LIFESTYLE

Service Dog Gear: Necessary Equipment and Supplies Overview

Service dog in Oslo
John Walton
Written by John Walton

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons with disabilities are allowed to bring their service dogs to public places which in turn, may necessitate some owners to use service dog gear. These dog gears are aimed at making it easier for disabled persons to perform day to day activities more efficiently and may also make it easier for their service dogs to perform their tasks.

Although these gears are not required by the law to be possessed by the dog owners, they still contribute to functional benefits both for the dog and for their human. The type of gear that you will need for your dog will depend upon the kind of tasks they perform for you.

However, it’s still important that you know what your rights are by law. You’d do best to check out this article on your rights in regards to service dogs.

Now, it is also sad to note that anyone, even those with pets which are not actual service dogs, can gain access and possession of these service dog gears for fraudulent means. People who want to avoid the expensive costs of transporting their pet dog on a plane or who just want to have their pets with them wherever they go are often the ones to indulge in this kind of behavior.

Do not pet service dog

Hence, there are pets that wear these dog gears but do not actually exhibit the trained and composed demeanor of a real service dog. Fake service dogs are not only unruly but they may even pose some serious threats in public.

What are service dogs for?

A simple definition of service dogs would be those which are intended to provide support or assistance to a person with disability. The basis for deciding on whether a dog is actually a service dog would depend on the type of disability that their owner possesses and the areas of day to day activities which the dog helps out with.

Service dog brochure

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog’s task includes those that provide physical, psychiatric, sensory, intellectual, or mental disability and the only way to know if the owner qualifies as a “disabled” person would be according to the said Act’s definition as well which are if a person experiences the following:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,
  • Has a record of such an impairment, and
  • Is being regarded as having impairment.

The two important things to remember when it comes to a service dog are these: they should be trained to do tasks and these tasks should be something that helps the owner to cope with their disability. Normally, a person would be considered disabled if they are lacking some abilities to do major or necessary day to day tasks. A good way to know if you are qualified to have a service dog would be to consult your physician or medical professional and a lawyer who specializes in the ADA.

The ADA also lists down examples of the types of tasks that a service dog is expected to do:

  • Aiding in the balancing and stability for those with mobility problems
  • Alerting people with hearing impairment regarding the presence of people or sounds
  • Preventing impulsive or destructive behaviors such as those with PTSD
  • Aiding an individual during a seizure
  • Alerting someone of the presence of allergens or of changes in their health condition
  • Retrieving items
  • Guiding people who are blind or who have vision problems

In direct contrast with this definition are pets which are considered to be “emotional support animals.” According to the same Act, pets which provide protection, companionship, or emotional support are not to be considered as service dogs in that they do not provide a specific “work” or “task” which is aimed at mitigating a person’s disability.

Hence, not everyone who owns a pet and cares for them so much can just bring their dogs to public areas and claim that they are service dogs. Owners of establishments are allowed to ask the dog owners to ask the following questions to ascertain whether their pets are indeed service dogs.

Take note though that they are not allowed to ask the owner what their disability is:

  • Is the dog required because of a disability?
  • What tasks can the dog do to mitigate the owner’s disability?

What are the types of service dog gears?

There are plenty of online stores that sell a variety of service dog gears but the main thing to consider when looking to buy these items is whether you actually need them or not. There are a lot of these so-called gears which are only meant to help identify the dog as a service dog even though federal laws do not actually require them.

It would be better if you can not only avoid these unnecessary purchases but also find a way in which to spend them more efficiently for maintaining the health and well-being of your dog. Usually, these gears are aimed at providing some utility for the disability of the owner themselves.

Collars

Dog collars are basically made to allow the dog to be tethered on a leash but additional functions have also been made for this type of gear. Today, they are used for the dog’s identification as well as an accessory for the dog. There are various types of materials that are used in making a dog collar and your particular function in mind will help you choose which one to take. There is fabric, vinyl, cord, metal, or leather which comes in various widths as well.

You can add a personal touch to these collars by attaching your own accessories or an ID card to their collar. You can also choose from a flat buckle, a snap, or a martingale closure. Never use a choker or a prong collar in a service dog as these are not really needed. They are there to help you and not to be trained or guided.

Leash

Although service dogs are trained to stay beside their owner in public, except when doing tasks which are related to their owner’s disability, it still helps to reassure the public of their safety by putting the dog on a leash.

There are varying lengths for a service dog leash but the most recommended are those ranging from four to six feet. The best types of leash are those that can withstand different kinds of weather, has reflective surfaces if intended for night use, and those that can last for a long time. You may also need a stronger leash if you need it to let your dog pull your wheelchair. There are also leashes which can be put around your body just like a shoulder bag so your dog will remain attached to you while freeing your hands for other work.

