There is occasionally some confusion regarding service dogs versus therapy dogs; a service dog is registered under federal law, after demonstrating adherence to standards and being certified. A service dog performs a certain task for a disabled person, such as services to help hearing or visually impaired people successfully function, manipulating objects for people with mobility disorders, or alerting people with diabetes, PTSD or epilepsy to dangerous or debilitating episodes specific to their condition. A therapy dog, on the other hand, provides companionship and helps alleviate symptoms of emotional or psychiatric conditions.
Chihuahuas often fall in the category of therapy dogs but many Chihuahuas are certified service dogs, trained to perform tasks for disabled persons. Any dog can be a service dog regardless of size or breed, they just need the right temperament and ability. Chihuahuas are intelligent, tend to be loyal to one person, and can easily live in small apartments without difficulty, which makes them excellent candidates as service dogs in certain situations.
In order to be certified, a service dog must demonstrate several behaviors in addition to their tasking behavior, that is the task or tasks they perform in order to assist a disabled person. General public access behaviors necessary for service dogs to learn include not being aggressive, relieving themselves on command, not investigating or sniffing, not seeking food or affection, and being calm and not demonstrating excitement or hyper behavior. A dog that is capable of learning these behaviors will need to have a well-socialized personality, be of a calm disposition, and highly trainable. Service dogs that can demonstrate public access behaviors can then learn specific tasks to aid people such as:
There are many services a service dog can render, and although some, such as providing physical support, require a large dog, most can be performed by even a small dog like a Chihuahua, providing the correct training is provided.