In theory, service dogs should be well behaved, mild mannered, and blend in with their environment. What happens when a service dog is put into a classroom with twenty-some odd 7 year olds? Would the noise, excitement level, or activity affect how he does his job? What about the children? Would they be more distracted by the cute doggy? With a host of mental and physical disorders on the rise among the youth in America, there is an increasing demand for service dogs. These dogs will often be expected to attend classes with their charges; however, there are several recent news stories about service dogs being banned from classrooms, for many different reasons.
Most organizations that train service dogs, carefully screen and hand pick canines as soon as they’re weaned; using a variety of different methods. They usually go out of their way to run a series of behavioral tests to ensure the dog will be worth the effort of training.
Becoming a service dog is a series of milestones starting at the beginning with obedience training. It usually takes close to two years for a service dog to be fully trained and ready for active duty. This is not a job to take lightly; on the job training takes diligence and hard work from all involved, including the dog.
Having a service dog in the classroom is an excellent teaching opportunity for all. Kids who haven’t had any exposure to animals may learn what is involved in caring for a dog. It also is an opportunity for kids to learn another aspect of respect. It is a well known fact among the animal community that service dogs are to be left alone. They are doing their job, should not be distracted. Outside of the dog loving community, it isn’t as widely known. Having a service dog in the classroom, will teach the children to keep their distance out of respect; giving them the knowledge that if they encounter a service dog out in public they know not to rush up and start petting.
Some schools segregate the peanut eating population from the non-peanut gallery by setting up special “peanut free” tables in the cafeteria. Notes are periodically sent home reminding parents and guardians not to send peanut infused foods, dairy products, gluten laden goods in for snacks. If there are safe guards in place for food allergies and sensitivities, then there should be reasonable accommodation for those kids who suffer from severe canine allergies.
Service dogs are a necessary part of life for some families. There are classes, training, instruction and adjustments that need to be made to have a semblance of normalcy in their lives. If a child needs a service dog round the clock, that includes school time, schools should accommodate.