It’s time to look for your next Service Dog. What traits should you look for? What's important? What doesn't matter? There is a sea of misinformation that a Service Dog handler must sort through while picking a Service Dog puppy or candidate. Cut through the chaos and learn what what to look for while selecting a potential partner.
Brace and Mobility Support Dogs are a type of Service Dog trained to provide their disabled handler with assistance moving from place to place. This invaluable service is matched only by these dogs’ ability to also help with other chores and tasks, like opening doors or retrieving dropped items. Due to the unique nature of their work, though, Brace and Mobility Support Dogs have special needs. Read on to learn more!
Properly-trained Service Dogs can provide an incredible breadth benefits to disabled individuals. From mobility assistance and independence, assisting with everyday tasks, summoning help when needed, alerting to night terrors and more. There's a lot of focus on Golden Retrievers, Bichon Frisés and German Shepherds, but purebreds aren't the only types of dogs that can be trained to become excellent Service Dogs. Some organizations are helping homeless dogs get a second chance as Service Dogs.
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.
When it comes to Service Dog tasks, there is a lot of confusion over what constitutes a real, specifically trained task and which are only perceived tasks, fueled by emotion and wishful thinking. From Service Dog handlers to trainers to medical doctors to veterinarians alike, there is historically a lot of confusion surrounding this topic.
High value dog training treats provide your dog with lots of motivation to focus and work. These are the gold standard of dog training treats, the ones your dog will do anything to earn. While every dog likes different things, try some of the suggestions on this list to add variety to your high value treat mix. Tripe - freeze dried, roasted Cheese - cubes, slivers, shreds, string Hot dogs - quarter & use raw or bake / microwave to remove moisture Natural Balance rolls - diced (instructions here) Chicken - roasted, boiled, freeze dried Steak - cubed without seasoning Sardines - cubed Sliced gizzards Sliced hearts Wet cat food - on a spoon & frozen for easy licking and reward presentation Peanut butter -- freeze on a spoon for easy reward presentation Popcorn - cheese flavored Meatballs Liver - freeze dried or baked Bacon Cheese Whiz Baby food (meat based) Sausage bites Jerky Bil-jac
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
With any relationship, bonding provides the foundation upon which everything else rests. A new Service Dog partnership isn't any different. Proper bonding from the very beginning allows teams to move forward with confidence, both for work and training. Keep reading to learn tips and ideas that facilitate relationship building with your canine partner. Note: These bonding tips do not replace the official bonding protocol(s) provided by your Service Dog's organization or program. Always follow the guidelines and procedures required by the organization placing your Service Dog. These tips are meant to supplement or enhance other bonding protocols. In particular, owner trainers, Service Dog candidate evaluators, and others in similar situations might benefit from the ideas presented. Additionally, established Service Dog teams can utilize the bonding tips to help build or rebuild their team's focus and performance. Bond (noun, verb) - (1) the formation of a close relationship; (2) the attaching of one thing to another; (3) to join one thing securely to another; (4) a strong force of attraction holding one thing to another Common Service Dog Bonding Fear: "What If My New Service Dog Doesn't Like Me?!" New Service Dog handlers often worry about whether or not their new Service Dog likes them. Early interactions between dog and human frequently contribute to this fear since, in the beginning, many Service Dogs focus on their trainer and ignore the new handler. Furthermore, a fledgling Service Dog team's first few weeks together usually involves many mishaps, miscommunications, and misadventures. Tackling this fear requires new Service Dog handlers and organization placement specialists to remember something very simple: the newly graduated Service Dog and brand new handler likely do not know each other yet. For evaluators and owner trainers, the same holds true -- all new candidates and Service Dogs in Training (SDiTs) start as strangers. Bonding Requires Building a Relationship Like any relationship, going from "stranger" to "acquaintance" to "friend" to "partner" involves getting to know each other. In the beginning, new Service Dog teams learn each partner's likes and dislikes. They learn about preferred schedules and how to interact with each other. The human half of the team learns how to communicate with their dog. Likewise, the recently partnered Service Dog masters their new handler's nuances in speech, delivery, and body language. Until the two learn to reliably convey information, cues, needs, and desires, they aren't truly a team. In other words, until the new Service Dog and handler know each other,
As the holidays wrap up, it's a great time to reflect on your 2018 and resolve to do better in 2019. Here are ten simple steps that will help you and your Service Dog become a better team. Happy New Year! 2019 Service Dog Goals: Check Your Gear Is your Service Dog gear clean, serviceable and still relevant to your needs? Now is a great time to sit in a warm house and clean gear, spruce up those leather harnesses with some saddle soap, and make sure that that really nice backpack doesn't chafe your partner's underarms. Check the fit of collars, boots, coats, and other working gear. Make sure ID tags are up to date. Since you're probably working on taxes or your budget for the coming year - now's a good time to consider if you'll need to replace or upgrade any gear in the coming year. 2019 Service Dog Goals: Make a Service Dog Binder This is more important than it sounds. Include things like a current vaccination record, microchip information. AKC, breeder, trainer, or even rescue information could be included also. A list of all of the tasks your dog performs for you, and a list of all of the commands and behaviors that your dog has mastered could be included too. Other ideas include a current series of photos that show your dog both dressed and from the front and side, in case you ever need them. There are lots of ideas, these are just a few. 2019 Service Dog Goals: Do a Service Dog Skills Check It's a good idea to evaluate your partner's skill set multiple times per year, but a large scale audit is good at least once per year. This is a good time to see if you need to focus your training anywhere specific, or to simply update your list of what your dog knows. Getting video is a good idea too. 2019 Service Dog Goals: Update Your Service Dog's Task and Behavior List Now is a good time to update their Task/Behavior list. Cell phones make it so easy to get good quality video these days too. It's a really great way to log that your dog can demonstrate a skill when needed, just mak sure that there is sufficient lighting and the behavior is visible with minimal cues and distractions. Storing these files on a USB Drive or even a SD Card makes life a lot
Federal law stipulates that a Service Animal is "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability" and that a Service Dog teams are allowed to enter areas where the public is normally allowed to go. However, a Service Dog team's civil rights may be occasionally challenged by well-meaning people trying to keep pets out of the establishment. While stressful, these challenges are typically easy to handle. Sometimes, though, a little more work is required.