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What is a Service, Therapy, or Emotional Support Dog?

There seems to be confusion about these terms:

Service Dogs: Perform tasks to assist their recipient with disabilities, which the recipient can’t do for themselves. Ex: our dogs retrieve dropped items, help their person navigate in public, open drawers, etc. Service dogs have public access rights – can be taken anywhere except hospital OR’s or restaurant kitchens without permission of the owner/person in charge at the venue. Service dog schools test the service dog and their recipients using a Public Access Test to assure the public the team is safe to be in public places. At present there are no legitimate certifying service dog organizations. Most service dog schools certify their teams after they’ve passed the public access test. Legally anyone can ask a service dog team what tasks does the dog do for their person as that’s the legal definition of a service dog under the American Disabilities Act. It’s illegal to ask someone why they have a service dog or what’s wrong with them. A service dog team can not be barred from any venue – including venues or housing with No Pet Policies. That’s against the State Service Dog Law (each state has one) and the American Disability Act.

Therapy dogs: Pet dogs whose team mate is their owner or designated handler. Therapy Dogs soothe, cheer up people, etc. with their essence (being a great, friendly dog). They’re not task oriented. They must 100% pass the standardized Therapy Dog Obedience test, administered by a certified Therapy Dog Tester, every 2 years to be certified. There are legitimate organizations who certify Therapy Dogs. A therapy dog team has public access only if they’ve been invited into the venue – hospital, nursing home, library, etc. Usually their handler is required by the venue to have liability insurance on the dog. There are therapy dog organizations that provide this insurance at group rates.

Emotional Support Dogs : A pet dog who soothes, cheers up his/her owner. There are no requirements for training of these dogs, and they are not task oriented. If they perform tasks and are highly trained in obedience, they’re Psychiatric Service Dogs. Emotional Support Dogs have no public access rights under the American Disabilities Act, and require the permission of the owner/person in charge of the venue to enter. They used to be in airports, and fly on airplanes because the FAA granted that privilege. The FAA has now revoked that privilege because there were so many unfortunate incidents.

Callie & Bob

Putnam Service Dogs- Callie & BobPutnam Service Dogs placed Callie with Bob in November 2021. Bob had suffered a traumatic brain injury. A perilous symptom remains from his injury,  his fragile balance, which had kept him confined at home. When he did leave his house,  his wife would walk in front of him, her arms spread apart to protect him from losing his balance and falling. Bob couldn’t go anywhere alone. This past May, Bob’s wife passed,  leaving him heartbroken and extremely vulnerable. After that, when Bob did leave his house, he’d use a cane, and someone would have to accompany him.

Then PSD stepped in! One week after he received his highly trained dog, Callie, he decided to try walking his front steps and walkway. Before Callie, Bob had never had to courage to walk this route, even with his wife’s protection and assistance. Bob walked down his front steps without his cane, with Callie close in hand. She matched his uncertain pace exactly, staying with him each step of the way. Bob smiled as he walked down his front walk to the street, independently, successfully, and safely making the journey for the first time in 35 years! Now he and Callie frequently visit neighbors, and Bob eats at his favorite diner with Callie under the table. The owner of the diner seats Bob at the front table because Callie is so well behaved. Bob and Callie are the center of attention.


Duke’s Story

Our pup, Duke, is being raised by Michael, a Naval Officer candidate. When he was a staff instructor at the Nuclear Protype Training School, Michael was selected for the Seaman to Admiral-21 program. He moved to the Bronx in spring of 2021 to begin the training, and learned of Putnam Service Dogs. Approved as a puppy raiser, Michael took over the raising of teenage Duke. It has been a great match for both!

Duke quickly adjusted to life in the Bronx – angry New Yorkers, buses flying by, and walking underneath in the subway stations. Michael took Duke hiking on the beach, and discovered Duke had a fear of water. Michael overcame this by taking Duke canoeing. Duke sat on his lap in the canoe, looking around like a sea captain.
Soon Duke was trying to rescue a swimming Michael, and swam laps around him.

Putnam Service Dogs- DukeMichael took Duke home to Ohio. Duke loved the long car ride, sticking his head out the window and watching the scenery go by. Once there, Duke
proved therapeutic for the family dog, Red, who’d been abused in his past. Duke’s happy presence taught
Red not to be fearful of people. Duke completely changed Red.

