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Service Dog Training

nikita service dogTraining your own service dog can be a daunting task. The cost of buying one is prohibitive for some families. This doesn’t negate the, often life saving, need for service dogs.

What is a Service Dog?

A service dog is simply any dog that makes your life easier. You do not need a visible disability or medical proof of need to train a dog to improve your lifestyle, or save your life in the case of an emergency.

Note: In Canada there is no certification for Service Dogs
There is no Registry
There is no ‘special training course you must take’
You only need a doctor’s letter for Public Access

There are laws that govern ‘public access’ service dogs.

You do not need government approval to train a dog to protect and help as caregivers for children with mental and physical needs.

Having a service dog does ‘not’ guarantee that you will be able to take the dog into public.

If your dog is not well behaved then you can be told to remove your dog, and you must.

If you can function safely in public, then you don’t need a public access service dog.

Public Access

In Ontario, you do need a letter from a doctor that states that you need help in public. Each province has different rules.

This may not be full time help, and it doesn’t need to be lifesaving. A mobility dog may only carry a purse and wallet, or pick up things, block you so people do not knock you over. A detection dog may sniff your restaurant food to see if there are any allergens in it – or a dog can be trained to make sure your child doesn’t come into contact with peanut butter at school and ‘kids’ activities.

Just because a dog does not have public access doesn’t mean it cannot provide a service and make your life easier, or save your life.

One thing you need to understand about public access. Just because you have the letter doesn’t mean that it is your right to take your dog. If your service dog cannot do any task in the establishment then there is no reason to allow your dog access. For example, if your dog identifies food allergies then your doctor may not permit access.

Also, private organizations, clubs and businesses which are not open to the public have the right to refuse your dog.

“In training” service dogs are also at the discretion of the business owner. They may ask you to remove the dog.

In Canada, a dog needs to perform 3 tasks (outside of the home) that are necessary to give you freedom, or safety. If you do not need this then you cannot have a dog for public access. So your dog may wake you up in the morning, wake you up from a nightmare, call someone if you are ‘out of it’, call someone if you have seizures when your sugar is low, but these tasks do not mean the dog should have, or needs, access.

What a Service Dog Cannot Do…

A service dog is a living, breathing animal. It has bad days. It needs to play, be exercised, constant training – and love. Without proper care and vetting your dog may fail, and you will shorten its life.

It may have a hereditary defect that limits its ability to work.

Most important – a dog is not a highly calibrated piece of medical equipment. A dog can ‘help’ but it may not be able to catch every incident that can cause a diabetic coma. A dog may fail you when you need it most. Think of a dog as ‘stacking’ the odds in your favor. But dogs are not infallible.

Can Any Trainer Train a Service Dog?

There are a lot of good trainers that have helped people train their service dogs. However, in many cases they are not exposed to the problems you’ll face with public access. there are differences in how public access dogs are trained. There are situations they will need to face that are not dealt with in typical situations.

When we work with service dogs we introduce situations that they may not normally face. We also do it in a way to  prevent reactivity.

Also, service dogs need to think. Even positive dog training is about ‘control.’ A service dog needs to think. You don’t want your dog to ‘wait’ for a command to block people from knocking you down, or from identifying a diabetic incident.

A ‘non service dog trainer’ may also not notice cues you give the dog that can endanger your life. For example, you may have a perfectly trained detection dog. But if the dog is trained to an ‘invisible’ cue, and not the scent, then you may be lessening your dog’s effectiveness.

Financial Support

There is government support if your service dog is provided by a not for profit. ODSP may help with enough money to help pay for your dog’s food.

The Farley Foundation will help with medical costs if you cannot afford them.
There is no government support to help you buy a dog.

How We Can Help…

We can help you choose a suitable dog, and train it. We can help with the behavioral and motivational tasks that will reduce the risk of your dog washing out. We can also teach you how medical alert, seizure alert, and diabetic assistant dogs (DAD) are trained.

We can train to the ADI level, and at the moment our membership is pending a vote that will come early in 2015 allowing ‘for profit’ trainers to join.

We can assess your dog,

  • let you know if you need to work on anything,
  • help you understand and correct behavior problems.
  • Help you train your dog far beyond the levels most novices can

We Cannot

  • certify your dog
  • train your dog so that you qualify for ODSP
  • guarantee that your dog will never fail you
  • guarantee that your pet will become a service dog.
  • guarantee that the dog you purchase will not ‘wash out.’

We Will Not

  • Train a dog that has not passed our own evaluation
  • Train a dog over 8 months old
  • Train a dog with aggression issues
  • Train a dog where we feel the dog is at risk, or you are at risk.