Oh The Options...

Discussion in 'Service Dog Training' started by lizzie_802, Oct 3, 2011.

  1. lizzie_802 Member

    Hi, Im new here and thought id introduce myself a bit..

    Im starting to look at a service dog as an option for me, I have PTSD, BPD, OCD, and DID (Yep im really broken lol)

    Most of the things id like a service dog to help with, are anxiety issues, mainly in public. The kind of things id like to train it to do would be..

    • Find the exit so if I get overwhelmed I have a clear route out
    • Be able to find the vehicle or family member as I can become disoriented when overwhelmed or after a Dissociative haze.
    • Alert my partner to me having a flashback or nightmare aswell as waking me.
    • Help me distinguish hallucinations (Being trained to greet someone on command, if it is a hallucination, there is nothing for the dog to greet)
    • Stand as a physical barrier between me and a person, alert me if someone comes up behind me
    • Work to refocus my mind if notices me disociating, by bringing me a brush to groom them, or a toy.
    • Use similar distraction if I get into my OCD behaviours (most often scratching obsessively)
    • Provide support and grounding if I become dizzy or my vision blurs
    With my DID , There are times when I require a wheelchair, Can you train a dog to do both the PSD work, and some mobility related work?

    These are the kind of things id need..

    • Aid in and out of wheelchair, Push wheelchair to me
    • Use lightswitches, Open doors, pick things up from the floor
    • Assist in pulling the chair
    • Repositioning my feet on the foot rest.
    I am also looking for your advice on what breeds would be good for this kind of work. I would prefer a german shepeherd, but they are too high energy for me I think, and my partner is in a wheelchair so similarly cant keep up with the excercise one needs.

    Id prefer a short coat breed, and one that is good with children as I have a 10 month old daughter and there are plans for more!

    Thanks in advance for all replies :)
    Jean likes this.

  2. fly30 Experienced Member

    Welcome to you ! I know there are people training service dogs here and I'm sure someone will be able to answer your questions.
    Jean likes this.
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    There are many other members here who will be of more help, including two who train assistance dogs, but I will help in any way I can.

    The most common breeds are Labs, Goldens, and GSDs. All of these breeds are very trainable. Labs and Goldens, in my experience, can cope a little better than GSDs when it comes to lacking in exercise. If you can't get them out every day for walks/jogs, in general Goldens/Labs can do okay whereas in general GSDs may be less tolerant. Not to say that that is the case for every GSD, Golden, Lab. It's not. Just in general.

    Personally, I have looked into becoming an assistance dog trainer and one breed I was interested in was the Rottweiler. I spoke to several breeders, Rottie assistance dog owners, and service dog trainers. The general consensus was that Rotts make GREAT assistance dogs, if you are not a submissive/weaker personality, and if you can give them adequate exercise. Rotts can be dominant dogs, so if are expecting to be able to baby the dog or are a fairly submissive person, a Rott is not the way to go. I would say, just from my personal experience, that Rotts are between a Golden and a GSD in terms of exercise needs. But do understand that that is just from my personal experience with Rotties. Consider contacting some breeders with your specific situation and how often you think you would be able to exercise the dog and see what they think. In my experience, well socialized Rotts looooove anything baby. Puppies, kids, kittens, foals, anything young, they looove them. Excellent surrogate mothers, excellent with kids, generally just great with all things small and young. When well socialized. An assistance dog is probably going to be well socialized anyway if they come from a good breeder and have a good puppy raiser, as well as a good handler/owner. Just my opinion, but I looooove Rotts, but they do need a certain type of owner to be a successful, good fit for someone needing an assistance dog.

    There are many other breeds that can be great for assistance dog work. I spent a ton of time looking into Rotts, so I don't have a lot of input on other breeds as far as the research I have done.
    Definitely do your research, not only just by searching breed characteristics online or in books, but also by contacting breeders and trainers. Breeders have possibly the best input that you can get because they deal with tons of dogs of that breed, and can give you contacts of trainers and owners who may be in the same shoes as you. Do be warned that not all breeders are great, and some may just feed you full of crap to sell their dogs. These people don't even really care about the future of their breed because obviously they don't care if the dog is well suited for the owner. So just be careful.

