It’s International Assistance Dog Week, a time for the celebration of service dogs and the education of the important work they do. Some of the service dogs from Highland Canine’s training program would like to take this opportunity to introduce themselves while also incorporating some little known facts about service dogs!
It takes a lot to become a Service Dog!
Meet Angus, Pixel, and Jersey! This trio of Goldendoodles just began their journey to become service dogs! At 4 months old, they are simply beginning to learn about their world. They passed rigorous temperament and environmental stability tests as young pups but they still aren’t in the clear yet. Constant socialization and training will weed out the pups that aren’t confident enough for this job. With many novice owners attempting to train their own pup as a service dog, we end up receiving a lot of inquiries beginning with “I bought a puppy from a reputable breeder that specializes in service dog lineage. It will be born in a couple weeks. It’s going to be my service dog. Do you have any advice for me?” Angus, Pixel, and Jersey would like to give out the first piece of advice necessary for owners seeking to train their own service dog (or receive training for their own dog). The truth is not just any dog can become a service dog. Regardless of breed, lineage, training, intensive socialization, etc. Even if you do everything right, there is still a chance the dog was simply never meant to be a service dog. If you are determined to train your own service dog, seek out a reputable, professional service dog trainer to help with the selection process. This will increase your chances of getting a puppy that will turn out to be a good candidate.
Service Dogs are not restricted by breed.
Old English Sheepdogs… a herding breed described as courageous, intelligent, and able-bodied though not typically seen as a popular breed for service work. Barney is an Old English Sheepdog puppy with stunning good looks and a personality to match. He is in training to be an autism service dog for a young man. Though Retrievers, Shepherds, and Doodles are popular options for service dogs, Barney just wants to send out a reminder that service dogs are not restricted by breed. What matters is that the dog in question matches well with the needs of the person they are being trained for. Many other Sheepdogs may not have passed easily through the program but Barney wants everyone to remember that each dog is an individual and even though his breed is not known for this type of work, he himself fits snugly into the service dog program like a fitted sheet.
Fake Service Dog certification companies are hurting real Service Dogs.
Nearly two years ago, this gorgeous Golden Retriever was tested and taken into a service dog training organization based on his amazing temperament and drive for the job. He excelled through the program, showing confidence, perfect behavior, and focused teamwork with his trainer everywhere he went. So much time, money, work and effort went into turning Ryder into the perfect service dog for someone in need. Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are so many people turning to cheap, advertised certification companies and simple “make your dog a service dog so you can take it anywhere” courses that don’t properly educate everyone on the importance of properly trained service dogs. A properly trained service dog, such as Ryder, typically takes at least over a year to train, with thousands of dollars and hours spent ensuring that this dog is comfortable working everywhere, can complete its tasks regardless of distractions, and maintains a good natured temperament through all kinds of situations. Frustrated with the current service dog industry and with so many people turning to illegitimate sources because they’re cheap, Ryder’s original trainer decided to take a step back from service dog training at the moment and asked if we wanted to purchase this boy with the intent to find him his perfect match. After testing him, we were so impressed and knew exactly who he would fit in with. After matching perfectly with an adorable young girl, Ryder is now finishing up his task training to go be the service dog he was meant to be.
Airlines are not governed by the ADA.
In recent news, you may have seen a lot of stories involving service dogs and emotional support animals on planes. Due to recent problems including aggression and injuries given by service dogs on planes, many airlines have been creating stricter policies for flying with service dogs and emotional support dogs. Sparky, having just had a successful flight to his family in Texas for his delivery, wanted to make sure everyone was aware that it is not the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) but actually the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) that governs service animals on airlines.
Before your flight with your service dog, make sure you do your research and look into your airline’s policies during this controversial time. Sparky had a great flight and is settling in wonderfully with his new handler.
The training of Service Dogs never truly ends.
Having just graduated from Highland Canine’s service dog program, Benny was recently delivered to his family as an autism service dog. His family learned how to work with him and were caught up to speed on all his training. But for Benny and his family, the journey continues. Though Benny is considered a fully trained service dog, having effective on and off leash obedience skills as well as specific tasks trained to mitigate his owner’s disability, it doesn’t mean that he still isn’t learning everyday. In this sense, “training” is never really over. His family must maintain the skills and tasks he was trained to do to ensure he doesn’t lose his touch. And continued socialization is important to keep Benny well-socialized and ready to work regardless of environment and distractions. Regardless of how intensive and thorough a training program is, it is impossible to fit in the endless amount of experiences a dog can have in its lifetime. Therefore, Benny wants to add that training never really ends. There is always something new to experience and work through as a service dog team.
International Assistance Dog Week is about observing the amazing work service dogs do for their owners. In doing so, we can also educate our communities to spread knowledge and respect for these service dog teams. What are some facts about service dogs that you can share to help others learn about them?