Archive for the ‘Service Dog Tips’ Category

The first step in beginning the training of a service dog is finding the right service dog prospect. Although most dogs do well in typical dog training, service dog training programs operate at a superior level. A service dog’s work goes above and beyond the usual tasks required of a pet, making the selection of an appropriate service dog prospect vital to having a successful service dog. 

What is a Service Dog?

The Department of Justice’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service dog as a dog trained to perform a task(s) directly related to their handler’s disability. Under federal law, service dogs may follow their handler into areas where pets aren’t usually allowed. 

Service dogs assist people with disabilities through tasks like visual guidance, helping them to walk or move, and obtaining medication. Because service dogs offer such vital assistance to a person’s health and safety, service dogs have rights that regular pets do not.

Why Can’t Any Dog Be a Service Dog?

As adorable, loyal, and fun most dogs are, they’re not cut out for the life of a service dog. Just like humans, dogs have a broad range of temperaments and personalities. Some dogs are quicker to become frustrated or give up. Other dogs may not have the ability to maintain their focus for long periods. Even with traits like these, dogs who are difficult to train or find it challenging to focus can be loving and joyful pets. As service dogs, however, these traits get in the way of staying on top of their demanding jobs.

Finding the right prospect for service dog training increases the likelihood that you will end up with a successful service dog that’s right for you. 

The unfortunate truth is most dogs cannot be service dogs. They make great pets but aren’t ideal for performing daily service dog work. Choosing the wrong dog can mean months of training for a dog that, in the end, can’t complete the job they were trained for. The wrong dog can also be a costly choice.

Choosing a Breed

Before searching for a prospective service dog, take inventory of the tasks the service dog needs to perform to assist with your disability. Gearing your search towards fulfilling the necessary service dog duties can make finding a service dog much more manageable. For instance, a small pomeranian wouldn’t be a safe choice for an adult male looking for a dog to prevent him from falling. Choosing the right breed starts with picking the right size of dog for the tasks and environment.

Another important factor is to determine whether you are allergic to dogs. If so, you may want to look for a hypoallergenic dog breed that suits your needs. 

As cute as the dog may be, when choosing a service dog prospect, the characteristic traits and ability to perform tasks are more important than the looks. Choosing the Right Age

It’s tempting to choose puppies because they seem like a blank slate, but it’s difficult to predict the traits a puppy will have once they’re all grown-up. Adolescent dogs may be a viable option, as long as their social and environmental background is known. Yet, just like humans, adolescence is a tumultuous phase. A new home and the training may affect their development and temperament. However, when a dog is about 18-months old to three years old, their dispositions are more solidified. 

Choosing the Right Traits

Training a service dog is hard work for the trainer and the dog. Finding a dog with the right characteristics for service dog work helps to make the process less challenging. The following is a list of character traits that you may want to consider when looking for your service dog:

Motivated by food or toys Medium level of energy (enough to work, but not overly stimulated) Adaptable to many different situations Graceful, not clumsy A desire to please and interact Not reactive if someone accidentally injures him or her Not anxious or jumpy Trusting and eager to please Has a desire to interact with people Able to focus, not easily distracted Does not startle easily Making Sure Your Prospect is Healthy

Once you believe you’ve found an appropriate service dog prospect, it’s crucial to assess the dog’s health. A service dog is a costly investment. You want to ensure that the dog can physically execute the tasks it needs to fulfill. Have prospects x-rayed and conduct a health exam at a veterinary office. Other health issues to look out for are: 

Vision and hearing problems Bowel or urinary issues Skin problems Severe allergies Hip and mobility issues Find the Best Service Dog Prospect for You

Because a service dog is not a pet, you can’t search for a prospect the same way you would for a pet. The most fluffy and boisterous dog can be a loving pet for your family, but it may not have the ability to fulfill the training required for a service dog. According to the American Kennel Club, the dropout rate for dogs in service dog training is 50 to 70%. The best prospect is the one that can do the job for you safely; therefore, finding the right service dog prospect is vital. 

If you’re wondering if you can train your own service dog, the answer is, “Yes!” Training your dog is the most cost-effective way of getting a service dog. However, it’s also the most time-consuming. Here are some pros and cons of training your own service dog. 

Pros For Self-Training Your Service Dog

Trainers who are also owners become better handlers for their service dogs. Owners have their own quirks and personalities, as do dogs! There’s a period of adjustment after owners receive program-trained service dogs. 

When you train your own service dog, you and your dog are already accustomed to each other.

The training is personalized with both of you in mind. If problems arise, the trainer-owner is better equipped to problem solve than an owner who didn’t do the training.

Trainer-owners don’t have to spend time untraining behaviors they don’t need. Program-trained dogs are often taught according to a predetermined list of behaviors. Because each owner is different, what works for one owner may be counterintuitive to another. When training your service dog yourself, you can focus on the tasks most important for your needs.

There’s no wait time for trainer-owned dogs. When dogs are trained through programs, the wait time can take years. When you train your own dog, however, you can enjoy the emotional benefits of having a dog while you train. Also, some states recognize service dogs-in-training as actual service dogs. 

Cons For Self-Training Your Service Dog

Service dogs that come from formal programs are bred to be service dogs. Their personality, disposition, even their size are bred to fulfill specific services. When training your own service dog, you have to find these traits yourself. Finding a calm, smart, and eager-to-please dog is more challenging than most people realize. 

Training a service dog is time-consuming, demanding work. According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partnerships, 120 hours of training over six months is the gold standard. Not only is that a tremendous amount of time for a dog—but it’s almost a part-time job for trainers.

