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We're training a 4 month old GSD in home , under supervision of a service dog trainer . We *hope* in 6 months or so he cuts the mustard to be SDIT. Our 5 year old son has autism. The pup has a lot of potential and she(trainer) likes what she sees so far , but they go through many stages. We are just keeping fingers crossed. There is a 2 year wait list for any local agencies..acquiring a certified ready to work dog from a private outfit is a "minimum" of 15K .

My 5 year old son is a eloping risk ..not a bolting risk. Big difference. I do not agree with using a large dog as an anchor for a child that bolts..if my son was a "dash with all your might risk" , I would tether him top me before I subjected a dog to that...but , GSDs can do a good job at alerting at a child who is wandering. And herding around them until I respond to their alert. My son is a slow sneak away.

I have 3 kids 6 , 5 , 2. Even with typical kids it is hard to go someplace with all 3 that age and watch them constantly. Add to that a boy who tries with all his might to silently slip away and explore the minute you are digging in a bag for a sippy for another kid..you get the idea.

We have a Mastiff that my son loves. He can be full on meltdown ( which , people who have kids with autism know a meltdown is different than a tantrum) and when Greta the Mastiff walks in on the commotion to see what is up he goes over and hugs her and calms down. He is never aggressive towards animals or his little brother. The Mastiff gives him a level of comfort that is sometimes achievable by me , but few others. She is the reason we started thinking service dog.

We are hoping if he makes candidate he will learn to alert if my son is sneaking away, circle our son while alerting , scent work , nudge him to redirect , and provide comfort and companionship. If he does not make candidate , well..we will have a well trained dog we love .

What else can you do when you don't have 2 years to wait or 30,000 bucks for a dog? You try your best with a well known experienced service dog trainer , follow all the instructions and lessons , and you keep an open mind and realize he may only make pet grade. You have to be willing to be happy with that , and we are.

I have had 4 German Shepherds in my 43 years..we home trained all 4 and did CGC with them. 3 of them I trained myself ( I was 14 when we got our 2nd GSD) My Jack Russel..she was the first dog that made me seek professional help lol . We trained with her for 2 years , did some fun agility . So , I have experience rearing pups and doing structured training with passing CGC in mind. We'll be working very closely with the trainer . We 'll be doing private lessons , Puppy Kindergarten , Intermediate , CGC..then we'll see if he makes it into SDIT.

Wish us luck , any advice/constructive criticism is welcome.

Right now we are doing basic obedience and it is going great. We are also doing hide and seek. My son hides with a treat and I go with the pup to "find him" . He loves it , my son loves it. Again , fingers crossed!
 

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Sounds like you have very realistic expectations and are headed in the right direction!

I have no experience in training or working with Service Dogs and the only advice I can think of is to socialize and expose your puppy to every blessed thing under the sun. :)

Do you mind me asking where you got the puppy from and how you came about choosing him? Other than that, just let your pup be a puppy, set him up for success to build his confidence, make him feel like he is the best pup in the whole world and cannot do wrong, and enjoy him. :)

PS: Puppy pictures are always great!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
just please please do extensive research on the service dog trainer.
Yes , indeed :) We did that before we considered acquiring or using one of our own dogs. No sense in trying unless a good experienced trainer was willing and available.She has a great reputation and is well known .

Castlemaid - He is a rescue GSD.The rescue has known me and my family and our history with GSDs since the 70's :) They knew we were researching SDs and their temperament evaluator felt he was sound . Not a guarantee of course , but a decent start. We did have a friend who is a top breeder of Cane Corsos offer us one of his 18 month olds who had already gone through evals and was ready to go into higher training. Being a responsible breeder he has a lifetime return policy and an 18 month old he had sold had to come back due to a divorce. He was perfect in every way , the only problem was a wet mouth. Can't have a dog that drools a little in a lot of environments like restaurants and such. My Mastiff Greta is a drool factory so it would not have bothered us..but as most in this section would know a service dog has to be very clean at all times.

Longer story short , my rescue friends kept their ear to the ground and thought our new pup was a good one :)

It is a gamble..we're taking it with the knowledge that we would welcome and love him even if he does not make candidate. My son already adores him .

So far so good though. Todaty we did 4 5 minute sessions and he learned stay and come!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Oh , and pictures :) I only have a few from the day we all went and initially evaluated him. I photographed a wedding , my camera is full with the shots. More soon though



 

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nice looking pup. good luck in your training. i think it's going to be easy
for you to achieve your training goals.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thank you :)

His name is Alvin!
 

