TROY, Ohio (WDTN) — A new program launched in the Miami Valley is helping people understand how to react with service dogs. 

It’s called Service Dog Aware, and it’s also designed to cut down on people bringing their pets into businesses where they’re not allowed. 

For Jenni Lough Watson, Myles, a three-year-old Rough Collie, is like her GPS.

“Myles is a fully trained medical alert mapping service dog. I have a generalized mapping disorder, and Myles is trained to use both scent and memory to navigate me to familiar places familiar to him, landmarks and actually people as well,” describes Lough Watson. “The disorder basically limits my ability to remember familiar places. I forget where I parked my car. I can’t find the front door of a store. I walk into the wrong room. I also do not recognize faces.”

Lough Watson is shedding light on the need for service dogs with Service Dog Aware. 

“The ADA definition of a service dog is any dog, specifically a dog, that is trained to perform work or do tasks that mitigates an individual’s disability. So it serves an individual, and it has to be a dog,” states Lough Watson.

As part of the program, she teaches people and businesses appropriate ways to react when they see a dog in a public place.

The program launched on September 25. Winan’s in downtown Troy is the first business partner.

“Our baristas went through kind of scenarios that Jenni put together to help us understand how to react and how to give our best information out to the public,” says Jacob Mozer, the store manager of Winan’s in downtown Troy. “It’s sort of nerve-wracking when a dog comes in at some points to begin to be able to have the confidence and the proper measures in place to comfortably give the information out to customers without kind of pushing them away.”

Service Dog Aware teaches people what they can and can’t ask when they see a dog enter a business. 

“The first question is—it’s very simple–Is this a service dog? It’s a yes or no question. Does this dog provide service for a medical disability? Again, yes or no. We’re not asking you what your disability is. I’m very free to share. But not everybody might be as comfortable to do that, and by law they’re not required to. And the third is what service does the dog provide?” Lough Watson says. 

The program also helps differentiate between a pet and service dog. 

“I think coming out of the pandemic, a lot of people got attached to their pets, more than they were before. And they learned that they could bring these pets anywhere they want,” states Officer Nick Lambert, Public Affairs Officer for the Huber Heights Police Division.

Huber Heights Police have gone through the training. 

The goal is to also cut down on people bringing pets into public places.

“We had a bunch of issues of pets entering places they weren’t supposed to, and we didn’t know how we should respond,” says Officer Lambert. “That’s what Jenni brings to the table, really teaching our officers and teaching the community where and when these pets can be.”

The program is an educational tool beneficial for both people and businesses and helping to better accommodate those with service dogs.