Thursday, May 12, 2011

A few things to consider before getting a service dog

People seem to enjoy stopping us when we are out with my daughter's service dog. After asking what type of dog he is they almost always ask where (and how) he was trained. One man even stopped us say that he wished his kids minded like her service animal does.

We often have to do some education. A service dog is not a pet and should not be treated as such. Owners who travel cannot be made to pay upcharges or extra fees that may be associated with bringing a pet along. Sometimes owners will choose to pay a fee and avoid the hassle. This only makes it more difficult for the person coming in behind you. 

We've found it helpful to simply explain and ask front desk staff to ring a manager for clarification. Being firm but polite when making the request usually does wonders.

With help from private trainers we were able to teach him to do the work ourselves. It's a misconception that Dog Training Courses teach your dog new tricks. They actually teach you how to do the teaching. Once you take a course you have the information and can work with your animal.

My daughter's service dog
This doesn't mean that there won't be stumbling blocks. Sometimes it really is two steps forward one step back. It's very important to keep your training up to date and to work with your service dog regularly (as in daily).

It is imperative that shots and preventative medications be kept up to date. This makes life easier for you and keeps your four footed family member healthy.

When considering what type of dog to get there is much to think about. Where do you live? Can you afford to take care of the animal? If you can't exercise the animal who can? These are all important questions to ask. Your personal disability will answer most of these questions.

It's also important to think about what tasks will be done. Small dogs can usually fetch a phone or other items. Opening the front door and turning lights off and on may require a larger dog.

Food is another important consideration. Some dogs eat more than others. My daughter's service dog is a husky mix. It's surprising how little he eats. Our food bill is definitely for him than for other breeds.

Picking the right puppy is important. You need to have an even tempered dog that doesn't mind kids or other family members. A calm temperament also helps ensure that the animal will respond well in a variety of public settings.

Before choosing your puppy talk with someone who regularly teaches dog training courses. Your veterinarian can give you referrals. A trainer can walk you through the selection process and provide the right training for your needs.