Want to Boost Accessible Rental Bookings? Be a Sunny Destination For Assistance Dog Owners
Updated: May 5
Oh no, thinks Lorraine.
Not another dog. Please! What if it destroys the furniture?
What if it chases the cat or worse the kids?
What if the living room goes from cozy living to lemonade zone? The idea of accepting an assistance dog into a rental property can leave even the most passionate pooch lover feeling like a loft apartment over a really great party. As a rental owner, you don’t have the luxury of time. You have other things to do than worry about your home turning into the local dog park.
So what can you do to feel good about welcoming an assistance dog into your rental? Today, we talk about what assistance dogs are, the different types, how they work, and the rules you can follow, so your life becomes a little easier, and perhaps your rental property attracts more guests, too.
But first, let’s define what an assistance dog is.
What is a life-changing assistance dog?
Imagine walking into your local bakery on a snowflake Sunday morning. You hear the tinkling sound of the shop bell, the door swooshes open, and the fragrant crusty smell of freshly baked artisan bread covers you like a warm blanket. Heaven. Then you notice a dog sitting by the counter. I know what you’re thinking. Dogs aren’t allowed in a bakery. Are they? Of course, the obvious answer is no. But for a service dog the answer is a big fat, yes. Why? Because, like a heart-warming mother an assistance dog comforts and supports people with disabilities to juggle daily tasks in a triumphant way that tells the world, I got this.
For example, a hearing dog will alert a deaf person while a mobility assistance dog will pull a wheelchair; retrieve objects, open and close doors, even turn lights on and off.
A guide dog will guide a blind person into your local bakery so she can also buy that mouth-watering artisan bread you crave. So you see, assistance dogs are working animals, not your average pet. They are trained to provide support directly related to the person’s disability.
And that’s not all. According to ShareAmerica, the U.S. Department of State’s platform for sharing compelling stories, there are a mind-blowing 500,000 service dogs in the US alone. Boom! I’d say rental accommodations have a ready-made, unique opportunity to do business.
So you might be wondering what kind of assistance dogs are there? There are 8 types of assistance dogs recognised by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the European Equality Act 2010. Let’s dive in and find out more about them. Shall we?
What awe-inspiring jobs do assistance dogs do?
As you might expect, assistance dogs come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.
The following 8 champion working dogs are the most common:
1. Guide dogs
Guide dogs are one of the oldest kinds of working dogs. You can recognise a guide dog by its special harnesses, the one with the bar for their person to hold on. Some of the extraordinary abilities of a guide dog are helping their blind or visually impaired person to:
Navigate crowds and crossings
Guide around obstacles
Locate stairs, doors, public transport, and seats
But their most unique trait is “selective disobedience”—the ability to make choices based on their own assessment of a situation. But more about that intriguing trait in a another post.
2. Mobility assistance dogs
Mobility assistance dogs support adults and children with arthritis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injuries to carry out daily tasks.
These tasks include:
Help with dressing
Opening and closing doors
Turning lights on and off
Helping with balance and stability
Carrying items in backpack
Pulling a wheelchair
Barking the alert command for “Help”
Pushing accessible door buttons
You can recognise a mobility assistance dog by his unique vest which often includes pouches for carrying small things and a short handle for his person to hold on to.
3. Hearing dogs
Hearing dogs help deaf and deaf-blind people stay connected to their environments by making physical contact with their person by leading them to the source of the sound or away from it.
Some of the important sounds alert sounds are:
Knocks on the door
Fire alarms, alarm clocks
Hearing dogs may or may not have a vest but like all assistance dogs they have ID tags and collars that identify their work.
4. Autism support dogs
Autism support dogs help autistic children and their families deal with their everyday lives – their journey to school, shopping trips and doctor visits. They also protect children from dangerous situations, like navigating crossings and traffic. Specific tasks include:
Navigating social settings
Navigating crossings and traffic
Managing autistic children when they wander
Providing companionship to autistic children who have a hard time connecting with other humans.