    Good luck, and I do hope you find the perfect fit! Some other members should come along and give you some more tips. :)
    Jean likes this.
  4. fly30 Experienced Member

    In lizzie's situation, I would not recommand a Rott. They are peculiar and you need to really know this breed to make sure you don't get overwhelmed by the dog. So, an easy solution would be a lab or a golden, or a giant poodle (they are intelligent and obviously well used as service dogs).
  5. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    They do need a certain type of owner. The Rotts/Rott mixes I have owned were extremely trainable, but most all of them were relatively dominant dogs. For a dominant owner, they were very easy dogs to live and work with, a real pleasure. The Rotts I have worked with as a trainer for clients generally have also been pretty easy, but I have met some that were extremely dominant and did need a lot of work. These did belong to very submissive owners who really had to change their lifestyle for the dog. They do seem to be a dog that will run the show if given the chance. Submissive owners have some trouble with them. Dominant owners generally love them.
    One of these days I do want another Rottie, I just love them. ^^ I adore their personality. They are so cute with youngsters of all species, and so loving. One of the few non-crazy breeds I really enjoy, lol! (In comparison to Border Collies and other extremely hyperactive dogs. :D)
    My issue with Goldens as well as Poodles for assistance dog work is grooming. Too many people who are perfectly capable of grooming their dogs don't take the time to properly care for these breeds, so it can be an issue for people are physically incapable of caring for dogs with longer coats. I worked at a grooming salon a few years ago, and I felt so terrible for the Goldens, Poodles, and NUMEROUS other breeds who were so ill-cared for in terms of grooming. Some Goldens aren't as thick/long-coated as others though; they wouldn't be as much trouble.
    BUT, they are excellent assistance dogs. So if you can keep up with the grooming, either one could be a good option. I have a bit of a soft spot for Goldens, and Standard Poodles are a bunch of fun but I really don't like the little ones. Every Standard Poodle I've ever met really just brings a smile to my face, such fun, happy, life-loving dogs. Never met one I didn't like. Personally though I would not want the grooming upkeep.
  6. lizzie_802 Member

    Thanks guys, I dont think I could deal with a Rotti, lovely dogs though. So looks like im back to Labs! Agreed on the grooming.. Also poodles are a bit bonkers for my taste hehe!
  7. fickla Experienced Member

    Be VERY careful when choosing a dog, regardless of breed. While most of the tasks you are looking for can be trained to any dog as long as you know what you're doing (while some seem very difficult to get a dog to understand), the public access training is not something that every dog can do regardless of how well trained they are. Many dogs just can not handle the craziness of public life from obnoxious kids screaming and running up to any dog they see, to gigantic blow up balloons, loud noises, etc. Service dogs need to be bomb proof out in public and many dogs are dropped from programs because they are great dogs but just don't have that solid temparment.

    I highly recommend that you get a dog that is at least 12 months. With a puppy you don't yet know what they are going to develop into but with an older dog what you see is what you get (as long as they are tested in an environment they are comfortable in). Talking to breeders who have older dogs or rescue groups that have their dogs in foster homes will give you a better idea of the dog's personality than trying to do testing at the shelter.

    And of course you MUST have a backup plan in case the dog you choose can't cut it as a service dog. Will you return it to the breeder? Do you have a friend who has already agreed to adopt the dog?

    And already begin your search to find a trainer you can trust to help you train the tasks. Make sure you're comfortable with their methods and that they are confident in their ability to help. But a trainer promising you to train your dog to be a service dog in a set time frame is a red flag. There are so many variables in training that a guarantee, regardless of time frame, is impossible.

    If you decided to go with a program trained dog then check out Assistance Dogs International as they accredit organizations and will provide a member list. Organizations on this list are credible whereas organizations not accredited by ADI can be a hit or miss.
  8. lizzie_802 Member

    Hi, thanks for your reply.

    We cant afford to get a program dog so will be training myself under the supervision of Shadows For Life.. Their "program" involves taking the puppy for 6-8 weeks to get them started on basics, then its placed back at home with the handler, and home visits for the next two years on a regular basis to help with training.

