FAQ 2 of 2

More “Frequently Asked Questions” about Pawsitivity Service Dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions (2 of 2)

Can the Service Dog be brought to school?

  •  Short answer: Usually no.
  • Long answer: Sometimes, if the teacher wants the dog there (and even then, for a maximum of two hours). With adults and Service Dogs, (like a guide dog for the blind) the adult is in control of the Service Dog and makes all the decisions. With a child, though, it's still basically the adult i.e. parent, who is in charge, even though the Service Dog is for the child. An adult must be in charge because even the best-trained dog just doesn't have the cognitive ability to make decisions for the child. In other words, it’s usually too much responsibility to ask a child to control a dog and tell it what to do at school, thus, as a result, most schools ask that the child leave the Service Dog at home. So while some teachers and principals actually bring up the idea of a Service Dog and suggest that the parents get one for the child to bring to school, there are often other circumstances (such as limited resources) where having a dog in class makes a teacher's job harder, not easier. We believe that a Service Dog can be a great tool, and if the teacher wants the dog there every day, or even once in a while, that's great - but if the teacher doesn't want the dog there, that's okay, too. Of course, with the autism spectrum in particular, there are so many different symptoms and circumstances, so it really does depend on the situation.
  • Longest answer: For an even more detailed answer with examples, check out our page on Service Dogs in Schools.

What are the ADA rules?

Here is the official law, here is frequently asked questions about the law, and the following is a summary in our own words:
  • A Service Dog can only be owned by someone who has a disability (a rough guideline is if the person qualifies for SSI and can't work).
  • The penalty for "impersonating" a person with a disability is severe because it is punishable by federal law.
  • A Service Dog must be leashed, behave appropriately in all circumstances (thunder, noisy crowds, around other dogs), and the dog must be specifically trained with a task (such as a guide dog that leads a person who is blind across the street).
If you want more detail, here is our complete explanation of the rules and regulations.

What vest patches do you use?

For the main patch, we always proudly use our trademarked logo (which says Pawsitivity Service Dogs), but there's much more flexibility with the other patches. We work with the handler/family to decide what works best (perhaps “Autism Service Dog“ or “Please Do Not Pet” or “Ask to Pet,” for instance). Note that while we will make recommendations for what patches we will place on the vest, the final choice is always up to you, and you can always change the patches later, if you wish.

Does the vest and belt-harness come with the dog or would that be something we would need to purchase?

Everything is included. Also, if you don't happen to have a crate, bed, dishes, bones, toys, and such, we'll send those, too. We'll even give you a big bag of the same grain-free dog food of the same brand the dog has been eating. If you ever want to switch food brands, use a different bed, etc., you always can, but it's nice to make the transition of the the dog’s beginning their life with you as smooth and easy as possible.

How does travel work with a Service Dog?

  • Service Dogs can help people with disabilities become more mobile. It may seem intimidating to travel on an airplane with your Service Dog, but it can help to realize that employees who work with the airline see passengers with disabilities traveling with their Service Dogs all the time.
  • Most handlers call the airline ahead of time and let the airline know they'll be traveling with a Service Dog (because the airline may put a note on the ticket), but whether or not you call them, you go through security just like everyone else. Security will inspect the dog's vest and such, just like they do with people. The procedure varies, but often the handler walks through the security booth, leaving the dog, then calls the dog through, and then the dog is directly inspected by security. Sometimes the TSA does a hand-swab on the handler, too.
  • When you arrive at at the gate and it's time to board, you'll board with the dog when you seat is called. You will probably then go to your bulkhead seat, which gives you a little more room at your feet. Some handlers with a Service Dog prefer to buy "stretch seating" or "economy comfort" so they get the extra room a bulkhead seat would provide and then they also get the under-seat baggage room (this option costs money, but some handlers find the extra cost worth the expense). Some handlers even choose to pay the extra money to fly first-class. The dog then lies at your feet during the trip. The goal is to make everything as easy as possible—many passengers and flight attendants often don't even realize there was a dog on board!
  • You will probably feel more secure bringing paperwork (such as doctor's notes, the dog's service dog graduation certificate, and immunization records), but the airline often doesn't ask for any of this paperwork. Optional: Many passengers find it helpful to have medical documentation as a way to discreetly communicate information about their needs to security, and so the TSA has created a Notification Card that passengers can use for discreet communication. The URL of the card keeps changing, but you can go to https://tsa.gov and search for it there. Use of this Notification Card, or of a doctor' letter, does not exempt a passenger from screening, but the card can be a nice reassuring way of smoothing out situations.
  • We've always recommended that you do not get a connecting flight because would add too many hours of stressful travel. Plus, you would need to bring the dog outside to pee (and find a spot for them to pee outside), and then go back through security. Instead, we've advised that a direct flight is the way to go. At one point, a Pawsitivity family told us that they prefer a connecting flight because when traveling with a child with a disability, they found that two 2-hour flights are more manageable that one 4-hour flight...however, they have since changed their mind and now agree with us that a direct flight is (by far) their best choice.