When Michael’s Naval Officer training began this fall, Duke went with him to class. Duke quickly became the class star. The staff and students loved seeing him every day as he happily pranced around, bathing in the attention. During class, Duke settled quietly under Michael’s desk, napping on his sweatshirt.

Although he’d grown up with dogs and loves them, Michael’s naval deployments prevented him from owning a dog. He found Putnam Service Dogs to be a very caring organization and was delighted to help raise one of our pups. It was a perfect way for him to give back to the community, and have a great dog as a companion. As Duke’s raiser, Michael works to empathize with him, and understand what he’s thinking. They work as a team to achieve goals in Duke’s training and development. Their work together has added to Michael’s ability to better understand, and lead his sailors in the future.

“Duke trusts me, and will happily walk into any situation or room with me as his companion. When placed, he will make that person his entire world. I’ll be very sad to give him up, but knowing he’ll benefit and change someone’s life who needs it is worth it to me.”

Being a Volunteer Puppy Raiser for Putnam Service Dogs

What is it like being a volunteer puppy raiser for Putnam Service Dogs, and why do people do it?

Here’s what Elaine Sackman says about the experience:
“I started as a volunteer puppy raiser at PSD because it seemed like a win/win/win. I can get my doggy fix without owning another dog, a rescue dog is saved, and a person in need will be helped. The training and support provided are great! The dogs are treated with love, respect, and kindness.” (more…)

Cary with his recipient, Jake:

Jake says:  “Cary is my best friend. I can’t imagine my life without him. We go almost everywhere together and he always keeps me safe. Cary is very good at his job and constantly alerts me to things I can’t hear. I have more confidence when Cary is with me because I know he’ll look out for me.  We make a good team.  When Cary gets scared during thunderstorms, then it’s my turn to make him feel safe.  Cary works very hard and I’m really proud of him.”

Cary is the best thing that has ever happened to Jake.  Cary went trick-or-treating with Jake at Halloween. Despite it being in a dark, unfamiliar neighborhood, Jake was completely at ease because he knew Cary was by his side.  Cary was absolutely unflappable that night despite all the crazy costumes and loud noises. Cary’s quiet confidence is exactly what Jake needs to be successful. Jake’s confidence continues to soar since Cary was placed with him in January 2021.

Jake and Cary are together so much that Jake’s mom has (repeatedly!) called them by each other’s names!  For more than 2 months Cary patiently endured almost daily soccer games and practices while Jake played this fall.  He would rarely take his eyes off the field, always keeping a watchful eye on Jake. They’d have a joyful reunion at the end of a every game and Cary became something of a team mascot.

Cary still loves his daily walks and doing “zoomies” outside with the kids where he can race and run at full speed.  If Cary has any complaints whatsoever, it would be that if he isn’t quick enough. The cat steals his dog bed!

Brook’s Story

Putnam Service Dogs placed Brook in November 2020 with a family that lived on constant pins and needles. Their 11 year old daughter suffers from epileptic seizures. Everyone in the household (4 people, including the 11 year old girl) lived in dread, waiting for the next seizure to come.

In walked our Princess Brook, and she instantly took charge. Her intelligent, loving nature led her to walk right up to the 11 year old, and introduce herself. Now they are inseparable companions, and sleep together every night – the first uninterrupted sleep Brook’s young recipient has had since being diagnosed with epilepsy. Brook is right with her through the night, tucked against her at the foot of her bed.

Brook’s 11 year old charge now has so much more independence and confidence. She used to be afraid to do anything, for fear a seizure would come and she’d be alone. Now she has Brook. She’s no longer afraid of being alone, because Brook is right there with her.

The family continues to bond with Brook, and the little girl’s Mom is learning how to be an effective handler of Brook. The love for, and wonder at Brook, continue to grow each day.

Brook has changed lives.

We Love Starting each Day with Belle

The term unconditional love tells the story of the bond between a dog and human. Belle entered Maria’s life a short time ago. Maria is battling a cancer that has debilitated her motor functions and has created unprecedented anxiety and stressors. At their first meeting, when Belle entered our living room, she went over and laid her head on Maria’s leg.

