September is all about service dogs and dedicated to ‘Service Dogs’. With that in mind, I decided to look into how these canines are chosen, who trains them, what that training might include, and how these dogs are matched to their respective masters.
Companion Dog vs. Service Dog
First, I located the Disabled Veteran Empowered Network which tells of the differences between Companion Dogs and Service Dogs. They show that Companion Dogs are not able to escort their person into public establishments nor are they trained to tolerate a variety of experiences as are Service Dogs. Also Companion Dogs are not trained for one specific person but are mainly for emotional support. Whereas Service Dogs are not for emotional support but they are trained to help with one person’s specific needs. You can see the chart here: Disabled Veteran Empowered Network.
The cost is an average of $3000 for a Companion or Therapy Dog, they report, as opposed to a whopping $25,000 to $40,000 for a Service Dog. Companion Dogs do need a doctor’s letter and are good for emotional help for our returning veterans or someone experiencing anxiety issues. Service Dogs are used to assist mentally and physically handicapped persons with the handler’s particular needs.
How are Service Dogs Chosen
In an article from the American Kennel Club entitled “Service Dogs 101“, an organization named NEADS World Class Service Dogs breeds and receives some puppies donated by pure bred breeders. This organization “..works closely with reputable breeders to determine whether their puppies are appropriate for our program based on the temperament, health and behavioral history of both the dam and the sire. NEADS also selects alert, high-energy dogs from animal shelters and rescue groups as candidates for training as hearing dogs. ”
They mainly use Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds but maintain that regardless of breed, the dogs best as Service Dogs are those that “are handler-focused, desensitized to distractions, and highly trained to reliably perform specific tasks. They are not easily diverted from their tasks at home or in public and remain attentive and responsive to their owners while working”.
Training depends on the need or needs involved. For example, there are Guide Dogs for the Blind, Hearing Dogs for the Hearing Impaired, Mobility Dogs for balance problems, Medical Alert Dogs for those with seizure issues for instance, psychiatric service dogs, and so on. They can be large or small depending on their handler’s needs. Papillion’s the article mentions as being great ‘hearing’ dogs; while a mobility issue would definitely call for a larger breed.
Professional Training or Handler Training
There are many professional training organizations available to train service dogs. However, a handler is not required by the American Disabilities Act and USA service dog laws to use a pro training group; the handler can train their ‘service dog’ themselves. A handler can also apply for a certification to more easily enable themselves getting into public areas with their dog and even on a plane. But they do have to have a disability and train their dog to assist them with that specific disability, i.e., to be able to notice a drop in blood sugar and acknowledge such for their diabetic handler or to be able to let another person know of the drop, and to retrieve medications.
Since the training is so involved and expensive many handlers do the training themselves. They can also take advantage of online training tutorials. One online training company is Service Dog Training School.org. The training needs to be an ongoing process in order to keep the service dog in tune and alert. There are just two questions a handler can be asked or challenged with and those are: “Is the service dog required due to a disability?”; and, “What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”. A handler can also register their service dog to make it easier for any one questioning them to verify his or her service animal.
The AKC has some recommended training courses available to handlers for foundation training issues like their AKC Canine Good Citizen program and their Confidant Puppy E-Learning course. These programs are available for pure-breed or mixed-breed dogs.
There are also organizations who do provide service animals for people with disabilities. One such organization is Canine Companions which trains service dogs and collects donations just for the purpose of being able to provide a person with a disability their own service dog free of charge.
Professional training groups report that 50 and up to 70 percent of their dogs fail to meet their qualification process. And, in that event, there are many households available to scoop up those animals.
ShareAmerica estimates there are 500,000 service dogs in the USA. There is no question how admired these animals are for helping so many individuals with disabilities live more independent happier lives.
It takes 1 to 2 years to train a service dog for the dog’s public interactions and for the particular disability tasks the dog needs to learn. And, as stated above, it is an ongoing process.
From Big Geek Daddy, see some heroes: https://biggeekdad.com/2021/09/awesome-everyday-heroes/.
And, some best pets: https://biggeekdad.com/2021/08/best-pets-of-the-month-14/.
Lastly, check out saving animals: https://biggeekdad.com/2020/09/animals-saving-other-animals/.
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