    If the first dog we pick washes out, we have decided we will keep it as a pet dog for my husband. And I will find another one for working.
  9. lizzie_802 Member

    Ive heard a lot about what age to get dogs from, Some people say 12 months, some older, and some 8 weeks.. The advice I had some PsychDogs.Org was to get a breeder puppy at 8 weeks, as Psych dogs have to have a much stronger bond with the handler to notice their "ticks" than a mobility dog that just needs to learn commands. Psych dogs have to do a lot for themselves. So I am looking to get a puppy. I am not restricting myself to 8 weeks, But do not want to get a puppy older than say 4 months.
  10. fly30 Experienced Member

    It's good that you can have a follow up because the work you require from your dog is very difficult and you will both need skilled people for his training.
    Whatever the choice, don't have your puppy before 8 weeks. I would say 10 or 12 weeks is even better. Puppies need to learn a lot from their mums, even if they are not breastfed anymore. Their mum and "dog community" will teach them communication, biting inhibition and all this will help them grow up with a good social behaviour. So that's important to choose a good breeder as well. Make sure the puppy still has contact with his mum when you get him. This is generally the case but you know, some breeders only have the name of "breeder".
  11. lizzie_802 Member

    Yeah, I know what to look far as far as a good breeder, and id never take a pup before 8 weeks :) I used to breed rats (a little different but same principles apply :p) and so know what should be going on :)
  12. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    You should check out SuperNaturalBC's videos on YouTube. She has three different accounts I think, SuperNaturalBC2009, SuperNaturalBC2010, and either 2008 or 2011, I don't remember. You should find her just by searching SuperNaturalBC though. She is an assistance dog trainer and posts videos of how to train various mobility tasks; they are really great. Anything from taking your socks off to opening/closing doors to taking money from you to the clerk at the register; just tons of great videos.
    Best of luck finding your pup. :) Do keep us posted!
  13. lizzie_802 Member

    Thanks! And I will do, im not ready to get one just yet as i am planning to move ! so will wait till im settled again :)
  14. Me and Clancy New Member

    I actually have friends and work with NEADS service dogs in training! GREAT dogs! very much help, but if you can not get a service/ NEADS dog, then a good thing would be to get a lab or german shepard, and train it good, once you get it started like I am working with my dog right now, to get his K-9 Good citizen that way from there I can work on getting his Therapy Dog test and make him a therapy dog, which is good because my mom sometimes has to go to hospitals and that means that my dog could go into hospitals, nursing homes, schools, libraries... ect. but no stores. hope this helped. :)

    Attached Files:

  15. fickla Experienced Member

    Many of the accredited programs provide their dogs free of charge minus an application fee of around $50. A few other programs may charge a fee but will help you fundraise for it. So I wouldn't rule out an program dog.

    I'm sorry, but I don't think the argument that psych dogs need a stronger bond holds any weight. With any working team the bond has to be there or there's no way a dog will work once the tangible rewards are gone. With any type of alert dog the dog needs to be a bit more on the sensitive side to notice minute changes in their handler's behavior, smells, etc but it doesn't mean that they are more bonded. And there is no reason to say that a puppy will bond any more to you than an older dog. When you consider that program trained dogs go to their person between 1.5-3yrs old, they are still able to heavily bond and learn to pre alert depending on what they've been trained for.

    As for puppy vs aldult that is completely your call. The main benefit of getting a puppy is that you can control the early socialization. But there is also a greater chance that the puppy might not make versus an adult dog you already know the temperament of. The fact that you have a plan for your future dog is fabulous.

    Good luck in your search!
  16. lizzie_802 Member

    fickla - Could you point me in the direction of those programs? Ive not see any like that who do Psych dogs! I will be moving to Texas aswell ..
  17. lizzie_802 Member

    The other reason I ruled out a program dog is because im looking to have a dog who can work both with my mental disabilities, and mobility issues. Many programs wont Cross train a dog wheras if I am training it myself, I can do that within the window of time that they learn the fastest, which I could miss with an older dog. Also getting a puppy means I will start having the emotional suport of a dog immediately, rather than waiting two extra years for a trained dog.
  18. lizzie_802 Member

    Thanks Clancy, Ill look at NEADS! Do they do multi-disibility training?
  19. Me and Clancy New Member

    http://www.neads.org/ For more information, they are able to retrieve things, some are good balance dogs, some work for people with PSD and a lot of other things they are wonderful
  20. lizzie_802 Member

    Thanks, I have emailed them :)

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