Autism support dogs have a harness with a belt that's attached to the child and and a handle for the child to hold on to. The dog's leash is always controlled by the parent.
5. Seizure-alert/assistance dogs
Seizure-alert dogs are trained to recognise subtle signs of oncoming seizures. They alert for help and position themselves in a way that protects the person during the seizure.
Their tasks include:
placing their body between their person and the floor to break a fall
lying next to the person having the seizure preventing injury
providing support and comfort during a seizure
alerting a designated person of an oncoming seizure by activating a device
Like hearing dogs, seizure alert dogs may or may not have a vest but like all assistance dogs they have ID tags and collars that identify their work.
6. Diabetic/hypo alert dogs
Diabetic alert dogs are trained to alert diabetic adults and children when their blood sugar levels have spiked too high or dropped too low to avoid reaching dangerous levels.
They do this by:
Alerting (nudging, poking) Pressing a button to call 911 or a relative
Retrieving diabetes test kits or medications
Providing support while walking and/or help their person stand after sitting or after a fall
Opening/closing doors, cabinets or drawers
Diabetic/hypo alert dogs have a unique vest with pouches for carrying a medical kit.
7. Allergy detection dogs
Allergy detection dogs are trained to smell allergy triggers like peanuts or gluten in their person’s home but also in public places, such as shops, schools and trains. They indicate to their person the source of the trigger and often are trained to respond in case of an anaphylactic shock. 8. Therapy dogs
Therapy dogs are trained alongside their owners and together they visit regularly in various institutions, such as:
This has a positive effect on the people they visit. These dogs may or may not have a vest but they do have ID tags and collars that identify their work so they can have access.
So there you have it.
A list of truly sophisticated dogs with jobs to get you feeling a little more comfortable.
Now that you know what a service dog is don't get left behind. Do you know what to do when you meet one?
Looking for fool-proof tips on assistance dog etiquette?
In an interview with Lara Guide Dog School’s vice president, Christos Georgiopoulos admits he spends endless amounts of time desperately trying to persuade rental owners; dogs with jobs are different. Here are 6 bite-sized tips to help you feel confident about meeting an assistance dog.
1. Speak to the person first
Because if you approach the owner for permission first, both dog and owner will feel ready and comfortable to meet you. You can help support our training; speak to the owner first.
2. Minimise distractions
Because distractions can lead to life-threatening situations for a disabled person or child. Yes, assistance dogs are trained to avoid distractions. You can help support our training; avoid talking or calling a service dog.
3. Please, don't feed a service dog
Because food is at the top list of ultimate distractions resulting in catastrophic accidents. Yes, service dogs are trained to avoid food. You can help support our training; avoid feeding a service dog.
4. Keep your pet a safe distance from a service dog
Because dogs, and cats are the second/third ultimate distraction for a service dog. Yes, service dogs are trained to avoid your pet. You can help support our training; keep your pet at a safe distance.
5. Please, don't wake a snoozing service dog
Service dogs are trained to lay quiet when they're not moving. And, because they work hard all day, it's normal for them to sleep when their owner is sitting or waiting. This doesn't mean they are on a 'break'. You can help support our training; avoid waking a snoozing service dog.
6. Afraid or allergic to dogs I understand not everyone has a happy-go-lucky experience around dogs.
But, service dogs go through rigorous training, and tests from 8 weeks until 2 years. Only the best obedient and mild-mannered dogs qualify. If you are afraid or allergic, you can help support our training; be polite and quietly move away.
And there you have it.
Good luck, and let me know how it went the next time you meet an assistance dog.
Why accepting an assistance dog can boost your bookings and make you feel like a better person
It’s simple, really. The more you open yourself up, accept and accommodate people with disabilities and their assistance dogs, the more you’ll increase your bookings and your profit. But if you’re like me you know it’s not about profit.
It’s about supporting disabled people to do things they didn’t think were possible. It’s about giving them a chance to live a normal life. It's about you showing kindness. Go on. Pick up the phone and invite them to your rental accommodation.
What do you say?