What type of ongoing communication with our family will be included once the dog is placed with us?

We are always available for questions, either by phone, email, or in person.

What happens when the dog dies?

All good things come to an end, and a dog's life expectancy is perhaps ten years. When a Service Dog dies, we request that you please notify us. Personally, it would be also nice if you sent us a picture of where you bury the dog or spread their ashes (that's optional).
  1. At that point, some families find that their journey with the Service Dog is now over and they don't need a Service Dog so much any more.
  2. But, if you decide you would like us to find and train another one for you, you would then go to the top of our waiting list. If this is the case, some families may let us know as the dog is getting sick, or other families let us know if the dog goes unexpectedly. Either way, the process takes perhaps a year because we need to finish up the current dogs we're training (up to six to twelve months), then find and train a dog for you (which takes six to twelve months). 

When at home, how do we deal with other dogs?

  • Pets: If you have a pet dog, (not recommended, but a common situation), we will help with procedures to have the dogs get along. Your pet dog will probably have special privileges (being allowed to go on the furniture, perhaps), and your Service Dog will have different rules, but dogs are okay with that set-up and will soon learn that different rules apply to them. Pet dogs get pet privileges, Service Dogs go by stricter rules. But that's okay--dogs like to work, and they like having clear boundaries and rules.
  • Dog parks: You really don't want to bring your Service Dog to a dog park. Dog parks are for pets, not Service Dogs, because your Service Dog is trained to work (and not to play with other dogs). Note that you will still want to play with your Service Dog when the dog is not workng, just not at a dog park. Basically, you want to want to continue the training of having your Service Dog to focus on you, so your Service Dog will not be looking to other dogs for attention and fun.
  • Friends' dogs: Likewise, you wouldn't want your Service Dog to be playing with friends' dogs. If you have to go over to a friend's house and they have a dog, it's best to leave your Service Dog at home because otherwise, the dogs would want to play, and you don't want to encourage that behavior. If there is a special situation (like you are going over to one person's house every single day) then maybe an exception might want to be made, but in general, you don't want your Service Dog to be playing with other dogs, but rather, you want your Service Dog focused on you.

When at home, how can we keep up the training?

While we will work with you during the training of the dog (and we'll be available throughout the life of the dog for questions and advice), we also have guidelines for once you have your Service Dog at home. 

“All good things come from the handler". 
  • For all families, we recommend that for the first six months that "all good things come from the handler" (and not from other family members). So whether it's food, fun, or affection, these good things should come from just one person because this procedure encourages bonding. After the first six months, then this procedure can usually be relaxed and the whole family can enjoy the dog (with the primary rewards still coming from the handler).
“Two, Two, and Two". While this procedure may be modified for high-energy dogs, usually we recommend:
  • For the first two weeks, keep the dog in the house (except for bathroom breaks) because the dog will need this transition time to bond to you and get used to the new home, the new yard, the new family, and such.
  • For the next two weeks, do two daily training-walks around the neighborhood because the dog will be used to your home by then and these walks will help solidify bonding.
  • For the next two weeks, take the dog to public-access outings, but only for five to ten minutes, because then both the dog and you will be getting used to doing these higher-stress situations together. (After the two-two-and-two, you can start doing longer public access outings, with a recommendation of two-hours maximum because you want to make sure the dog doesn't get stressed). 
The following answer is not comprehensive and each family's situation is so individual that we find it best to modify our recommendations for each individual family. With that caveat in mind, however, we hope that you find the following general guidelines helpful in your planning:

