decide what is needed. But to be a legal task the PWD must need the item done and not be able to do it themself. An example that I and others use is that of retrieving a newspaper from the sidewalk or picking up dropped items for a disabled handler. Is this type of task one that would stand up in court? Well, maybe it is or maybe it isn't. If the PWD has mobility issues or becomes dizzy to the point of being in danger of falling over from bending down then the dog picking up items is performing a legal needed task for that team. But what if the handler is deaf and has no other disabilities such as mobility or balance? In that case picking up items from the ground is not a legal needed task making that dog a SD.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-17-2010, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by dc671 View Post
I can think of several tasks for the dog to do
This is the statement that gives me pause.

For me, there are big gaping holes in my life as a result of my disability; things I can not do for myself (and for his strong task, something that only a dog could do). I didn't need to sit around and think of what my dog could do.

I knew what I needed. I simply needed to train the tasks (or cluster of tasks) that best filled those holes. Mostly, they were very obvious. I have a disability that doesn't normally fall into what you would consider when you think of service dogs either. And there are STILL things I can't do, even with a service dog.

It always makes me uncomfortable when someone says "I can think of tasks for my dog." If that's the case, then I wonder if they are doing it backward. They want an SD first; then they're training tasks to justify the dog "being" an SD. But as TJ explained, the tasks have to mitigate the disability.

I'm not saying that's the case with you. I don't know you at all. But if you have a disability that truly interrupts your life, then working with an EXPERIENCED *service dog* trainer would be an excellent idea. Instead of guessing what would work and what's appropriate, you would be able to establish tasks that are best for your situation. I don't know what agencies train dogs to bark because the handler is nervous, but I can tell you -- as someone who is training my second GSD SD -- the public is already plenty nervous with GSD SDs. The public is used to lab and golden retriever SDs. We want to be able to move freely, without anyone stopping us, asking questions, or being worried --- in essence, we don't want anyone to notice our dog at all. If you become known as the guy whose GSD SD barks at people, you're going to have a hard time gaining access. Business owners do NOT have to give access to disruptive SDs. You can claim that barking is a task. But barking is disruptive. If a PWD is having a medical emergency or passed out unconscious, barking would seem to be suitable and not disruptive. But barking when there seems to be no obvious cause? Nuh-uh.

And you're not just making life hard on yourself, but on the rest of us who use GSD SDs... and very likely, the everyone else that uses retriever and other breeds of SDs too. Why should we care about all other SD teams? Because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, who fought for rights of access. They fought hard so we don't have to. But rights of access are NOT guaranteed. A recently elected senator just announced that the ADA is onerous to business and parts of it should be overturned. We should NOT take our rights for granted.

I'm not sure who half the board is. There aren't many SD teams on this board. I've belonged to this board for years. There just aren't that many. There are a few people who come here, inquire, and leave, never to be heard from again. I'm not sure what happens to them. I do know that self-training an SD -- especially a GSD SD -- is very challenging. So I don't presume that they succeed. I expect that they end up with a very nice pet, which may be all that they need. I don't know... but the number of active SD owners here is minimal.

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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-17-2010, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by ILGHAUS View Post
Some of these may be legal tasks for some but not for others.

The dog must be trained to do something that the handler can not do for themself.
This is the first time I've heard of this part of the law. Can you please refer me to where to find the law that says this?


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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-17-2010, 03:48 PM
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It's the DOJ's position, and they're the ones enforcing compliance.

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Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself.
Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business
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