Pawsitivity pre-screens, selects, and trains each Service Dog to perform specific tasks for a specific individual with a disability. Pawsitivity gives each dog an in-depth health screening, including neutering or spaying, if needed. After training, each Service Dog must pass a public access test. This test ascertains that the dog can handle the stress associated with functioning as a Service Dog in public.
Specifics of the test:
- The Service Dog must tolerate public areas including stores, malls, movie theaters, grocery stores, public transportation, trains, airlines, work, and other places that do not welcome pets.
- The dog must not eliminate indoors or in an area that is not suitable for the dog to do so.
- The dog must walk calmly on leash.
- The dog can be safely loaded and unloaded from a vehicle.
- The dog must let handler recover the leash if accidentally dropped.
- The dog must be comfortable in narrow aisles.
A Service Dog must be able to perform specific tasks for the person with a disability. Examples of these tasks include protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person to take prescribed medications, turning on lights, and opening doors. Additionally, a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, for instance, may have several of these disabilities, plus they may experience disabilities unique to them, so each Pawsitivity trains each Service Dog with the individual's needs in mind.
Not directly tested, but additional benefits:
- Along with the above elements that Pawsitivity directly tests during training, Service Dogs often provide several additional benefits and they may:
- Serve as a “social bridge”, facilitating social interaction for the handler.
- Provide a calming presence and increase confidence.
- Provide safety and security.
- Reduce emotional agitation.
- Give a sense of pride and purpose.
- Aid with everyday social challenges.
- Help lower overall stress levels (for both the child and their parents).
- Help the handler gain success and independence.
For children, having a Service Dog often decreases the child's meltdowns and other disruptive behaviors, as well as bring improvements in their performance of daily routines and more social interactions. Example:
- "One family visited Disney World because the presence of the Service Dog meant their daughter could cope with the long car ride to Florida and was able to take in the new environment without being overwhelmed. Other families reported that ferryboat rides, airplane flights, weekends spent at a cottage, and hotel stays were all more manageable with the assistance of the Service Dog. For many of these parents, sending their child to day camps or overnight camps with the dog was the first step in giving themselves some respite from the constant demands of care for their child".
"Sentinels of Safety: Service Dogs Ensure Safety and Enhance Freedom and Well-Being for Families With Autistic Children", Kristen E. Burrows, Cindy L. Adams, Jude Spiers, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 2008.