When you think of the Labrador Retriever you probably picture a happy-go-lucky dog with unlimited love to give. Labs are definitely one of the friendliest and most people-oriented dog breeds out there which makes them the perfect family pet. In addition to being a great choice for families, Labs are also excellent service dogs.
What do Service Dogs Do?
A service dog is trained to provide assistance, primarily for people who have disabilities. Some of the disabilities that might benefit from a service dog include hearing impairment, visual impairment, mental illness (such as anxiety or PTSD), mobility impairment, diabetes, and seizure disorders. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, a service dog is one who is, “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities”. This may include guiding a person who is visually impaired, alerting people who have hearing impairments to sounds, protecting a person who is having a seizure, or even reminding someone with mental illness to take their medications. Service dogs perform an unlimited array of helpful roles for people with disabilities – they also provide comfort and emotional support, though dogs that only provide comfort and emotional support are not considered service dogs by the ADA. They are considered therapy dogs.
What Kind of Training do Service Dogs Need?
Under the ADA, service dogs must be allowed to accompany individuals with disabilities in all public areas. Service dogs undergo extensive and rigorous training not only to perform their intended role, but also to ensure that they have enough socialization and obedience training to allow them to enter public places without causing a disturbance. Many service dogs are trained from a very young age for disobedience and to perform certain tasks, but they must complete additional training with their owner once they have been paired together. A service dog must respond to commands 90% of the time and he must be trained to perform at least 3 tasks for the client’s disability. Service dogs are also required to meet ADA standards, to be spayed/neutered, and to carry current vaccinations.
What Makes the Lab a Great Service Dog?
Being a service dog is no easy task – it takes a lot of patience and training. Labrador Retrievers are a highly intelligent dog breed that responds very well to training – this is just one of the qualities that makes this breed perfect for service. Labs are naturally people-oriented and they have an eager to please attitude. Plus, they have a very caring and loyal nature so they will not hesitate to do what it takes to protect their owner. Labrador retrievers are very smart and they can be trained to work independently, stepping into a situation where they are needed without being told and helping their owner to perform necessary tasks without a command.
Whether you are looking for a service dog or you just want a dog that has the temperament of a service dog, consider the Labrador Retriever. Not only are these some of the gentlest and friendliest dogs in the world, but they are also highly intelligent and trainable. If you ever do decide to train your Lab for service he will make the transition quickly!
Photo Credit: State Farm/Flickr