Head halter

Most dog owners know the head halter for training new pups but they are also useful for owners with disabilities. The halter allows the owner to communicate their intentions or directions to the dog by just using a simple movement unlike when they are tugging at a dog collar.

This is especially useful if the owners cannot somehow speak loud enough for the dog or is incapable of speaking at all. A head halter should not fit a dog too tightly and they should allow for the dog to pant or eat with it on.

Harness

This is especially useful for dogs which are required to pull their owner, as when they are trying to guide them or when they are pulling their wheelchair, or when they are providing support and balance. The harness distributes the pressure around the chest and shoulders of the dog instead of their necks which helps not only for easier performance of their tasks but for greater efficiency as well.

Service Dog Harness

It should fit snugly around the dog’s girth and should provide sufficient space for the front legs to walk or run unencumbered. Look for sufficient padding and soft lining material to help reduce friction with your dog’s body.

Vest

A vest provides multiple functions for a service dog and their owner. They provide protection and warmth during cold or rainy weather and they also help carry various items that the owners need. For example, there is a vest that is made to carry portable oxygen tanks for the owner and there are those which are made to carry personal items such as cell phones, medications, IDs, and cards.

This gear is the most abused service dog gear as frauds often use it to let their dogs pass as service dogs even when they are not. Patches and wordings on the vest are often misused to avoid fees and separation from their dogs when they are not really allowed in certain public areas such as planes and restaurants.

Paw mittens or dog booties

These are helpful if you will be travelling on roads with extreme temperatures such as excessively hot pavements or frozen ones. Unlike other types of gear, this is specifically made for the benefit of your pet and not for you. It is a way to help protect your pet so they could be of greater service for you.

Carabiner

These are good tools to use when attaching a dog harness or vest on a leash or when attaching some items on them. They provide safe and sound attachments but they are also very versatile as well.

Muzzle

Even though this is not quite considered to be an essential part of a service dog’s gear, it can play some significant role if you will be spending some time in public. As we all know, there are people who tend to over-react when seeing dogs in public areas and they may feel unsafe. Putting a muzzle on your dog will help abate these fears but make sure that it will not affect the dog’s performance of their tasks.

For example, if they are merely intended as a guide, then you can use them but if you will be using them to fetch things for you then it may not be an option. It is important to note that service dogs are intended to provide non-violent protection to their owners.

Types of gears required by the Federal laws

Even though there are a lot of businesses that say that you need their products to help identify your dog as a service dog, the fact is that federal laws do not actually require any. You will find manufacturers trying to sell “certificates” and “IDs” to help certify your dog as a service dog but this is not actually required.

Federal laws do not need you to present any ID or to put any vest or harness on your dog stating “Service Dog” in order for you to gain access to public areas where pets are not allowed. You only need to state what your pet’s tasks are that are intended to support your disability. One way to help identify a fraud is their insistence on the use of certificates or IDs to indicate that their dogs are service dogs.

Service gear

The misuse of these dog vests, certificates, and IDs gives service dogs a bad reputation. A lot of people, either through their fancy or because of fraudulent intents, disguise their pets as service dogs by putting these service dog gears on them. Hence, when store managers and airlines allow them to bring their pets inside their premises, they can start misbehaving and even pose a threat to other individuals on the area.

These types of instances are a blot to real service dogs and can even lead to the denial of their access to public areas. To help you know how to stop a real from a fake service dog, here are some tips on what they are expected to behave when they are inside a public area:

  • Walk without pulling, lunging, circling or forging ahead of their owners.
  • Focus on their owner and ignore distractions.
  • Look clean and well-groomed.
  • Stay with their owner except when doing tasks such as fetching groceries, items, or help.
  • Anticipate and obey their owner’s commands promptly.
  • Behave quietly without whining, grumbling, and other types of sounds not related with work.
  • Refrain from defecating or urinating in public.
  • Appear calm and collected not agitated, scared, angry, or aggressive.

Best qualities of a good service dog gear

A good service dog gear should be one that a disabled owner can actually rely on to provide the functions that they need. This means that you will have to select one that will address both your needs and your dog’s needs.

As there are different types of disabilities, there are also different traits or characteristics of materials that you need. For example, if you cannot bear handling heavy leashes then you have to go with those of lighter materials such as fabric and cord. If you will be spending your time outdoors during the night then you may need a dog gear with a reflective surface or one with LED or luminescent materials.