Belle has filled our home with a new ambience of positive energy, laughter, and calm. To wake up to Belle is so different than before! Belle distracts us from negativity, and has given Maria new found eagerness to do more, now that Belle is accompanying her. We are beginning at-home training with Jeff Fritz, Putnam Service Dogs’ Head Trainer. Maria and I will learn how to work with Belle as a service dog for Maria, and I will learn how to be Belle’s handler.

In the evenings the TV goes on, and Belle finds her place in the living room by Maria’s feet, or in her husband’s arms. We go to sleep each night happy,
after Belle has given us a doggy kiss, and laid in her bed next to us. As our bond grows, the future is even brighter!

How Putnam Service Dogs Trains Their Dogs to Become Service Dogs

People ask us frequently how to train their pet dog to become a service dog, or why it takes us so long, and is so expensive (over $25K/dog) for us to train our Putnam Service Dogs’ dogs.

Service Dogs perform tasks to assist their recipient and have public access rights under the ADA Law. Working with the The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners organization, which sets the standards for the industry, minimum standards for training were set by the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. We train our service dogs more, but here are the minimum standards according to these highly respected organizations in the service dog field:

Callie & Jeff
Head Trainer, Jeff Fritz

Here are the minimum standards according to The International Association of Assistance Dog Partner and Assistance Dogs International, highly respected organizations in the service dog field:

  1. An assistance dog should be given a minimum of 120 hours of schooling over a 6 month or more period. At least 30 hours should be devoted to outings to prepare the dog to work obediently and unobtrusively in public places.
  2.  A dog must master the basic obedience skills: Sit, Stay, Come, Down, Heel, and a dropped leash recall in a store in response to verbal commands.
  3. A dog must have the following behavior: no aggressive behavior toward people or other animals -no biting, snapping, snarling, growling, lunging, or barking at them when working.  When working – no soliciting food or pets from other people, no sniffing merchandise or people, no intruding into another dog’s space, ignores food on the floor or dropped in the dog’s vicinity, works calmly on leash, no urinating or defecating in public unless given a specific cue in an appropriate place.
  4. The dog must be trained to perform disability related tasks, individually tailored to his recipient.

To evaluate whether a service dog team is ready to graduate, the Public Access Certification Test on the website of Assistance Dogs International is the best tool. The test was developed over a 15-year period as a consumer protection measure. It reveals whether a team is ready to go places out in public without trainer supervision. The safety of the dog, handler, and public are the focus of this test. The test does not test (assess) a team’s ability of the dog performing disability mitigating tasks. The Public Access Test evaluates the dog’s obedience and manners, and the handler’s skills in a variety of situations.

Handler skills assessed: Ability to safely load and unload the dog from a vehicle, enter a public place without losing control of the dog, ability to recover a dropped leash, and ability to cope calmly with an access problem if an employee or customer questions the individual’s right to bring a dog into the venue.

Dog’s skills assessed: to safely cross a parking lot, to halt for traffic, and ignore distractions, to heel through narrow aisles, to hold a sit-stay when a shopping cart passes by or when a person stops to chat or pet the dog, to hold a down-stay if a child approaches, to remain calm if someone else holds the leash while the handler moves 20 feet away, to remain calm while another dog passes within 6 ft of the team, to hold a sit-stay if someone drops food on the floor, to hold a down-stay if someone sets a plate of food on the floor.

The Amount of training given to a service dog should NEVER fall below the minimum level needed to pass this Public Access Test.

Certification of service dogs is not required in the USA. Many states lack programs willing to certify dogs. If an organization has trained the service dog, it may issue an identification card after the service dog team has passed the Public Access Test with their logo, contact information, and a photo of the dog and recipient. The organization also will present the team with a Service Dog vest for the dog to wear in public showing the organization’s logo and labeling the dog as a Service Dog.

Training our dogs to perform the service dog tasks required by their recipient usually takes 4-6 months, 1 hour/day. The dog has to be capable of performing the task consistently, when asked by the recipient. We train the recipient on how to communicate with their dog, understand their body language, and build a loving, trusting bond. All of this is essential for a service dog to perform well. Training a recipient usually takes 4-6 months, with intensive training the first 2 or 3 weeks (2-3 hours/day), tapering off to 1 or 2 hours a week until the team passes the Public Access test.

