Can my dog become my service dog..and if so where do I start? - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 06-09-2012, 10:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Can my dog become my service dog..and if so where do I start?

I feel weird bringing this up in public like this but apparently I'm told it's part of what I need to do as well, be open about it so here we go.

I was in the United States Marine Corps for 10 years and was medically retired in 2004. My physical disabilities don't require me to have a service dog however it has been suggested by my therapist that I consider a service dog for my PTSD. I can tell you that Murphy does help with many of the issues that I have already and 99% of that comes naturally to the breed.

So, the main reason she suggested that I consider a service dog is because it will allow me to take him places with me that I normally can't and it will help if I ever need to stay in a location that normally does not allow dogs.

Now to my questions:

1. I've been told that I should get a good citizen certification first. Murphy has not had any sort of specialized training, it's all been at home first. Should he get basic dog training first or look for someone that does goof citizen training first and go right into that?

2. Murphy is 5 months old, is this too young to start this type of training?

3. Are my expectations to get Muphy certified as a service dog ridiculous?

4. How do I find a good trainer in my area?

5. Is there anything else I should consider?

Thank you in advance.
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Old 06-09-2012, 10:37 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Yay! ESD/PSD/ECD dogs are so fantastic, I'm glad more therapists are familiar with how much of a service they can be. Finally a subject on this board that I actually feel qualified to weigh in on with any authority, lol! Emotional/psych service dogs are... well, they get dismissed a lot. "You don't have a REAL service dog" or "You don't LOOK disabled" is something you're likely to get from layfolk a lot, as well as a lot of ID checking and scoffing by employees at places that don't allow pet dogs. And you're even likely to get worse from people with "real" service dogs, dogs trained by a specific foundation or facility to perform specific tasks like mobility assistance, household tasks, or guidance. It's sad, but everyone likes to tell you about your dog and not many folks like to listen.

That said, there is an endless list of benefits from having an emotional companion dog. However, there are things you'll really need to think about for yourself before you dive into it. There's a lot of responsibility that you take on with a service dog.

1) Yes, CGC is essential. There are hundreds of places to get a Service Dog "certified". That just means that you pay a lot of money to get a laminated badge and a vest; there is NO national registry for service dogs, there are only a handful of private registries that train 'official' service animals, and they breed their dogs or select from puppyhood specifically for their own purposes. (Anyone out there, if this information is outdated PLEASE CORRECT ME, I am not aware of changes in the recent past) Ergo, there is nothing to stop that crazy lady with the DA bichon down the street from getting her snappy anklebiter 'certified'... scary, right?? Not every dog is suitable for public service. You need to be 100% sure that Murphy will be 100% stable in all situations he may encounter on duty, and the CGC is an excellent first step in that direction. It's a given that he'll need to be solid on his basic obedience, he needs to walk on a lose leash and know enough commands to behave himself. No jumping, no aggression, no fear of people or places. Flawless housetraining and quietness are essential as well.
2) Never too young for good manners!
3) Anyone can get any dog 'certified', so no. But he may not be the kind of dog suitable for the work.
4) Find a local group that does therapy dog training. If your dog can pass therapy certification, you can start considering him as a service animal.
5) Thousands of things!

Remember, not everyone loves dogs. PTSD (as you know!) is an exceptionally real thing to experience, but it's up to you and your therapist to gauge how much stress a SD would alleviate for you during activities in which your dog would accompany you. Movie theaters, visiting the mall or the pharmacy, or staying at a hotel are all more 'acceptable' places to have a service dog; but what about medical facilities, restaurants, or grocery shopping? The latter are places you may want to consider going without a service animal, unless you really need him with you. People (employees especially!) don't always like having a dog in their facility, because they are often a cause for contamination concern for other patrons or customers. Bottom line; be courteous to others. If you don't feel you need Murphy to assist you on a particular outing, consider leaving him at home.

