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Service dogs

Not a therapy dog

Service dogs (short: SD) aren't therapy dogs.

Therapy dogs:

  • are used in medical treatments (eg. occupational therapy and physiotherapy)

  • it stays with its handler (often it's the therapist)

  • is not a constant companion of the patient

  • works with many different patients, not only one

Also, they are not therapeutic visitation dogs who are usually household pets; the owner of these dogs will take their pets to hospitals, nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities to visit patients. 

It shows a black and white dog, laying on the floor with his harness on.
So what are they? 

They serve as support for persons with physical and/or mental impairments.

There are for example:

  • guide dogs: they help the ones with visual impairment and show them where stairs are or if they can cross the road safely

  • medical response dog: e.g. diabetes alert dogs are trained to detect when the handler's blood sugar becomes too high or low; they often alert their handler before it's even really happening

  • hearing dog: assists people who are deaf or hard of hearing by alerting their handler to important sounds, such as doorbells, smoke alarms etc. 

  • mobility assistance dog assists a physically disabled person who has mobility issues: wheelchair dependency, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis patients; they can open/close doors, pull wheelchairs and help their handler providing stability and balance

  • psychiatric service dog: eg. for PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, Borderline

  • dogs for handlers with more than one impairment

Of course, there are many more types of assistance dogs.

In the first place, it can be thought of as an aid: just as a blind person may use the cane to move safely, the dog also serves as an aid to the owner in this case.

Therefore, in contrast to family dogs, they may also be taken to public places that are normally off limits to dogs, such as: the supermarket, cinemas or the workplace.

Could a SD help me?  - self-test

✅ there are many everyday situations in which you are restricted

✅ there are chronic or health impairments and/or you have a severely handicapped ID card

✅ dogs don't scare you

✅ you have enough spare time to take care and train the dog

✅ your work situation doesn't make it inherently impossible to bring a dog

✅ you expect the service dog will bring back the quality of life and diminish the impairments in everyday life

✅no 100% perfection is expected from the animal at all times (after all, it's just an animal, after all), and you're able to work with even small mistakes

✅ You realize training never stops. The initial training isn't enough

✅ it's a 24/7 commitment: if that's a problem, you cannot get a SD

✅ when you are temporally unable to take the dog with you (eg. a hospital stay), there are people who could take care of the dog immediately

✅ the running costs (food, vet, etc.) do not pose any problems

✅ one has already tried various other types of aids

Different types of training (at least here in Germany)

Getting the dog trained by a professional:

  • the professional dog trainer will train the dog for the handler in future

  • the risk, that while training the dog, it may become clear that the dog is health-/characterwise not suitable isn't involved at the handler

  • very expensive: ca. 15-30.000€

  • recommended for eg. guiding dogs

Handler with disabilty trains the dog themselves with the help of a trainer:

  • handler and trainer work together

  • recommended when the handler deals with various of different impairments and disabilities

  • the puppy can be risen by the handler in future after his stay at the breader immediately, or if he isn't commfortable enough or able to handle a pup, the puppy can stay at a foster family who will teach it certain basic things

  • costs are between ca. 3-15.000€ (costs for the dog, vet costs, trainer costs, etc.)

It should be noted that only the costs for guide dogs are taken over by the health insurance here in Germany. Therefore, it is advisable to inform yourself in advance about the costs in detail and to look for distressed sponsors who could help you financially.

What breeds can be trained to be a SD?
A corgi and another dog are running towards the camera.

Depending on the use of the dog is theoretically every breed, can be trained, because above all it depends on the health and character suitability of the animal.

Health aptitude:

  • the dog must be healthy enough to work

  • passende Größe bzgl. der anstehenden Aufgaben: ein Chihuahua wird wahrscheinlich Probleme haben, den Halter abzuschirmen oder ihm die Türen zu öffnen


  • no aggressions against humans and animals

  • must love to work

  • friendly, not afraid of the environment

  • "his human" has to be everything for him

Often you will see doodles, beagles, German Shepherd and labradors as SD. But that doesn't mean, that Huskys can't work as a SD too.


Information for Americans: Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

Does it require like a certificate or a test?

In Germany, there are currently no proper legal regulations regarding the training, testing and approval of an assistance dog.

However, §11 of the Animal Welfare Act regulates for example, authorities and trainers who train dogs themselves or for clients need proof of expertise. Only then are they allowed to issue the accompanying papers for the dog.

However, you must take an service dog team exam in order to be able to use the amenities, such as carrying the dog in public places.

After successfully passing the exam, the dog may also be equipped with a vest that identifies him as an assistance dog.

Information for Americans: Here are links providing informations by the ADA.

Laws and regulations in Germany
  • Dog tax: each municipality regulates this differently, some free the holder from the payment

  • leash - yes or no: is decided at the state level, everyone should look up for his state

  • §10 SGB I: disabled people have a right to get aids, which enables them to participate in life, including service dogs

  • §17 SGB I: accessibility also includes enabling the dog to be carried along 

  • §1 bis 3 AGG: one must not be disadvantaged because of the carrying of an SD

Link to the ADA (for people in America)
ADA logo
Ask for help

Any small donation means a lot to me and brings me closer to my desire of being able to do so much more again and to feel more joie de vivre, thanks to a service dog. ♥

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