You’ve heard of Pit Bulls. They’re one of the most highly debated breeds in America, but continue to be one of the most popular as well. Advocates for the breed love their goofy personalities, athleticism and friendly deposition.
Interestingly enough, there are actually a few different types of Pit Bulls. There is the American Pit Bull Terrier, which is the type of pit bull we will be focusing on today, the American Bully, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. All of these breeds are different breeds of dogs, so technically Pit Bull itself is not a breed, but a class of dogs.
When people say Pit Bull, they are usually referring to the American Staffordshire Terrier, the most common type of Pit Bull in America.
What are Service Dogs?
The definition of a service dog according to the U.S. Department of Justice as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” On a broader spectrum, a service dog is a trained dog that provides assistance to a person with a disability or impairment.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 gave a more specific definition for service dogs: “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, alerting owners to a panic attack, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.”
Essentially, service dogs are any type of assistance animal that provides support for people with a disability, whether that be physical or mental. These service animals serve a very important job for hundreds of thousands of people across the USA, so let’s discuss the different types of service dogs.
Types of Service Dogs
Service dog: A service dog is the most common type and is the broadest category. A service animal can help with many things, so this category is dogs that provide support to someone who needs some form of physical assistance.
- Guide dogs: These dogs are also known as seeing-eye-dogs and help guide the blind navigate the world. A guide dog will help their handler avoid obstacles, ensure they step over curbs and holes, help them cross roads and open doors, etc. They undergo vigorous training and can accomplish dozens of tasks.
- Hearing dogs: These talented pups assist their deaf handlers as they navigate the world. Mainly, they are trained to help their owners with ensuring they receive vital cues of sounds they cannot hear themselves. These cues include smoke or fire alarms, doorbells, door knocking, phones, alarm clocks, and even the person’s name. They will guide their owner to the sound or to safety, depending on the condition of the situation.
- Medical alert dogs: These service dogs help owners suffering from seizures or epilepsy prepare for an upcoming one and keep them safe during it. Another type of service dog under this category is a diabetic assistance dog, who help alert their owner when their blood sugar is low.
- Mobility assistance dogs: A mobility assistance dog is a type of service dog that helps humans with spinal injuries, leg injuries, or any injury that makes walking, standing or balancing difficult. These are typically larger breed dogs since they provide balance support for their handler. They help them stay standing, open doors, retrieve items, etc.
Psychiatric service dog: This special service dog assists people with mental disabilities. They have all the same rights as all the above mentioned service dogs, but undergo specialized service dog training to perform tasks their owner needs assistance with. These service dogs help with mental health issues rather than mobility issues. Someone who suffers from depression, anxiety attacks, PTSD, and more would likely benefit from a psychiatric service dog.
Therapy dog: A therapy dog is not a service dog, but instead a loyal pet that helps provide comfort to children or elderly people in a hospital or nursing home. They undergo some specialized training, including passing an American Kennel Club Good Citizen test, then visit sick children, adults, or people of any age to provide comfort.
Emotional support animal: An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides emotional support to their owner. An emotional support dog does not undergo any specialized training and is not a service dog. Service dogs are ADA recognized, while emotional support dogs are just friendly pets that help their owner feel comfortable.
Working dogs: Other types of dogs are not your typical pets, but are also not a service dog. We often call these pups a working dog. Some types of working dogs include: guard dogs, hunting dogs, cattle dogs, herding dogs, etc. They are not ADA recognized and do not offer any medical or mental support to their owners or handlers. Other examples of this type include police force dogs, drug sniffing dogs, bomb dogs, etc.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog: What’s the Difference?
While both emotional support dogs and psychiatric service dogs provide emotional and mental support to their owner, only one is a recognized service animal, and that’s a psychiatric service dog. They undergo specialized training and have federally protected rights. They can accompany their owner anywhere, such as businesses, schools, non-pet friendly housing, on airplanes, etc. To get a psychiatric service dog, you must be diagnosed with a disability and prescribed a service dog who undergoes vigorous training.
An emotional support dog only requires a letter of recommendation from a doctor. They are simply a pet who offers mental and emotional benefits to their owner. They can’t accompany their owners in public places, on flights, etc.
It is very important to recognize the difference between these two types of dogs. Service dogs wear vests to set themselves apart, as they have a very important job and should be recognized as working dogs. Pretending a dog is a service dog is actually illegal in 20+ states and is very damaging to service dogs’ reputations.
Why Pit Bulls?
Pit bulls are not a common breed that comes to mind when you think of service dogs. You won’t find them in a service dog organization often, but you will commonly find pitbulls in a rescue organization or pitbulls that need adopted from a rescue. They are not common police officers’ dogs, or navigation dogs, but are popular among pet owners and are gaining popularity among other crowds.
The first pit bull was recently used as a police dog in New York. Pitbulls are becoming more common as therapy dogs, being adopted in rescue more, and trusted with more and more demographics for good reason.
