Museum Hosts Service Dogs Training Class

February 17, 2019 the 390th Memorial Museum hosted some very special guests: a service dog in training class came to work with their animals at the museum. This was a wonderful training opportunity for the dogs, and a lot of fun for our docents to watch! Professional dog trainer Kari Cleland of The Complete Canine led her canine and human pupils through a variety of training exercises in the museum.

Service Dogs: Roles and Training

Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks related to a medical condition. Examples might include helping someone with balance, retrieving items, or alerting by smell to a medical condition. While the tasks they perform vary, all service dogs have been trained to handle public situations: they must be potty trained, able to remain still for long periods of time, ignore food, members of the public and 100% reliably follow commands to sit, lay down and come. Service dogs should never defecate or nuisance bark in public (barking is permissible if alerting for a medical condition.)

Training service dogs is a rewarding if, challenging task. A trained service dog is a wonderful tool and friend for someone with a medical condition. According to Cleland, “A vest does not define a Service Dog. The unbreakable bond between owner and dog becoming a team and working as one defines a true Service Dog.”

Service dogs are not the only dogs trained to help people; there are also Emotional Support Animals and Therapy Dogs, who have different roles. These roles have differently defined levels of public access. This chart has some examples of differences between service dogs, emotional support animals and therapy dog.

Tips for Working Around Service Dogs

  • Speak to the handler; ignore the dog. A service dog and a handler are a team, but please direct all your attention to the handler—and remember the handler may not want to talk about their dog. Speaking, touching or making noises at the dog is confusing or even frightening for a service dog. Examples of distracting behavior might include:
    • Talking, whistling, cooing, or barking at the animal
    • Tapping your leg or clapping your hands
    • Calling the dog to you
    • Praising the animal when it completes its task
  • Please do not ask the handler about their disability; asking personal questions about the handler’s medical condition is an intrusion of privacy. You should also not assume an animal is not a service dog if they do not wear a vest or patch. It is not required by U.S. federal law.
  • Teach children in your care to ignore the dog. Pointing and staring is embarrassing and distracting.
  • Please do not feed service dogs or tease them with food. Service dogs are trained to ignore food on the ground and not beg for treats, but these are living, breathing dogs and they can still be tempted!
  • Please do not approach a service dog team with your dog. Despite a great deal of training, even the best service dog can be distracted by another animal, which may endanger the handler or the dogs.
  • Ask before providing help to a service dog team—if you think a service dog team or person needs help, please ask the handler before intervening. Grabbing the dog’s leash, collar or harness may upset the dog or handler. The handler may in fact reject your offer of help.
  • Be patient. It may take a service dog and their handler longer to complete tasks like getting onto an elevator or getting into a restroom stall.

About Dogs at the 390th Memorial Museum

Dogs are welcomed to the 390th Memorial Museum. Canine visitors must be on-leash and controlled by their owners. Water is available.

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