Dogs make the best companions for human beings. Besides being a good pet, dogs are faithful and more loyal than any other animal. With proper training, dogs can offer a great deal of help to people with disabilities including hearing, visual or mobility impairments, mental disorders and much more. Such dogs are called service dogs. There are many types of service dogs, all of them are working animals, they are more than just pets. In this article, we elaborate every step in regard to how to make your dog a service dog.
Though German shepherds, Golden retrievers, and Labrador retrievers are the most common breeds of service dogs, any breed of dog can be used for this purpose. However, service dogs require certain health requirements and qualities. Smaller breeds can perform medical help to owners, and larger breeds can provide physical assistance to the owners.
Certain tasks that can be performed by service dogs are:
- Waking up the owner or reminding him to take medications.
- Providing assistance while walking, climbing stairs or crossing roads.
- Managing emergency situations or seeking help if required.
- Bringing medicines or other necessities to the owner.
- Keeping away suspicious strangers.
How to Make Your Dog a Service Dog?
There are many ways to own a service dog. You can either train your own dog with or without the help of a trainer, or you can seek the help of a private trainer/program, or you can even obtain a dog from them. Professional assistance while training is highly recommended for having an efficient service dog. The dog should be trained along with his owner, so that the dog can understand the symptoms of disability and emotional state and respond adequately. Maintaining a close contact between the owner and dog is an essential part of the training.
The base of the training is teaching good manners and disciple to an ordinary dog. A service dog should have quick reactions and the training should focus on the same. Dogs should not be punished at any point of the training as this will create fear. Always reward the dog for good behavior. One has to teach the dog to behave properly when it is leashed as well as unleashed. The service dog training requires a time period of 1-2 years. Training should be twofold - to train the dog to respond well to the disability of the owner and to train the dog to behave appropriately in public places. Dogs can be taught verbal cues or hand signals. The training aims at building up an obedient dog. Proper rest is to be given to the dogs during the training period and the trainer has to monitor the stress levels of the dog.
Step 1: Select the Right Dog Breed
The task of training will be easier if you buy a dog with certain traits. Puppies should not be chosen as a service dog. Dogs which are 6 months old or above, that are capable of showing their personality can be selected to become a service dog. Dogs with medical conditions like arthritis or hearing deficiency add strains on the dogs and should not be chosen. The size of the dogs is irrelevant because a good service dog is the one who is intelligent and eager to please. If the dogs have the correct temperament, then any breed from a Chihuahua to a Doberman can be fit for the role. A dog that approaches the owner with calm and confidence can be a perfect choice.
Step 2: Find an Excellent Service Dog Trainer
A good dog trainer should provide minimum standards for training.
Step 3: Provide Adequate Time for Training
About 120 hours of training over six to twenty-four months should be spent in public training alone. This is required to train the dogs to deal with the disturbances or circumstances that arise in public places.
Step 4:Public Access Test
Dogs are to be given a test for the training given. The service dogs shouldhave a polite public conduct.
According to international standards, there are three stages in service dog training:
- Heeling: The dogs, at this stage, are taught to maintain a relative position to the human partner, regardless of how he moves.
- Proofing: This stage takes a lot of time because, in this stage, the dog is to be trained to avoid all distractions and be on command all time.
- Tasking: In this stage, the dog is given training to sense a medical condition or emergency and is probably the easiest of the training stages.
While in a public place, a good service dog is expected:
- To show no hyperactivity or excitement.
- To urinate or deface only on command.
- To show no affection to strangers or food offered by them.
- To control sniffing or other aggressive behavior like barking, growling, etc.
- To not bite strangers or other persons.
Points to Remember by the Trainer (Owner)
- Training that arouses a dog’s aggressive behavior is to be avoided. The service dogs can be allowed to bark in appropriate situations.
- The owner has to make sure that the dog is healthy and free of foul odor.
- The rabies vaccination has to be taken as required and the dog should be flea free.
- Service dogs are to be trained to show respect and consideration to other people and property.
- Service dogs should appear clean and well groomed.
- The owner should be willing to clear the doubts of the public about the dogs and their rights.
- One should make sure that your dog is not aggressive or a protective dog. A confident dog is preferred over a fearful one.
- The dog should be taught to greet only the owner and to ignore the people around. It is because the dogs are to care only about the owner as he might require help at any moment.
Dogs can be taught the specific tasks that are expected to get done. The tasks can range from responding to alarms or calling bells to collecting a remote or keys. Everything depends on the training given. By knowing how to make your dog a service dog, you can overcome your disability and conquer the happiness of your dog.