HI, I was wondering if anyone here knows the ins and outs of service dog training? Thoughts on getting a puppy from a breeder for service work, but then the issues of picking the right one, if you work with a service training place do they help the client select a good prospect pup, how long usually are the puppies in training? Is it a ongoing process for months and is the will be handler involved in any of that? Will breeders usually work with someone who is seeking a pup for service work? Things to look for in the parents that lends to good temperament? Any links, forums or anything I can research or you could tell me would be greatly appreciated Thank you
Depending on what you need the dog for, GSDs are not always best suited as service dogs. I feel the need to say that off the bat because I feel like a certain category of people choose this breed for the wrong reasons and wind up with a dog who can't work or a less than ideal dog because of it. So that's one thing.
Again depending on what you need the dog for, doing a lot of the puppy raising yourself may not be possible or ideal. Some physical disabilities will make it hard to keep up with and train a puppy properly. Some psychiatric disabilities are such that the person should not be the primary handler during socialization or other training endeavors (in my opinion)
As for program specific questions, it will vary wildly depending on the program you go with and do vet your program very carefully because the whole service dog scene is ripe with scammers of all types right now.
My first SD went like this: I applied to a program, was accepted. Next came puppy selection. The program and I both agreed I should not do the early puppy raising. I wanted a GSD, had experience with the breed and adamantly wanted to use this breed over others despite recommendations from the trainer that we'd have a better chance at success with another breed. I was lucky enough that the trainer had a relationship with a GSD breeder, who just happened to have one of their very last litters on the ground a few months after I was accepted into this program. I was able to get one of those pups. The whole thing was rather miraculous, complete with the fact that one of the few programs who trained dogs for this specific issue in the whole country was two towns over in my state.
The pup went to a puppy raiser from the breeder. I saw her weekly, and attended all her group classes as her handler, even puppy k. By the time the pup was 6 or 7 months old I got to keep her on weekends when the raiser was trialing.
I believe she was 9 months old when she came to be with me permanently. She acted as if she always very clearly knew that her raiser was not her "person", I was, and the transition was smooth and like it was all meant to be. The puppy raiser was a dog trainer too and I continued taking classes with my dog, with both the head trainer of the program and the woman who had puppy raised for me. She and I are still friends to this day and I owe this woman an incredible debt for starting this pup for me.
As we continued group classes we also worked privately with the head trainer and I task trained on my own with her guidance. She got her CGC in 2008, followed pretty closely by our public access test which was pretty rigorous. It was a day long test which consisted of taking both the commuter rail and the subway into the city, spending the day in the city going into all sorts of places including a meal at a restaraunt. The dog was in harness and working all day, and had to perform her trained tasks and demonstrate all her manners without anything worth failing us for. We got a team certification badge from that organization, which is not required of any team to have but for us it was just evidence of the work we had put in and being judged by a third party to have met certain standards.
As for breeders I'd be looking for breeders who have more than one dog working in this capacity.
It usually takes about 2 years to produce a finished dog, from a baby puppy. Most organization that provide fully trained dogs have a waiting list of 1-2 years or longer.
Service Dog Central is another forum that is specific to these types of dogs. Hope that helps