Chihuahuas and other Toy breeds, as well as tiny mutts, are more than just lapdogs. Our small dogs can be very clever and quick on their feet,  giving them the ability to perform very well at certain tasks – yes, even tasks that can help people with disabilities.

So, if you see a Chihuahua in public wearing a service dog vest, don’t be quick to write them off as a phony. Their compact size actually makes them great for navigating public places.

Service Dog Tasks Suitable For Chihuahuas And Other Small Dogs

Hearing dogs – a hearing dog works for a deaf handler. They alert their handler to sounds like doorbells, cooking timers, alarms and crying babies by tapping their handler and guiding them towards the source of the sound.

Diabetic alert dogs can detect blood sugar levels and alert their handler or their handler’s family members.

Seizure alert dogs can detect a seizure before it happens and alert their handler so they can get into a safe position. However, a larger dog is preferable because they could also retrieve medicines and even physically prevent their handler from getting hurt.

Allergy detection dogs can detect trace amounts of allergens in foods or the environment.

Psychiatric service dogs make it possible for people with anxiety, PTSD, autism, depression and other psychiatric conditions to feel calm and safe in public settings that they may otherwise find overwhelming. They can also be trained to pick up on subtle cues that their handler needs assistance, and can be trained to guide their handler towards the exit. This is different than an Emotional Support Animal. Someone with an ESA can manage to go out in public without their dog. Someone with a psychiatric service dog cannot leave their house without their dog.

All SERVICE DOGS need to be trained to perform a task for their disabled handler, and they need to be fully housebroken, with a stable temperament. They need to be trained to focus on their handler at all times so they can pick up on subtle alerts. If the dog is disruptive in public, a business owner can ask them to leave. They should not be aggressive to customers or other service animals, nor should they ride in the shopping cart, where other customers place their food.

Contrary to popular belief. service dogs do not need any papers or certifications, or even a special vest or harness to accompany their handler in public places. A business owner can ask them if they are a service dog, and what tasks the dog performs. That’s all.

With the uprise in fake service dogs with fake papers, some business owners are starting to wrongly believe that service dogs need badges and documents to work – which can make it much more difficult for real service dog handlers to go about their daily lives. This is why you must never pretend that your pet is a service dog.

What’s An Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional Support Animals (ESA) can be of any species, size and breed, and they do not need any special training. Their very presence helps their handler cope with a mental condition like anxiety, depression, autism, OCD or PTSD, but they are not permitted to go out in public places where dogs are not normally allowed. However, they are able to live with their handler in rented pet-free housing and their handler cannot be charged a pet fee on their rental. They can also fly with their handler in-cabin for free. This means that if you need an ESA to live with you, registering them will prevent them from being separated from you during travel or when you move.

An ESA must be registered with ESARegistration.org if you’re in the USA. They will need a letter from your mental health professional.

What’s A Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog and their volunteer handler make visits to nursing homes, schools and hospitals, spreading joy and comfort to children, the elderly and the sick. They usually make group visits with an association with Pet Partners. Different groups have different requirements, but your pet usually just needs to have a compatible personality. If they love attention and being passed around a room, or sitting quietly while being pet, they’ll probably be great for volunteer therapy work.

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.