Owner trained service dogs are gaining favor for many reasons. Cost, timing, individualized training plans and freedom from some restrictions placed by service dog organizations are just a few. But not many people are naturally able to take the concept of a service dog from paper to reality (for that matter, not many people are naturally able to train pet dogs whose requirements are much less demanding). This is where a professional trainer can help guide an individual from beginning to a functional, working partnership — starting with whether it’s a good idea or not; selecting and acquiring the right “make and model”, defining function, raising, socializing, training and forging a bond.
My own assistance dog training services have increased exponentially — as of this writing I am helping train dogs to assist individual with autism, severe anxiety/depression, PTSD, Parkinson’s Disease and Tourette’s. Clients range from 7 to middle aged. The breeds in training include a couple of Labradoodles, a Golden Retriever, 4 English Springer Spaniels, a Wheaton Terrier and one fast growing Great Dane. This on top of my thriving pet dog training services and Drop in Play (DIPs).
The pups might be raised by me for a few days/weeks/months before placement, after which I support and guide the partnership with the dog’s person to perform the function both at home and in public. Or the pups might go directly to their person and begin working with me in the support/guide function in various levels of intensity depending on need.
The following is a quick video illustrating the work a young client is doing with her 4 1/2 month old Labradoodle puppy, Cora. Cora lived with me full time for nearly 2 months (with some visits to her home during that time) and moved in more or less full time with regular sessions. Owner had expressed frustration that her pup stopped listening to her and wanted me to take her back to “fix” her. And I explained that with me, the puppy listened to everything quite wonderfully and the challenge was to teach the other the skills to improve the dog’s reliability. Here she is successful at asking the dog to do some basic moves — touch, sit, down and stay — with the distraction of a goofy service dog puppy in training (one who arrived April 7 for about a month of intense training and socialization before being placed with his person). This was done after a brief pep talk and review of the process of training.