Before partnering with a Service Dog, there are several important points to consider. While thousands of individuals with a disability benefit greatly from partnering with a Service Dog, it’s not the solution for everyone. If you or a loved one is considering full-time Service Dog partnership, please ask yourself the following 5 questions before making a final decision.
No one method will be right for everyone, but here's my story regarding the steps to take towards getting a successor dog and retiring a current service dog. First, begin the process before you need to. The last thing anyone wants is to have an older dog that won't get a chance to retire. I start the process when my current dog is around 8 years old. It often takes 2 years to comfortably switch over to my successor dog and also because one can not replace a soul. There are dogs after your first, second, third, and so on. and they are called "Successor Dogs". When you are partnered with dogs as long as I've been, you gain a unique perspective. I am an owner trainer that has benefited from the knowledge of many amazing mentors, several of them over the years. A few of my mentors stand out over others, and some are good friends that I have met along the way. Some people prefer program dogs, that professional trainers teach, and then match them to their people. This is a great route to go. I recommend, because of the time and expense, you start early and learn about fund raising. Also apply to a lot of reputable organizations, especially if you're not military affiliated (like a Combat Veteran). Most people that aren't military affiliated don't get dogs donated, so fundraising is a big deal, since dogs can cost a lot, with price varying due to the complexity of the trained tasks the dog must know and what the dog will be doing. My personal choice was to be an owner trainer, because I grew up with dogs and have been training dogs for almost 40 years. This is the information I know best. My first step is to come to terms with the fact that my best partner ever (they each are) is getting older. The big "joke" is that about the time they're perfect, you need to start the process of training the next of a hopefully long line of dogs, and begin to retire the partner that you've worked with for years. Make a Plan The next step is to plan. You need to plan and ask and learn. For example, I refresh my memory of how to teach the basic foundation behaviors, as well as their more complicated finished behaviors. It sounds silly, but after having a solid partner to the
Want to learn some quick facts about Service Dogs? Keep reading and level up your Service Dog knowledge! 1. Service Dogs are highly trained professionals. These hard-working dogs undergo hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of hours of training. Their training includes basic obedience and manners, intermediate and advanced skills, public access training, and job-specific task training. Each Service Dog's task training varies to match their human partner's unique needs 2. Service Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds. No one can identify a Service Dog simply by looking at one. No breed requirements or other stipulations exist for a dog to qualify for Service Dog training. If a candidate has the proper temperament, loves to learn, and is physically healthy, then they're capable of training to be a Service Dog. Of course, a Service Dog's size should match their job. While smaller Service Dogs work just as hard and as well as their larger counterparts, it isn't appropriate (or safe!) for them to training as Mobility Dogs! 3. Therapy dogs, emotional support animals, and other types of working K9s are not Service Dogs. Only Service Dogs are Service Dogs. Only Service Dogs have public access rights while accompanied by the handler they're trained to assist. The handler must have a disability as defined under U.S. federal law. Emotional Support Dogs are not Service Dogs. Dogs who only help with anxiety or depression by offering support are not Service Dogs. Therapy Dogs are not Service Dogs. Search and Rescue, Police, or Military K9s are not Service Dogs. You can learn more about the differences between these various types of working dogs here. Fun Fact: The only other animal allowed to serve as an Assistance Animal in the United States is the miniature horse. Check out our guide on Miniature Horses as Service Animals for more info! 4. Service Dogs perform a diverse array of jobs. Service Dogs assist people with a wide range of disabilities. Common types of Service Dogs include visual assistance, hearing, allergen alert, brace and mobility support, neurological assistance, sensory processing, psychiatric, and many others. The jobs a Service Dog can perform are limited only by a trainer's capability and the laws of physics. 5. Each Service Dog team is unique. All disabilities are different. Furthermore, each person with a disability is an individual, and so is the dog! A Service Dog is trained to help their specific person with their specific needs. Some Service Dogs open doors
There are some very important things people with visible or invisible disabilities want you to know. This is a list of "don'ts". These 21 items should get you off on the right foot, or at least help you know more about which one's the wrong foot. Manners are important. How we conduct ourselves reflects what kind of person we choose to be. Kindness is critical. We all live on this planet together! Please be polite. We want to be treated like anyone else. Please don't draw attention to what makes us different — and understand that we may have invisible disabilities. Maybe instead focus on what makes us all similar. Don't rule me out. Please don't overlook me as a friend or date because I have a medical assistance device or dog with me. I may want to go have coffee with you if you ask nicely, or possibly even dinner. Who knows? I'm a person too! Nope, no secret club. Having a disability doesn't mean that we're in a secret club. There are no secrets, we just might not wish to share information about our medical situation or needs. Please don't ask us questions that you wouldn't want to answer yourself. Having a disability is not the best thing ever. While it's admirable of you to try to cheer us up, there are no "Pep Talks" needed. It's just how we are, and we have to live with it daily. It's a challenge, and it's hard sometimes. It's not something wished upon anyone else. It just is. This is not a contest. Please don't try to compare two people's disabilities, or life experiences. Everyone's struggle is different. It's apples and oranges, even if both people have the same disabilities exactly. Instead, understand that everyone is different and no one really knows everything about anyone else. Please don't talk about us behind our back. We're people with feelings, and we heard or saw that. Remember Mom's words, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Sometimes just don't say anything anyway. I am not a medical doctor. Please don't ask me if I think you need a Service Dog, or even how to get one. I am the only expert on me, just like you're the only expert on you. Googling programs for Service Dogs, and getting in contact with them is probably your best bet. Don't walk up
How disabled is disabled enough? It's a short question that can be plagued with a variety of different meanings and interpretations. However, the answer to the question is of extreme importance, because while being 'disabled' can provide benefits for some, not being 'disabled enough', can cause an immense struggle for others.
Many people have a vague sense of awareness that Service Dogs "help" their person and that they're allowed to be in public, but there's a lot more to Service Dog handlers and teams than meets the eye.
I was lost among the junipers in the starkly beautiful La Tierra Mountains just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. I sat in a deep stream bed that could drown me in seconds with one flash flood. Lucky for me, temperatures hovered around 60 degrees during a storm-free afternoon. Would I be found by the search dog, I nervously wondered?
Service Dogs enhance their human partner’s lives in so many ways. Sometimes, these special dogs even save their human’s life through complex and highly trained task work.
If Service Dogs could speak, what would they share with you? Well, while that question is impossible to answer (at least at this time!), we’d like to think that we’ve hit the main points on the top things Service Dogs would want you to know.
They guide, listen, balance, lead and love. They provide friendship and independence, freedom and peace of mind. They live to serve their handler to the fullest extent of their capability, be it through retrieving dropped items, offering physical support to an unsteady handler or alerting a Deaf or hard of hearing handler to important events.