Service Dogs Perform an Important Service to People and Society

There are many dogs out there with a mission. They meet the letter carrier every morning and take their owner all of their mail. They pay attention and if their owner makes a mistake like forgetting to turn off the stove, these faithful dogs let their owners know.

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When they travel together, these well trained dogs are on their best behavior and will often lie right under the owner’s seat. But none of this came naturally. This is a highly trained, certified service dog.

Service dogs do more than perform tasks for their people though. Studies show they become loyal friends to their humans, make it possible for their owners to rely less on other people and bring back a feeling of freedom, help their owners become more active socially, and relieve family members of the worry of their beloved ones being alone.

Types Of Service Dogs

Service dogs come in all breeds and sizes, although the most common are Labrador and Golden Retrievers. In their training, they’re matched to their future owner’s disability. Many are trained to assist people in wheelchairs or owners with balance issues.

Guide dogs assist people who are blind. Hearing dogs let people who are hard of hearing or deaf know about important sounds. Psychiatric service dogs help their owners cope with such mental illnesses as PTSD, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, autism, and anxiety or depression. Those dogs do double duty by performing tasks and relieving stress. There are also dogs who are trained to alert their owners when their blood sugar is low or a seizure is approaching. Their alerts can be lifesaving warnings. 

Service Dog Training

Although there are many service dog training courses online, many come from specialized breeding programs. Starting as puppies, dogs in the program learn impeccable manners and how to do the tasks that match their future owners’ disabilities. The training can last for up to two years and can cost as much as $25,000.

It begins with the commands all dogs need to know – sit, stay, come, heel, down, and stand. They also begin to learn how to focus entirely on their future owners and not become distracted.

Learning good manners is part of the training, too. Like any dog, a service dog needs to know impulse control, and how to sit politely when greeting people, stay still when his owner is putting his leash on, and more.

If you want to train your service dog yourself, avoid the websites that say you can train your dog in a day. Start by hiring a skilled, reputable trainer to walk you through every step of the process and will be available to give advice throughout the dog’s life.

Adopting Service Dogs With Incomplete Training

Every year, the drop-out rate for dogs in training with service organizations is 50-75 percent. These aren‘t “bad” dogs. They’re simply not cut out for the job. Sometimes, service dogs become “career changers” because they’re not a good match for their owners. But health is the main reason dogs drop out of training.

Service dogs need to be alert and at the top of their game constantly, with no sick days. But that’s not possible when the dog isn’t feeling well. Adopting a dog from a service agency can be expensive and could take a year or more. Having a dog who’s partially trained and knows the basics could make the adoption worth the money and wait though.

Another option is to adopt a dog from a shelter and train him yourself. The shelter staff can tell you which dogs would be good service dogs. Spend some time with the dog before you take him home. And have a professional trainer lined up because you’re going to need infinite patience and guidance along the way.

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