Service Dogs are capable of so many amazing things.

From opening doors for their handlers to alerting them of an oncoming seizure they are trained to do many different tasks. While there are stories about these types of tasks and jobs, many people still don’t know a lot about Service dogs. Here’s are 5 facts that you might not know about Service Dogs.

1. A Service Dog is NOT a pet. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. The tasks can be anything from retrieving a shoe for their handler to calming a person with autism down when they get over-stimulated. The Service Dog acts as medical equipment for their handler and that’s how they should be seen. They are not there just to be there but rather to work. This is why the word “pet” is not used to describe a Service Dog. This also serves as another reason to ask before you pet a dog. It may be on the job.

2. Training a Service Dog for work can be very costly and time consuming. The typical amount of time it takes to train a Service Dog is in between 12-18 months. During that time the dogs are taught basic verbal and/or hand signal obedience commands such as Sit, Stay, Come, Down and Heel as well as tasks specific to the handlers disability. Examples are: fetching a medicine bottle for someone who is having a seizure, opening doors or drawers for someone who has physical mobility issues or alerting on glucose levels for a diabetic. Aside from the amount of time that it takes to train a Service Dog it can cost up to $20,000+ to train and place a service dog through an agency. A lot of these agencies will give the dogs they train to a disabled person for no-cost. These agencies often times require the family to fundraise the funds for the Service Dog.

3. Any breed of dog can be a service dog. While the most common and stereotypical Service Dog is a Golden Retriever, Labrador or German Shepard any breed can be a service dog. Mastiffs are used for mobility work. Chihuahuas are used for diabetic or seizure alert dogs. If the dog has the temperament, skills, and willingness to work; almost any breed could do certain jobs. The problem comes with perception of what a service dog should look like. For instance, toy breeds can do some service dog jobs, but they are not often taken seriously by store employees and the public. Then there are breeds that are seen as more aggressive such as Pit bulls or Rottweilers; these dogs can be more difficult to use as service dogs simply for the fact that some cities have a ban on them and it can make it more difficult when there are housing bans as well.

4. The vest that a Service Dog wears is it’s “uniform” From the very start of their training Service Dogs are taught that when they have a vest on they are working and when it is off they are “off-duty”. The vest is also a helpful heads up to other people that will encounter a Service Dog that it is in fact a Service Dog and not a pet that they can touch and talk to.

5. They love their jobs. Many handlers find themselves accused of working a service dog too hard, all day every day. The truth is that these pooches love to work! Having a job and designated tasks to perform provides a service dog with physical, mental, and emotional enrichment that they might not receive as pet dogs. They love their handlers, and they love to work.