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Caring for a Service Animal: 5 Things to Know

Service animals may require more attention to their health and to their physical appearance than regular pets. We will look at five important factors to consider when caring for a service dog companion.

1. They Need Mental and Physical Stimulation

Service animals need both mental and physical stimulation. Service dogs are working dogs and require proper exercise. Exercise keeps a dog in shape, gives them time to vent, and helps work off excess energy. Giving a service dog the proper exercise will help them relax when they are off duty and keep them focused when they are on duty. 

There are many exercises a dog can do including running, walking, and swimming. Even a yard that is large enough for a dog to run around in, is sufficient for a service dog to get proper exercise.

For the most part, a service dogs’ daily work duties are enough mental stimulation to keep a dog happy. But there are other mental exercises that aid in stimulation such as training, learning tricks, and using toys.

2. They Need to be Well Groomed

It may be necessary to bathe a service animal more often than would be necessary for a regular pet. A service dogs’ fur should be brushed and clear of any matting. They should have visibly clean ears and eyes, should have trim nails, and be odor-free. It is also important that a service dogs’ gear be clean.

Service dogs should be well-groomed and clean, especially when out in public. The public’s impression of a service animal should always be positive, and a clean appearance is not only courteous but also leaves a good impression. 

3. They Need a Well-Balanced Diet

It is crucial that a service animal be fed a well-balanced diet consisting of fat, carbohydrates, protein, and water. Having a balanced diet is important for a working service dog because they need proper nutrition to stay healthy and fit. It is equally important to make sure that a service animal is not overweight. Service dogs can be fed homemade food or premium commercial dog food or kibble. Whatever the choice, it's important to know that each dog is different and has their own unique nutritional needs. The best way to understand a service animal's nutritional needs is to ask a veterinarian.

4. They Need Regular Visits to a Veterinarian 

A service animal will need regular visits to the veterinarian to make sure they stay healthy and maintain their ability to perform their duties at an optimal level. Preventative care is a crucial way in which service dogs stay healthy and live a long, happy life. 

5. Their Training Never Ends

Service dogs undergo rigorous training to become service animals, but this is not a one and done deal. Service animals learn specific skills, and these skills need upkeep and maintenance so they don’t lose them. Learning and practicing skills should continue throughout a dog’s lifetime. It is a good idea to continue honing skills with a service animal on a daily basis; learning new skills and polishing the ones they already know. 

Service dogs are working animals that aid a handler with life’s daily activities. Because of this, they require more work and attention to make sure they are ready to perform their duties, are presentable in public, and have the time to play and relax. Caring for a service animal to the best of one’s ability will only help a service animal thrive and live a longer, healthier life.

Have a service dog that needs help training? Email our trainer, Wesley!

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Haynes-Lawrence, Darbi PhD “Cover Story: The Joys and Challenges of a Service Dog Partnership” MSAA. Accessed December 28, 2020

Williams, Olivia “What Does A Balanced Diet Really Mean for Working Dogs?” August 8, 2019. Anything Pawsable. Accessed December 28, 2020

“Best Diet for Dogs that are Service Animals” May 19, 2018. Therapy Pet. Accessed December 29, 2020,food%20is%20harder%20to%20digest.

Grace, Kea “10 Service Dog Commandments” June 27, 2014. Anything Pawsable. Accessed December 29, 2020


“Best Veterinary Care for Veterans’ Service Dogs: An Interview With Gina Jackson” Today's Veterinary Practice. Accessed December 30, 2020

Brown, Sue. “What is ‘Maintenance’ Training for Your Dog and Do You Need It?” The Light of Dog. Accessed December 30, 2020.

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