Bringing a service dog into the home can be both life-changing and a bit overwhelming. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into ensuring a home will work for both you and your service dog. Some will be minor but there are some more intensive home modifications that might change the way you look at your home.
What is a Service Animal?
Service animals are animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provide emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. Examples or service animals are; guide dogs, hearing dogs, a seizure response dog, or a psychiatric service dog.
Service dogs can be trained by a company who provides these services. It can take about 18 months for a dog to complete these programs and costs around $10,000-$20,000 to train just one dog. You can train your service dog on your own but it is just as time intensive and you would need to look up ADA requirements for the dog to become registered.
Now that we understand what a service dog is and their requirements. Let's look at some home modifications that can support you and your dog.
Garage and Driveway
If the service dog you have will be supporting you by helping you get in and out of your car it is important to prevent tripping hazards and cramped spaces. You will need your garage or driveway to be about 12 feet wide. Keeping your garage and driveway clear of clutter will help you maximize space as well.
If your driveway or garage is prone to becoming slippery you should put a mat down or cover it with non-slip coating. This will ensure proper traction and provide better opportunities for your dog to assist.
Pathways and Sidewalks
If you have paths and sidewalks you will be traversing frequently around your home it is important to take a look at them for debris. If you are using a wheelchair you’ll need about 36 inches for your path or 24 inches without a wheelchair.
You will need a fence for when your dog is out in the yard. A six foot high barrier discourages digging for most dogs. You’ll want to review policies around fencing in your area and consult with your service dog trainer to determine the best fence for your dog's breed and build. It is also good to consider the plants in your garden to ensure they are safe for dogs as well.
Doorways are always important to consider when making a home more accessible. Most modern homes have a 32 inch wide doorway or more to allow wheelchair space. However, if after you and your dog's trainer determine it is too difficult for you and your dog to get through a remodeling project might be required.
This is dependent on your needs for some you may not need any changes. If you do, you will need a licensed contractor to do the job.
Naturally narrow, hallways are difficult for a dog to navigate. In order to make sure it is safe for you and your dog make sure they remain clean and clutter free. It is also recommended to remove furniture, decor, and rugs to reduce hazards. If manageable, a 60 inch width is recommended for a hallway.
Keeping these areas well lit is also very important. The best way is to maximize natural light, update lighting fixtures to be brighter and clean, and paint your walls a lighter color. This goes for your house as a whole, not just hallways.
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in your home. The room in your home where people are most injury prone is the bathroom. Every year 235,000 people go to the emergency room due to injuries sustained there. To prevent an accident from happening once you have a service dog, adding non-slip coverings on the floor and easy to manage fixtures will be extremely helpful. Also if there are items like medication or other frequently used items you will want those easily accessible by your dog in case of emergency.
The kitchen is the primary location that most service dogs work. In the kitchen they can help put away groceries, operate appliances, alert humans to alarms or smoke detectors, or help with cooking. You will want to speak with your trainer about what types of modifications would be best for your and your dog.
The modifications can be as small as adding tugs to your refrigerator or cabinets. Some modifications could take serious remodeling of the kitchen to make it more accessible to your dog. Lazy susans and pull down shelves are also good options for making the kitchen more accessible with less intensive remodeling.
Your dog will need to be trained on safe spaces and general safety in the house. You will need to establish a safe spot for earthquakes that you and your dog can fit in. A simple alert for paramedics might be needed as well such as a button or an easy way to get authorities into the home.
It is also recommended to get an emergency kit for power outages or other instances where you and your dog could need to go without certain amenities. Also if you have a medical device requiring power your dog may need to be trained on turning on the backup generator.
Other home mods
Some more intensive home mods might need to be considered as well depending on how long you’ve had your disability and your type of service dog. As mentioned before, light fixtures are extremely important for an accessible home. Ensuring that lighting in the home is well maintained is a must for anyone with a disability. If your dog is trained on turning on and off lights it will be important that all the lights in your home are able to be turned on and off by your dog. Storage is also important depending on if your dog will be the one assisting or you it could include modified doors or storage devices throughout the house.
It's also important to maintain a clean space to reduce tripping hazards. Some dogs can assist with cleaning and pickup and having a place for them to place laundry or trash might also need to be considered. Your dog will also need plenty of places to rest as they will need breaks too. From an outdoor space to play or an indoor space to sleep it will be very important for relaxation. Just like with people we can’t forget our breaks. And remember if you see a service animal working don't approach to pet unless allowed by their owner!
I hope this article gives you a better idea of what service dogs do and what considerations you may need when getting a service animal. If you are looking for some of these home modifications you’re in the right place! Rosarium Health is committed to providing people with physical disabilities and their families more fulfilling living spaces. Rosarium Health builds bridges between contractors and clients so that they can have a safe and dignifying home.