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Good luck with your training! You might want a different alert than circling if you are going to have him accompanying you out in public. A dog circling around and around someone while on a leash will end up tying up whoever he's circling.
 

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Be sure to expose your pup to as many experiences as possible and try to make them positive. Fiona is my SD. I went the same route you are going. I have a trainer who is working with me. Be sure to keep up in training. My disability causes me to miss some training and Fiona likes to test me sometimes.

Try and think of everywhere your son might go in the next ten years and start exposing puppy to those situations.


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Discussion Starter #11
Good luck with your training! You might want a different alert than circling if you are going to have him accompanying you out in public. A dog circling around and around someone while on a leash will end up tying up whoever he's circling.
Thanks :) Yes , I can see where a leashed dog circling is a problem. I meant circling if my son is eloping . Picture it this way , we are at a summer bbq at a friend's and my son makes it out the door or gate..I would want Alvin off leash staying with him , around him , and alerting the whole time.We have never lost track of our son but have come close to losing sight of him to where he was almost out a door ( usually when we are out. Home is locked up like Alcatraz). It really only takes a second . We don't plan to let out guard down just because we have a SD , but it will be nice to know that if the worst happens and he slips out Alvin will be with him and vocal. Please , keep any other suggestions coming , I appreciate the input!

They are doing great so far. They are bonded. That , and good solid basic obedience and good socialaztion are our priorities right now .

@ Cheyenne , I read your story too and wish you luck as well ! We have been bringing him everywhere he is allowed ( no special privileges until he passes and officially becomes a SDIT). Fortunately , my town is dog friendly . We already had a pint at the local bar :) I have made arrangements for him to meet the local police. It is important that he associated officers with good things.

Thanks for the replies !
 

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Discussion Starter #13
- will retype -
? :)

Alvin is working out fantastic. He and my son are already super bonded . Alvin sits and whines whenever they are separated . Beautiful!

I have not had a GSD in such a long time..I am fully reminded why I love this breed so much , and why my childhood was better for having them!

They play fetch for an hour straight , my son who is about as verbal as a 2 year old at age 5 is telling Alvin to sit , and treating him. Alvin likes to be in whatever room my son is in. His bite inhibition was so easy to teach! I am the only one he is still a little rough with , but even that is becoming rare. We are doing the OUCH ! and end the play/ignore method.

We had a house full of visitors for the 4th , yet Alvin stayed primarily focused on his nuclear family. Even in the heat of play with other dogs , his recall was awesome. And when my son was trying to climb the gate for a getaway Alvin went to him..perfect perfect perfect!!

Even if Alvin does not make SDIT ( I am optimistic though) he will still be a wonderful companion and guardian for my son.

The school wants me to bring him in for show and tell next week :) ( since my son is disabled they have an extended school year) . They know he is not even SDIT yet , but they thought it would be good for my son to show off his new dog in any event , even if he was just a pet. Nice to live in a small town .

He is doing great with "off" ..he has stopped jumping to great people. Not bad for 4 or 5 months! I know he'll go through a rebellious stage . We'll be prepared.

Ah well , just really proud of Alvin and glad he joined our family , no matter what :)
 

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Glad Alvin is doing great. Fiona has regressed some, because her sister is living with us and she would rather play with her than any thing else. I need the energy to work with her more.

Hope Alvin works out great for your son.


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Another update , Alvin is doing great with my son. He follows him and barks whenever he leaves the immediate area ( in home) . When my son is perseverating on something ( for instance dust in a sunbeam ..hands flapping , can't get his attention) , Alvin lightly mouths his flapping hands and play bows..this is getting my son's attention away from his OCD beautifully . He does not ignore Alvin's play requests..he says " see Alvin" and then plays with him. This was not taught , this is just their relationship naturally and that is a GOOD sign. Can't tell you how happy I am to see that happening!
 

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I'm so glad Alvin is helping your son! They sound like a great team:)
 

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Thank you so much :) It is heartwarming to see a boy and his dog bond !
 

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How wonderful! I think thats great how everything is working out. It just shows how smart and wonderful this breed is! Good luck and you and your son are in my prayers.
 

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Thank you Nikitta :)
 

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I just read this thread and think it is wonderful that Alvin is doing so well, so young!
You should start a blog or facebook page and document everything, it may help others in the future in choosing an Autism service dog.
I look forward to reading more about Alvin's accomplishments!!
 
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