Why Do Our Applicants Want Our Service Dogs?

Why does Putnam Service Dogs do what we do?

service dog applicant

The painstakingly thorough search we do for a dog capable of being a Service Dog; all the hours the Volunteer Puppy Raiser spends raising, loving, socializing, exercising, and training the pup; all the hours of our Head Trainer guiding and training the Raiser and pup. The patient education and training of a recipient once one of our dogs is placed with them to teach them how to work effectively as a team. The odds are so stacked against a dog making it as a Service Dog. Even with our barebones organization, we spend over $25,000 on average on a dog by the time they’re placed, and they’re Free for the recipient. The follow-up training is Free as well.

Why do we passionately persevere? We totally believe a Service Dog is life changing.  Our applicants agree.

Here’s what they say on their Applications…..

Here’s How a Service Dog Will Change Their Life

I basically have to have someone with me 24/7. I don’t have much independence because of this.

I’ve never been out by myself, so it would be nice to have a Service Dog beside me.

My life has changed from someone who worked full time to someone who stays at home. Simply being able to go out to lunch with a friend (my Service Dog) who can open the door for me, or go shopping by myself and have a little help getting the things I need would open the world back up to me.

My husband worries about me getting hurt when I am home, or out by myself.

It’s hard for me to get out, and I avoid crowds.

When I’m in a crowded situation I’m fearful I will be pushed down by the crowd.

I live alone, and my disabilities make life sustaining tasks – shopping, events, and socializing, challenging activities. I need a Service Dog to provide a “safe space” for me in public crowded situations – to help me live a full, productive life.

What Tasks Do They Want a Service Dog to Do For Them?

Having a dog being able to pick things up from the ground would greatly improve my life with just this alone.

It hurts to pick things up.

I am unable to bend at the waist so I can’t pick things up when I drop them. I use a grabber for some things. I constantly drop my grabber.

I am a 60 year old paraplegic with arthritic hands.

I need a dog to retrieve my walker. I sometimes will wander away from my walker when feeling alright, and then will begin to get too sick to stand on my own.

If I drop my car keys, I have to use the car, or a wall to try and pick them up.

I often get in too much pain or am too dizzy to get up and get things. In addition, leaning down to pick up things I drop triggers my symptoms,

Having a service dog walk beside me, be there for me when I lose my balance, would help me walk without fear of falling and breaking a bone.

Since I am confined to my wheelchair or bed, it would be nice if the dog could fetch items for me.

I can’t hear anything when I’m walking in a public area. Having a service dog nudge me if the dog hears a car or horn would reassure me.

I have serious difficulty hearing in large crowds, stores, malls, cars, buses, outside. I have a baby on the way and fear I won’t hear her.

If I have to sit down in a random spot, I always wonder what people think of me. With a Service Dog beside me, they’ll understand.

I’ve passed out in a dark, public bathroom. I need a Service Dog to turn on the lights for me, bark to alert people I need help.

Applicants are Eager to Receive a Service Dog From Us

I can’t even contain myself just thinking of it!

I started a GoFundMe page to help me raise the money I’ll need to care for my dog. I have just under $4K raised right now.

I look forward to having the mental support; knowing help is there is important. Also, I want to care for a dog to keep active and motivated.

Please let me know what we need to do to better prepare ourselves for a Service Dog. We’ll do whatever it takes.

Please keep me in mind. I really want to make this happen.

Putnam Service Dogs’ Mission Statement: Our service dogs change the lives of our recipients and their families, adding love, joy, independence, and ease. We honor and promote the nurturing bond between humans and dogs.

We provide free Service Dogs and follow-up support services to people with physical disabilities other than blindness. We adopt mixed breed pups from Rescue Organizations to raise and train as Service Dogs.

I could NEVER give the dog up

The most common reason we hear why people won’t be a puppy raiser for us is they could never give the dog up.

If the dog graduates, the raiser will have the incredibly heartwarming experience – truly unmatched, of seeing the Service Dog they helped create matched with a person in need.

This is a win/win opportunity for you. If the puppy doesn’t graduate (at least a 33% chance), at our discretion, you can adopt the pup. If the dog graduates, you’ll see the recipient’s and their family’s joy at having this precious dog who will now assist the recipient, and change their life.