When the handler has NO cognitive disabilities, we recommend two daily half-hour training-walks.
  • At each street corner, you can practice rewarding Sit or Down. At red lights, you can practice walking in figure-eights. When you pass squirrels or dogs you can practice rewarding "Watch-me." 
  • After the two-two-and-two, we recommend the handler attend a beginning obedience class or use a private trainer with the dog because even though the dog knows the cues, it's nice for the handler and dog to learn the cues again with a different teacher (it's also nice bonding).
When the handler HAS cognitive disabilities, the situation is different. Parents usually don't have the time or energy to do training-walks (plus we want to help the dog bond to the child and not to the parents), so in these cases, training-walks may not be appropriate.
  • We'll talk through the pros and cons of having parents interacting with the dog and together, and we'll help determine what procedure should work best for your family.

When at home, when should we put the dog out to potty?

  • When at home, we recommend putting the dog out to potty at least three times a day: in the morning, after dinner, and before bedtime. If you have a fenced-in yard with a wooden fence, we also recommend installing a dog door into your back door.
  • Note that when you are out working out in public with your Service Dog, we recommend having the dog potty against a tree right before you go into a building. Even though we recommend working only two hours at a time, it's easy, for instance, for a dog to confuse a mall that has trees with the outdoors. We always want to set you up for success, and this procedure helps a lot.

When at home, should the dog be allowed on the bed or couch?

  • Our default training is that the dog is not allowed on chairs or couchs, but if this behavior is desired for calming the handler, then you can decide later to relax this training. It's always easier to relax training than to train a behavior later. An exception: If the handler needs the dog to be in bed with them at night, we will train the dog in that manner.
  • Note that a Service Dog is not legally allowed to go on chairs or couches in public.

When at home, how will the Service Dog behave with our cat?

We will give the dog exposure to cats, but we highly recommend introducing the dog to your pet cat in a specific way, which we will supervise. It's best if the cat has claws because then the cat can communicate to the dog that he/she doesn't want to play. We will usually introduce them with the dog unleashed, but under our (and your) close supervision. The goal is to introduce the animals together in such a way that the dog won't chase the cat like a squirrel, but rather, the cat will stare down the dog (and worst case, the cat has its claws for protection). The cat should have a safe space (like a tall cat-tree or a room with a cat-door) where the cat can always go to feel completely safe from the dog. In this way, the cat has “agency” and can devise its own long-term strategy for living with the dog.

When at home, how should siblings treat the Service Dog?

If a child is to have the Service Dog, then you have a couple of options for siblings. If the siblings are old enough to have a lot of self-control, then best practice is to have the siblings not interact with the dog (which will encourage the dog to bond primarily to the handler). If the siblings are too young to have much self-control, then—it's not ideal—but we'll have to let the siblings play with the dog. (However, even in this case, you should give the handler and dog as much time together as possible so they can bond.)

When at home, how does a Service Dog ride in our car or SUV?

While there are many options available, most Service Dog handlers use one of the following two techniques:
  1. Put a crate in the back of your SUV (or in the back seat of your car), and then have the dog jump up into the crate.
  2. Have the dog wear his/her Service Dog vest (which has a handle on it), and string the seatbelt through the handle.
Either of these options keeps the dog safe and secure.

When at home, how long can a Service Dog be left in the house alone?

  • Usually a Service Dog is with their handler at all times (unless the dog is for a child, and then the dog is usually home with a stay-at-home parent), but there can be times when a dog has to be left home alone.
  • We have hesitated for a long time in posting the answer to this question because we don't want to encourage separating a people-oriented Service Dog from their handler or family. However, we recognize that circumstances do come up when a dog has to be left home alone (and sometimes, it might just be for an hour or two). In this case, we usually recommend leaving the dog in his/her crate with a new bone to chew on, and then the dog can then go eight hours without peeing.  
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