“What is that for?” - Brigadoon Service Dog Gear (2017)
Have you ever seen a service dog wearing a piece of gear and wondered what it was? You’re not alone! There are many different equipment options for dogs nowadays. Handlers enjoy lots of different options to choose from when they’re deciding what will suit them and their dog best.
Head halters: Head halters are like horse halters, but for dogs! Head halters give the handler more control than a flat buckle collar would. They can discourage pulling and sniffing, and also help the handler to direct the dog’s movements more easily. They are not muzzles – dogs can freely breathe, eat, open their mouths, and even hold a ball while wearing one.
Martingale collars: These collars are another tool that can give handlers more control than a flat buckle collar. They are also useful for dogs with narrow heads, as they do not slip off the head as easily. A martingale collar will tighten slightly if a dog moves too far away from the handler, but will not choke the dog. The tightening gives feedback to the dog in a non-painful way.
Harnesses: There are a couple of different harnesses that service dogs wear. Guide dogs wear guiding harnesses that have a loosely fitted, long, angled handle. The dog pushes into the harness to help guide the handler forward. Other service dogs may wear a harness if their handler needs balance support. These harnesses have a sturdy, short, straight handle. Some handlers continually use the handler to help them walk, others may use it as counterbalance support to keep steady, and others may only use it when they stumble, fall, go up stairs, or need other periodic support.
Vest or cape: Many service dogs wear a vest or cape to identify them as service dogs. Vests come in many different styles and colors, but they all mean the same thing: This dog is working. Some service dogs learn that the vest means they are working, so the vest can also be used as a signifier to the dog that it is time to work. The vest doesn’t make a service dog a service dog, though. Buying a vest online will not make your dog a service dog.
Backpacks: Backpacks are sometimes used by handlers as another type of vest. They serve the same purpose as a vest, as well as offering the handler places to store things like bags, treats, or even medication.
Handles: Some service dog vests have a handle attached for the handler to hold onto. These handles can provide an extra connection between the handler and service dog, and are particularly useful in two-person service dog teams where the parent holds the dog’s leash and the child holds onto the handle.
ID Cards: All service dogs from Assistance Dogs International accredited schools have an identification card that identifies the dog as a service dog and details the rights of service dogs. Different states and countries may require additional identifications. For example, British Columbia requires that service dogs have a government-issued certificate card. But in the US, service dogs do not require identification to gain access. Brigadoon dogs also carry an emergency information card with contact numbers and information about the dog.