SAN ANTONIO – September is National Service Dog Month, a month-long celebration honoring the hard work and life-changing impact service dogs make on people with disabilities every day.
A service dog is specifically trained to assist a person with a disability, whether it’s mental, physical or health-related.
“The tasks are completely customized and used to mitigate the person’s disability,” said Whitley Cheathem, owner and training director at Dog Training Elite.
Cheathem has a service dog of her own, Flirt, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois that helps her owner with PTSD and anxiety.
At Dog Training Elite, Cheathem and her team work with training dogs. Some of those dogs are learning basic obedience traits while others are taught how to help their owners with any problems they may have.
The service dog training process happens in multiple steps.
The first step is obedience training. After that, trainers take the client out to different places to train the dog how to work in public places. Lastly, they teach specific tasks that help with their owner’s disability.
“The service dog’s end up being a way for a person to integrate back into society,” Cheathem said.
It’s important to know not to approach a service dog working in public. Going up to a service dog while they are working could put the owner at risk. The dog could get distracted and not be able to help their owner properly when needed.
“One of the best things when you see a service dog is ignore it. If you want to engage with the service dog, ask the handler first,” Cheathem said.
If you are interested in getting a dog trained to be a working dog, click here.