Gear for service dogs

Those who need strength and integrity of dog gears such as leashes that will not snap when pulling a wheelchair or reliable handles for balance support will need more durable materials which can also mean additional weight either for you or the dog.

For example, brass buckles, rings, and carabiners may be more preferable than plastic ones which are lighter. Metal handles are also more stable compared to plastic but they also weigh heavier and can pose a lot more pressure on your dog’s body.

Remember to take your dog’s capacity into consideration when buying a service dog gear. It would be best if you can protect and care for their well-being and enjoy their services and companionship longer.

Choosing the right type of service gear for your dog can mean a lot even your own health and safety. A poorly made dog collar, for example, can either be too loose for your dog’s neck for them to follow your lead or too tight that it affects their breathing or their vocal chords. Make sure that the dog gear is made of high quality materials and that they function in the way that they are intended to be. Look for reliable manufacturers and try buying items that are custom-made for your dog to make sure that they are a perfect fit.

Now that you know what to look for, it would be a good idea to conduct some of your training with your dog while he wears his gear. The best place to start is to check out this article on training your service dog.

A service dog is an integral part of a disabled person’s day to day life as they help them perform some of the more basic yet necessary functions for living. This utility can be better improved when you use the right service dog gear for you and your dog’s needs.

It is important to develop a wide and encompassing vision of these needs if you really want to not only alleviate your disabilities but also to help protect your dog as well. Remember though, that these gears are not what would help establish a dog as a service dog and some people can use it for their own fraudulent purposes.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • DeathFromTheShadows

    John, Please do not take this as negative or picky. It is meant as constructive. Something I wouldn’t even offer were it not for the overall value of what you wrote. It regards the technical aspect of the writing and not the content itself.

    One of the biggest issues writers have, and editors are supposed to correct, are the tenses of past, present, future, possessive and plural. In your use of “gears”, you have made an error in the plural of the word. A simple and common mistake, especially among those who speak English as a second language. There are two different meanings we must be aware of for the word “gear”. the first is a true gear, a round cogged piece used to transfer motion, the plural of this word is “gears”, one is a gear, more than one is gears. The other meaning and the one you used in your very valuable article is equipment. The plural of this meaning of “gear” is “gear”. No added “s” is used, and even more confusing is the rest of the grammar that goes with it. For example, in the article, you wrote “These dog gears are aimed at making it easier…” the correct grammatical way to say it would be “This dog gear is aimed at…” as the word is always a singular form when used in this meaning.

    Again, I am not offering this as a Grammar Nazi, nor to be critical of your writing far from it. I simply hope you find value in it as it is offered in kind as a thank you for the information you have given me. I by no means am a grammar expert, but my education has covered this much.

    Yesterday I received my first Service Dog, as I suffer severe balance issues due to organic inner ear damage, and a simple cane no longer suffices. I have spent hours upon hours researching what you have confirmed, ad although not required have chosen a simple harness that employs a Velcro panel that holds a service dog patch. I made this choice because of the ignorance of so many uninformed people, people who see a dog and immediately jump to conclusions, and only feel safe when they have their pre defined labels on everything, firmly in place.

    I am open to discussion and giving explanations, but there are tines in life that I don’t have time to stop and talk. I chose to get a service dog because I wish to keep my life as active as possible. I am tired of being backed off by a disability, that on its own will only grow. S there will be times I don’t wish to be bothered by those who are ignorant of the reality that all dogs are note just pets. Again, thank you for you information, and I look forward to reading more of your work.

  • DeathFromTheShadows

    An irony… As I go back and read my own posting I find glaring typos that I find unacceptable. A prime example of why spell and grammar check isn’t the end all and why you should have another person proof read your writing.

    John, I really hope you are reading this. I Truly value your input, as you offer balance and thought, when so many write just to see themselves in print. When I critique the writing not the subject, its the side of me that enjoys teaching, and doesn’t find issue in the content. Need I say more? Looking forward to more of your work!

    • John Walton

      Dear DFTS,

      I was actually trying to find your comment but I guess it took me a year to respond. All I can say is, thank you very much for being critical with my articles because it shows that you genuinely care about the information and the way it has been written. I hope a new year can bring you wonderful returns!

  • Sandra Underwood

    Are there excellent vests that service dogs can comfortably wear? My best friend will be getting a dog to train as service dog for her dad who’s going blind. Any suggestion of a good brand? What’s the price range for this? Thank you.

    • John Walton

      Service dogs can wear these vests. They are made of durable material and can be worn for extended periods of time. The price range is actually large, and it will completely depend on your budget.

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