Classifications of Working Dogs

Each month we receive numerous requests from individuals who are working to understand the differences between classifications for working dogs.  We take time this month to provide information to assist those who are at work to determine the type of dog that will best meet their needs.

Working dogs– this term loosely applies to all dogs who work to provide any type of service.  Examples of different types of working dogs includes but is not limited to the following:

  • arson dogs
  • drug / bomb sniffing dogs
  • military dogs
  • therapy dogs
  • facility dogs
  • service dogs
  • emotional support dogs

Service dogs –  while other types of dogs have public access to only those places where they are required to work, service dogs are the only category of working dogs that are entitled to public access in all places of business where their handlers frequent.  The Department of Justice defines as service dog as:

“…a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” ( )

Note that there is a requirement that the dog must be trained.  Individuals who purchase an online vest and take their dog into public absent training do not meet this definition.   It is the task specific nature of the training that sets a service dog apart from emotional support animals and other types of working dogs.  We note that many states have laws that provide equal access rights to service dogs in training.  Under law service dogs are not pets, thus “no pet policies” do not apply to service dogs.  For the most part- the old designation of service animal has been revised to include only canines- with rare exceptions made for miniature horses that meet strict guidelines.

Emotional support animals (ESA) – these animals are simply pets whose mere presence provides comfort to a person.  These animals are classified as pets, and are not restricted to dogs.  A physician letter stating that an ESA is needed is all that is required for an animal to meet this definition.  The FSDS does not train ESAs.

Therapy dogs – these dogs are trained to visit patients / clients in public.  Examples of places where you might find a therapy dogs include but are not limited to hospitals, nursing homes and reading partner programs for children.  The FSDS does not train therapy dogs.

Facility dogs – these dogs are trained to work in therapeutic settings.  A good example of a facility dog is a court dog, trained to comfort victims during depositions and court proceedings.  Another example would be a dog trained to work with a licensed therapist during group or individual sessions for traumatized individuals.  The FSDS trains facility dogs.

We remind all readers that the FSDS selects carefully screened and temperament tested dogs for inclusion in our training program.  Individuals interested in attending our program should not obtain a dog first and contact us later. 

Classroom News

CB6 Class – This class is hard at work mastering upper level service dog skills.  Some of the skills worked on this past month are opening and closing doors, pulling a wheelchair, pushing handicap door and other emergency buttons and scent recognition.  They are also learning how to food shop and retrieve / return items from shelves.  Additionally, they are working on obstacle courses and working with distractions.  All are doing a great job.

CB7 Class – our beginner class has been working on training games to help the puppies master basic obedience.  The FSDS training program uses positive reinforcement only, and all exercises are built as games that the puppies find enjoyable but are able to learn from at the same time.  This month they have worked on self-control, heel-side hand targeting, sit-stay at a distance, attention and focus, take to hold, touch with a lid and loose leash walking.  A very special shout out to student trainer Pearl Willis and SDIT “Adara” for their excellent mastery of the “sit” command, and to recipient trainer and military veteran Dennis Meltzer and his SDIT “Blue” for focus and mastery of the “sit-stay at a distance” command.

Become a Certified Program

Are you currently an Evaluator in the FSDS Outreach Certification Program?  Do you wish to offer group SD training classes as a formal program through your business?  Learn more about opportunities to gain support by joining the FSDS network.  Click here to learn more.


Wellness Tip

Recalls of dog food, treats and other canine products do occasionally occur.  It is important for every responsible dog owner to stay informed.  Best case scenario tainted foods can lead to gastrointestinal upset that may be short-lived.  Worst case, it can lead to life-threatening illness such as Fanconi syndrome and death.

Sign up to receive free pet food recall notices.

Thank You

We wish to express our sincere appreciation to the following individuals who have generously contributed to help us fulfill our mission of providing services to wounded heroes.

  • Steven and Liz Michaels
  • Shelley Kamin ILM Dorothy Savino Klaer
  • Albert Leidel ILM Charles Wagner
  • Valerie Schluter
  • Trudy A. Dreiling
  • James L. Braun
  • Bill G. Petersen

Upcoming Events

  • 2/26/2017 – Westbrook Village Veterans Support Club Old Car Show.  This event is held in Westbrook Village at the Vistas Recreation Center, 18825 Country Club Parkway, Peoria, AZ, and proceeds help support the FSDS mission to provide service dogs to wounded veterans.

Applications Now Accepted for Next Class

The FSDS is accepting applications from individuals interested in attending our program for the next class.  This is tentatively scheduled to begin this Fall.  You can locate our application on our website at:

Photo Gallery

We hope you enjoy these photos of our classes at work.  The advanced class is at work on tasks such as wheelchair pull, opening and closing doors and pushing emergency button.  Our beginner class is working at fine tuning basic obedience, and our students are also completing their canine safety skills training, including CPR and first aid certification.

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