Trainer-owners have to have the time and energy to put in the work.

After all the time and effort put into training your service dog, it may not be successful. Some dogs just don’t take well to specific tasks. They may not respond to commands at a satisfactory rate. Trainer-owners must be ready to concede if this occurs. 

Training your service dog by yourself is time-consuming but can build a stronger bond. How to Train Your Service Dog

Now that you understand the pros and cons of training your service dog, you can decide the best path to take. If you choose to become a trainer-owner, there are a variety of sources you can use to help you with the task.

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP)

The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) is a non-profit organization that helps people with service dogs, guide dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and dogs for the hearing impaired. The IAADP offers service dog training references and guides to make training easier. 

The American Dog Trainer’s Network

The American Dog Trainers Network offers a comprehensive set of resources from clicker training to becoming a professional dog trainer. 

Karen Pryor: Clicker Training 

Karen Pryor is the top expert on the use of clicker training for dogs. Her website features clicker training videos, guides, and training topics to help owners train their dogs. 

Finding the Right Service Dog to Train is Key

The chihuahua you’ve had for seven years may be the love of your life, but he may not have the temperament or drive to fulfill the tasks you need. If your mobility issues require a dog to help keep you from suddenly falling, a small chihuahua is not the right sized dog for you. 

Finding an intelligent, patient, and trainable dog isn’t easy. The dog you choose must respond quickly, not be aggressive or dominant, and not be overly protective. Keep in mind that a service dog will be allowed in many public spaces; therefore, you must always keep the public’s safety in mind. Finding an intelligent but docile dog can be challenging. However, it’s key to having a successful service dog.

Many dog owners believe that the dog they currently have as a family pet will make a satisfactory service dog. That’s ideal, but it’s usually not the case. A family dog already has relationship dynamics that can make it difficult for it to be docile and non-aggressive at all times in public.  

Keep in mind that a service dog is much more than a pet. It provides affection and warmth, but must also fulfill specific tasks at every command, which is very difficult for typical pets. Once you find the right dog, you’ll have a much better chance of training your service dog successfully. 

There’s nothing that dogs love more than being outside in nature, so you may find yourself one day planning a trip to a National Park with your service dog. Before you start your plans, you may want to plan. Knowing the natural environment and what rules and laws apply to your service dog can make your trip less stressful and much more pleasurable in the long run. 

It’s important to know that federal laws prevent restrictions on service animals, even in national parks. However, there may be other restrictions that apply under certain conditions. For example, a service dog may be permitted in a national park but not allowed on trails that may endanger wildlife or other people. 

The Right Gear for Your Service Dog When Visiting National Parks

The type of protection and gear you bring with you can keep you and your dog safe on your journey. Your service dog may be a hero but still needs protection from the weather and terrain. Prepare for the appropriate climate and environmental needs of your service dog.

For example, desert areas are beautiful but can be dangerous if you’re not prepared. Desert trips often require special dog boots to keep your service dog’s paws from burning on the hot ground. Dogs with thin fur or exposed skin may need doggy sunscreen or a covering. Most of all, extra water and food are always necessary for the desert due to the risk of dehydration. 

A winter trip or hike in a national park have their own considerations. Dogs that don’t have thick fur often need extra coverings and boots or may not tolerate the cold at all.

Whenever you take a trip—to a national park or eslewhere—a first aid kit for you and your service dog is always a must. 

Service Animal Permits and Rules in National Parks 

Some national parks may be required a permit for your service dog. These permits allow the park to keep tabs on your presence for the safety of you and your service animal. For example, Yellowstone National Park requires such a permit for service dogs.

Many national parks require service dogs to be leashed, pet food to be stored appropriately, and feces properly disposed of. These rules must be obeyed and are meant to keep visitors safe and to preserve the surrounding wildlife. 

With a little preparation you can visit any national park with your service dog, like Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Caping Your Service Dog

Although you won’t be required to cape your dog at a national park, it’s still a good idea to do so. By placing an easily identifiable service dog cape on your canine, a park ranger can spot your dog right away—even through binoculars. It will keep your dog safe, inform park employees, and show other park goers that your service dog is on the job. 

Service Dog Vest Size Chart National Park Access Pass and Your Service Dog

A National Park Access Pass is an excellent option; it gives you free, lifetime admission to national recreation sites, including all the National Parks Service parks. The pass is available to citizens and permanent U.S. residents who have a permanent disability or activity limitations. The disability does not have to be 100% but does need to impede on a significant life activity, such as grooming, working, learning, or speaking. Although the Access Pass itself is free, a processing fee of ten dollars is required. 

For people with service dogs, an Access Pass identifies you as a service dog owner to National Park Service employees and allows you to be with your service dog without disputes. An Access Pass not only provides free access to National Parks but ensures that your service dog can remain by your side with fewer interruptions. 

Denial of Access of a Service Dog in National Parks

Because the general public is allowed access to national parks, you and your service dog are also allowed access. Unfortunately, you may encounter a park employee who might be unfamiliar with federal disability laws, and they may deny you and your service dog access. If you’re denied access to a park because of your service dog, you can file a complaint here.  

Enjoying the National Parks With Your Service Dog

Your disability doesn’t prevent you from enjoying the National Parks, especially if you have a service dog. However, your service dog is also your responsibility. You may come across other visitors, as well as park employees, and so your service dog must remain well-behaved at all times. What’s more, parks commonly require leashes on service dogs, both for the dog’s safety and wildlife safety. But with a little planning, you and your service dog can explore the great outdoors safely together.