Do Service Dogs Have a Good Life?
The other day, I received a call from a very frustrated client. We spoke often as we had become friends throughout her journey to receive a service dog from our organization. It has been over two years since her handsome German Shepherd had been delivered and they had become quite good at working together. This team was often showered with compliments whenever they were out working together but today, they experienced some rough criticism instead. You see, this client was publicly condemned for owning a service dog and was told “it’s basically like keeping a slave.”
Apparently, this individual believed that service dogs are forced to work for people in grueling conditions. All day every day. No fun. No breaks. Just compulsory and demeaning work. If you have ever worked with a service dog, you’ll agree that this misconception couldn’t be more wrong. This person’s comment did make me realize that many people out there may be thinking the same thing. Or at least they may be very unsure of what a service dog’s life is really like.
The Life of a Service Dog
Life is an adventure!
Unlike the average household pet, service dogs get the opportunity to explore our world to the fullest. They see, hear, and smell things that the pet dog does not even know exists. Have you ever taken your dog to a new place and noticed how excited s/he was? Service dogs are blessed with this adventure everyday and, because of all the mental and physical stimulation, they do not typically suffer from the boredom that pet dogs are faced with. Additionally, service dogs do get to enjoy playtime and snuggles with their people in their “off-time”.
Daily training is essential
Every service dog owner understands that maintenance training is crucial to the team’s success. And training means treats, bonding time, and a whole lot of fun! Dogs love training, especially dogs who were selected specifically for their job. On top of task and obedience training, continued socialization is also important. This means service dogs get to be involved in a variety of new things with their owner/best friend. They say “A trained dog is a happy dog” and that is definitely true. A dog that is well-behaved and understands manners is capable of attending far more activities with their owner. This obviously holds true for service dogs.
Born for this
Not every dog is cut out to be a service dog. Service dog candidates need to be confident, energetic, and motivated. Most of all, they need to love what they do! Most working service dogs you see are in that position because they enjoy it and excel in it. A dog who does not enjoy his work would not be placed as a service dog for many reasons. Service dogs are the ones who really shined throughout training. In order to respond to a situation without being prompted, the service dog needs to have a passion for the job. For example, if a smoke alarm started going off in the home of a deaf person and their hearing alert dog, it is up to the dog to make the choice to alert its owner. Without a love of work, the dog may not, regardless of training.
More than a pet
Many people believe a service dog is just a pet that you can take everywhere however that idea is false. These specially trained dogs have been prepared for a career helping their owner through life’s challenges. Through thick and thin, the service dog is there. Because of this, it is inevitable that a very special bond, friendship, and trust forms between the service dog and owner. With a love this strong, it is easy to see that service dogs are very happy companions. Service dog and owner have a deeper understanding of each other than a majority of pet dogs and their families, simply because they must work together to accomplish lifesaving and life changing tasks.
Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life!
In conclusion, we train a lot of service dogs for a variety of different jobs. We can see their faces light up and their tails wag when we get their service dog vests out. “It’s time to work!” They can’t wait! And they excitedly offer behaviors they have been taught, hoping to encourage their trainers into an extra training session. In our experience, working with our service dog candidates and current service dog teams, it is clear that these dogs approve of and enjoy their jobs.
If you have any questions about the training process of service dogs or what it is like to work with one, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 704.500.8281