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Service Dogs Do Important Work to Improve Lives

 In Training

Specialized Training

More people are discovering the benefits of having a service dog trained to mitigate a specific disability, whether it be to aid and assist after a seizure, alert to a drop in blood sugar levels, or aid in picking items up for their handler. Service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as, “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”

Paws for Purple Hearts (PPH) places service dogs who are trained in accordance with Bergin College’s demanding training process to perform the most demanding jobs a service dog can take on. Our service dogs are top-of-the-line; they are specially-trained to assist people with physical disabilities (up to and including quadriplegic-level mobility impairment), traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from various forms of trauma, such as military sexual trauma (MST) or combat-related trauma.

Rising Demand

You may have noticed that there is rise in popularity of service dogs around the country.  They are present in many places, including stores, movie theaters, outdoor gatherings and during travel. According to the ADA, establishments that serve the general public must allow service animals to accompany their handler with a disability in all areas of the facility. The law also stipulates that service animals must be under control at all times.

Noah is getting groomed by his two Warrior trainers in Austin Photographer: Lindsey V.
Noah is getting groomed by his two Warrior trainers in Austin Photographer: Lindsey V.

Service Dogs in Public

What is the best thing to do when you see a service dog in public?

  1. Allow the dog to do their job for their handler with a disability and do not distract the service dog in any way. Although it can be tough to do, it is best to ignore the dog entirely.
    • Things that can be distracting for service dogs are: eye contact, kissy noises, touching/petting, or throwing food towards the dog.
    • Distracting the dog can be potentially life threatening for the handler.
    • Do not pet a service dog without asking the handler first, even if the dog is looking at you. Petting can be very distracting for the dog and may encourage a dog in training, or even a trained service dog, to solicit attention when they are working. We recommend not petting any dog you do not know without asking first since you may not know how the dog will react.
  2. If you have any questions, approach the handler and politely and directly ask the handler.

Service dogs are coming from programs all over the country, as well as being self-trained with the help of an experienced service dog trainer. Service animals are working animals – they are not pets. They have been trained to provide work directly related to their handler’s disability. According to the ADA, “dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.” This is an important distinction to keep in mind. 

PPH Rusty getting tons of love from his Warrior trainer after a retrieve Photographer: Lindsey V.
PPH Rusty getting tons of love from his Warrior trainer after a retrieve Photographer: Lindsey V.

Up to the Challenge

Paws for Purple Hearts service dogs are trained to help with the most serious physical disabilities and/or trauma related conditions.  A few examples of tasks that can help with someone with a physical disability are:

  • Retrieve items
  • Push buttons for elevators and doors
  • Open and close doors and drawers
  • Turning on or off light switches
  • Pulling manual wheel chairs.

A few examples of tasks that a service dog can be trained to do to assist someone with a diagnosed trauma related condition such as PTSD or TBI are:

  • Helping to prevent panic by providing deep pressure
  • Interrupting intrusive thoughts or flashbacks
  • Alerting to signs of anxiety

Community Outreach

Our community’s Warriors (Veterans and Active Duty Service Members) are involved in every phase of training Paws for Purple Hearts service dogs. This is part of the innovative therapeutic technic we developed called Canine Assister Warrior TherapyTM during which those who are facing PTSD and/or TBI challenges participate in training and preparing the service dogs that we will place with their wounded comrades.  The Warriors that participate in this Therapy benefit because the structured interaction with our puppies and dogs can help reduce their PTSD and TBI symptoms.

If you are interested in applying for a service dog with Paws for Purple Hearts, please click this link to get started!


As always, we want to thank our generous donors and volunteers.  The support these wonderful patriots provide makes it possible for us to carry out our mission to directly improve the lives of America’s Warriors.  Please consider joining in to do your part today!

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