Training a Service Dog
I have a few questions about getting a GSD trained to be a service dog. I have 3 legally blind sisters, the oldest of which is going to be living on her own and starting her own life soon. That being said I want to get one of my GSD's pups trained as a seeing eye dog for her. I understand that not all dogs make it through the course and there is a lot of work involved.
At what age for the dog is it most recommended to begin training? I have been told anywhere from 6 months to 2 years of age for the pup. Also would using a puppy from my Bell's own litter come recommended? Or would I have to go about find another dog raised by a different house hold? My sister can be extremely grabby and I know from experience that having her socialize with the pup from 8 weeks on is a good way to get them to adapt to each other(for lack of a better term).
Any input would be greatly appreciated, thanks.
I would recomend ASAP. But then again I started training my service dog at one year, but I know a lady who had a pretty darn near perfect service dog in training a 8 months. I guess it depends in the dog.. Start on all the basics and once you get him good with those around people start training some service tasks. I know a lot about service dogs if you want to PM me
I would never recommend someone without experience to train a Guide Dog. There are some very reputable organizations that will charge nothing to very little to train a dog which has been evaluated and all health checks and needs from puppy up to finished trained dog.
For other Assistance Dogs such as Hearing Dogs or Service Dogs an individual can train their own dog but the possibility of doing so goes up if:
1) Owner trainer has experience training dogs
2) Owner trainer has experience working a Service Dog
3) Puppy Candidate was evaluated by an experienced individual
4) Owner trainer works with an experienced SD trainer
Even if you can not check off all of these, then just know that the more you are able to meet will be of major help.
Pups should be handled on a daily basis from birth with the possible goal of becoming a working dog or active sport dog. Feedback from the breeder is a major source of information in choosing a potential candidate pup or young dog.
All owner trainers must be willing to face the fact that there is no guarantee that the dog that they have put $$ and many hours of work into will be suitable and there is a huge percentage of dogs that wash out or should have been washed out from this career.
As to age, my SD Candidate will come from the breeder at approx. 10 weeks of age with experience in riding in a car, socializing with other animals and various people, and habitualized to walking on various surfaces and normal household noises such as doors closing, wash machine, vacuum etc. He will also have had the experience of having been flown on an airplane.
From that point he will exposed to several new pups for 1/2 hour controlled social times once or twice a week which will continue at various points throughout his life.
As far as I am concerned training/playing begins ASAP. Forming a bond and trust between the dog and handler is number 1. Training - even the early basis of obedience - needs to be all fun game type. Playing, gentle handling, and soft guilding slowly transform into obedience commands.
There are 3 major areas in training any type of Assistance Dog that will be worked outside of the home.
2) Public Access
3) Task Training
The average time to train if starting with a candidate is 18 - 24 months.
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