Pit bulls are a fine example of athleticism in animals. Their origins trace back to Ireland, where the pitbulls’ ancestors were bred for agility and strength, used for blood sports such as bull-baiting, bear-baiting and cock fighting. When they reached America, they were used for driving cattle.
This is where pitbulls get their reputation as “fighting dogs”, due to unfortunate people still using them for abusive, illegal fighting, which is being combated by laws nowadays.
This athleticism makes them an attractive dog. The average Pit Bull weighs between 30 and 80 pounds. Smaller Pit Bulls are affectionately called a “Pocket Pitty” while their larger counterparts are impressively large animals, with a stocky, strong build. They stand at about 19 inches at full adult height. They live on average between 11 and 13 years and come in nearly every color naturally. They have short, dense coats and are relatively easy in terms of grooming. You can likely avoid the need for professional grooming places with pit bulls.
Things to Consider When Getting a Pit Bull Service Dog
Thanks to the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it is illegal for landlords to deny access to housing and for people to establishments for someone with a service dog, Pitbulls or not. This is great, as it covers service dogs and ensures they can be with their owner at all times, even when the housing or business isn’t pet friendly.
Pitbulls can make amazing service dogs, but there is a slight stigma against them in many parts of the world. While many a breed advocate speaks on behalf of the breed and sings their praise as service dog candidates, many people are not fond of the Pitty breed. Unfortunately, thousands of dog attacks happen in America each year, from many different breeds. Pitbulls tend to be called out for this the most, but they are actually not the leading breed for attacks on humans. That title belongs to the Daschund shockingly! While a Pit Bull could attack, any dog who is not trained in a good manner is able to cause bodily harm.
Something to keep in mind with a Pit Bull service dog and for Pit Bull owners in general is the legislation involving bully breeds and pit bulls in different parts of the world. Some cities or states have a banned breed list, which the Pitty is usually unfortunately on. Even as a Pit Bull service dog, this could cause problems for you and your canine companion. Breed Specific Legislation is constantly changing and greatly affects life for Pit Bulls, Pit Bull service dog trainers, Pit Bull service dog owners, and any mix of dog that may have Pitty in it.
Your dogs’ breed can play a factor in service dog placement. Unfortunately, these is discrimination against Pit Bulls in recent times, but service dog organizations, breed advocates, service dog handlers and rescue organizations are working hard to change the legislation and prejudice against bully breeds and pit bulls. You may encounter some prejudice with pit bulls as a service dog, which could affect access, but breed specific legislation and local laws are always changing and is coming a long way.
Pit Bulls as Service Dogs
Pit Bulls are extremely physically impressive. This is great for being a service dog, as they are big and strong enough to provide mobility support to humans with a physical disability.
While Pit Bulls aren’t as common as Golden Retrievers or Labradors as service dogs, they’re still a great choice for good reason. They are natural protectors, thanks to their roots protecting livestock. The Pit Bull is extremely loyal. They are also very intelligent and pick up on new things quickly, which are great characteristics for a service animal to possess.
Pit Bulls are very motivated, often by food, which makes them very receptive to training. They can be stubborn, but so can any breed. They are affectionate as well, which makes their temperament ideal as well. A Pit Bull service animal can be just as great as Golden Retrievers or any others if trained well. Each dog has a unique personality and that should be considered before you bring up the matter of training them to be a service dog. Just like you would with any dog, seek professional advice and check local laws before adopting a dog to become a service animal.
How to Get a Pit Bull Service Dog
Are you interested in having a Pit Bull service dog? It’s very possible! While you won’t find them at a service dog program or organization, you can train one to become your companion animal.
First, you’ll want to make sure you are able to receive a service dog. Service dogs are only given to people with disabilities that hinder their quality of life. For a psychiatric service dog, you must consult with a licensed mental health professional. This is the only legitimate way to acquire a service dog.
If they recommend a service dog, the next step is finding a psychiatric service dog for you. There are a few various methods to this. You can look at rescues in your local area to see if they have any Pit Bulls available, which is the method we most recommend. These animals in need need your help as well. If you adopt one, you will want to work with a service dog trainer or service dog program training to make sure your Pit Bull becomes the best service dog possible.
Are you looking for a psychiatric service dog?
Here at CertaPet, we can help. CertaPet is an online telehealth platform that improves access to mental health care in the U.S. with a focus on providing services to individuals who are seeking animal assisted interventions as part of their treatment plan.
We are currently coordinating with dog trainers who specialize in the service animal space and who will soon work in tandem with our network of licensed mental health professionals to make the process of getting and training a psychiatric service dog affordable, convenient, and hassle-free. We’ll have more information available soon about our Psychiatric Service Dog Training options. In the meantime, you can take our FREE pre-screening below to see if you qualify for a PSD!
Can Pit Bulls become service dogs?
They absolutely can! It’s vital to check your local laws regarding Pit Bulls and ensure that they are allowed.
What makes Pit Bulls good service dogs?
Pit Bulls are a great size, very athletic, live a long time, are receptive to training, and have a prior history as a protector.
How do I get a psychiatric service dog?
The first step to getting a service dog is talking to a mental health professional to see if you could benefit from one.