Did you see that puppy in the window at Disneyland? Surely not because on a beautiful Saturday in early April, any dog in Anaheim Disneyland was at work. Or rather training for their future career as a service dog.
Dozens of organizations that train service dogs, including Guide Dogs of America, walked 1000’s of canine service trainees into The Happiest Place on Earth on Saturday, but what does a service dog need to learn in a theme park?
Most people are familiar with guide dogs, dogs trained to help the blind navigate, but service dogs can be trained to support a number of disabilities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), these disabilities can be physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or mental.
Like their human partners, service dogs have full public access rights, which means they can go places where other pets aren’t allowed including restaurants, libraries, public transportation, and theme parks! Labradors (American and English), Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Boxers, Great Danes, Border Collies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Pomeranians, Portuguese Water Dogs, all have the sought after key characteristics in their nature and are the most common choice but there is no universally-accepted list of preferred breeds. Really, any dog that wants to work could be a good candidate as a service dog as long as they embody the key characteristics:
A desire to work (no couch potatoes).
A calm demeanor (blessed with no stress).
Intelligence (a dog that knows you didn’t really throw the ball).
A friendly disposition (service with a smile).
And, of course, a loving disposition!
Obviously, if a dog is going to guide their human partner in public, they have to be used to what it’s like being IN public. And Disneyland serves as a great test of crowds, noise, and focus. According to Disney guest services, The House of the Mouse welcomes all service animals to their parks, Downtown Disney, and resort hotels. Service dogs can even accompany their humans on some rides though a few obvious exceptions remain (a few dogs might object to their exclusion from Splash Mountain, however).
A ride from the bus to the park, a stroll through the often packed Downtown Disney, heck the service dog Disneyland trip were some of the canine Disney fanatics first trip on Public Transportation. All very important training for a future service dog to provide the most confident support to their human counterpart.
That Disney trip was a real treat for future guide and service dogs, but no word yet on whether Pluto was inspired to leave entertainment to join the service industry.