All that said, Murphy may not be a suitable candidate for service. Don't get attached to the idea until you've had outside evaluation that he can operate appropriately on duty; if he wears a vest, tag, or if you present him as a service dog he needs to be a beacon of excellence for his position. There are far, far too many people out there with 'service dogs' that just have the tags so they can take their pets into places they couldn't normally go, and it's up to the folks out there who have animals in service that make the difference between a healthy lifestyle and an unhealthy one to remind people that dogs can and do provide that service.
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Old 06-09-2012, 10:40 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm not sure there are legitimate certifications for "service dogs."

Maybe this has changed.

I hope some one more knowledgeable will answer this for you.

Never too soon to start on socialization, obedience and introducing you pup to new places, noises and situations.

Best to you, and thank you for your service.
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Old 06-09-2012, 10:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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My biggest worry right now is finding a good trainer in my area that won't steer him down the wrong path making this possibility not work out.

I've accepted the fact that he may not be a good fit for that but I'd like to at least try.
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Old 06-09-2012, 11:03 PM   #5 (permalink)
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In the U.S. ...

Short answers:

Emotional Support Animals/Dogs are not Service Dogs. A Psych Service Dog is a Service Dog.

Therapy Dogs are not Service Dogs.

Companion dogs are not Service Dogs.

Certification is not required per Federal Regulatory Law.

We have many threads in this area that go into deep discussions on this matter.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Federal Register
Published September 15, 2010
Effective Date March 15, 2011

Signed by Attorney General Eric Holder
July 23, 2010


Final regulations

Revised definition of “service animal.”

“Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”
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Old 06-09-2012, 11:17 PM   #6 (permalink)
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It takes on the average of 18-24 months to properly train an Assistance/Service Dog. Most national SD organizations have in-house breeding programs or go to select reputable breeders for their stock. It is critical to start with a good candidate. A SD is not a rehab project. Unless the handler has had experience training a working dog they should find someone with experience in training SDs to oversee their work and to help mentor them.

Choosing a working candidate is different than choosing a pet. It is possible to take a dog that was picked out to be a pet and train it for service work but you must be willing to be honest with yourself and evaluate the dog without emotions being involved.
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Old 06-09-2012, 11:41 PM   #7 (permalink)
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NM I'm a noodle head tonight lol.
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Old 06-10-2012, 12:18 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Now to my questions:

1. I've been told that I should get a good citizen certification first. Murphy has not had any sort of specialized training, it's all been at home first. Should he get basic dog training first or look for someone that does goof citizen training first and go right into that?

2. Murphy is 5 months old, is this too young to start this type of training?

Quoting myself from a beginner level workshop booklet - so based on my opinion formed by my education and experience and views/works/discussions of various associates:

Assistance/Service Dog Candidates
Approximate age – puppy through 12/14 months of age

Puppy and Beginning Obedience training should be completed during this time.
Solid housebreaking and basic manners in the home and to pet-friendly locations are part of candidate training.
The candidate should continue ongoing health checks and getting age appropriate vet work.
Any normal fear imprint stages will be during this time.
Evaluations on the suitability of the dog for working should continue.

A dog being trained as an Assistance/Service Dog is not a rehab project. If a dog shows people or dog aggression or shows shyness or fear when around people acting in a normal manner then the dog should not be elevated from the candidate level.

Until they are fully housebroken, walk nicely on a leash, and show good public manners they should only be going as pets to places where pets are welcomed. It is very important that the candidate not be allowed to form bad habits out in the community at this time.

A candidate should not be dressed in a SDIT cape, wear SDIT patches, nor claimed as a SDIT until ready to be passed up to the SDIT level. Any dog before going out into the public as a SDIT should be able to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluation.
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Old 06-10-2012, 12:26 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I wanted to say thank you for all the info.
I recently had to decline an adoption because a woman wanted a dog for emotional support and partly because of this information, I knew he was probably not going to be the right dog for this placement.
It's important to distinguish between therapy or emotional support and actual service dogs before going into it.
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Old 06-10-2012, 11:27 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I understand that this may not at all work out. I guess my main question is if I wanted to even explore this as an option where would I start? Would I start with a basic obedience class?

If so, everyone in my area says to go to Petsmart but I've heard bad very mixed reviews about their trainers.
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