People with physical and mental disabilities can benefit a lot from their caregiver and their private guard service dogs. They can alert their handler to unexpected signs of dangers and help them perform various tasks, which greatly reduces the risks due to their disabilities. However, not all dogs are good service dog candidates, as this depends on temperament, trainability, age, etc. Those factors increase the threshold for service dogs and reduce the number of qualified canine helpers. People are worried that the limited number of service dogs would increase costs and make it harder to compete for these canines. This post will dispel your concerns and provide you with practical ways to get a service dog.
In this article
How to get a service dog
Before getting a service dog, you should consult your doctor whether a service dog can improve your health and what type of service dog is suitable for you. The doctor will determine your disability based on the definition of “disabled” in your country and probably provide you with professional advice on service dogs. Once he/she advocates your thought, you can start to select or cultivate your service dog. Two common ways to get a service dog are:
• Apply for a trained service dog from an agency
• Disciplining a dog to be a qualified service dog by hiring a trainer/sending it to training classes/training it by yourself.
The final decision should depend on your practical situation, such as affordable finances, time and expectation. You may better appreciate these two methods once you have read their pros and cons.
Apply for a trained service dog
Many agencies and organizations can provide a variety of trained service dogs. All you have to do is to tell them your expectation - what you the dog has to do for you - and fill out simple forms. They will then respond to your needs and determine the appropriate specialized service dog for you. You will then be put on a list for service dogs. The waiting time varies in different agencies. You may also be required to pay the down payment or applicable fees at the same time.
• Saves you time and energy to train a service dog.
• The procedure is simpler and probably faster than if you train a service dog yourself.
• The cost is high, ranging from $15000 to $50000. However, if your service dog is to provide emotional comfort or alert you to dangerous signs due to diabetics or seizures, the price may be lower because intensive training, that a service dog for physical disabilities must complete, is not required.
• It takes some time to familiarize yourself with your new dog after taking it home. Your adult service dog also has to adapt quickly to your sound and habits, as well as other family members and the new home.
• You could not choose your favorite dog breed and accompany your dog as it grows up.
Train your dog to be a service dog
Compared to waiting for a trained service dog, many people prefer to train a service helper step by step and enjoy the daily progress. However, training a service dog is a tedious process, as the training can take a few hours each day and last at least one year.
If you do not currently have a dog, it is advisable to select a candidate puppy from a reputable breeder who breeds canines for the service industry. The parents of these dogs are shown to be of high quality and trainability, so that their offspring are more likely to be service dog candidates. The cost of buying a puppy (between $2000 and $4000) may be higher than the fees for adopting a rescue dog (between $250 and $500). However, finding the right rescue dog is a challenge as you are unfamiliar with its history and potentially badly trained behavior.
If you already have a beloved furry friend as a pet and intend to train it to be a service dog, you should first do a character test to see whether your pup is a great service dog candidate. Usually, it can be completed in one session and costs between $300 and $400. The test result might show that due to certain unfortunate experiences or lack of training during puppyhood, it is not recommended to discipline your pup to be a service animal. However, you should not be discouraged as you or the trainer can re-train your pup to overcome these difficulties and correct its behavior. Compared to a well-trained pup, this can cost a lot of time and money.
In terms of training, there are three common methods: hiring a trainer, participating in training classes, and training on your own.
1. Hire a reputable trainer
An experienced trainer can educate your dog, shorten the training period and improve the quality of the training. How long it takes to train your dog also depends on a number of factors, such as the speed of learning, the previous training, the skills or goals that have been set for him, and the time you spend with him to accomplish certain tasks. Another advantage of hiring a trainer is convenience. The daily training can be done in your backyard or at the place surrounding your house. This can save you the time you would otherwise spend sending your pup to doggy schools, which is beneficial for the owner whose mobility is restricted.
Normally, one-to-one training is more expensive but more specific than group classes, which range from $150 to $250 per hour. For this reason, it is recommended that you first teach your dog basic obedience training and then hire a trainer to train intensive tasks.
Pros: Highly efficient and convenient. An experienced, resourceful trainer can create a sensible training plan based on the temperament of different dogs, speeding up the entire training process. You can also specify where the trainer should train your pup. Choosing places near your home (backyards, parks, etc.) can save you time and allow you to live with your pup during the training phase.
Cons: High costs. Private lessons are usually too expensive for a normal family.
2. Train on your own
The cheapest method is to train your dog by yourself. To discipline a service dog, you must first become a qualified trainer who is 100% committed to learning training skills and practicing them with your pup. There are many methods of learning ways to reach the goal. For example, using books, guidelines, and online groups, as well as getting information from experienced and reputable trainers via blogs and YouTube.
The basic areas of service dog training include manners, obedience, public access skills (evidence), and task training. It is advisable to start the training from puppyhood so that the pup will behave politely and obediently and skips the process of correcting unwanted behaviors. When training the public access skills, you may be evicted by staff at restaurants, hotels, or stores because you are carrying a service dog in training (SDiT). Actually, the ADA protects only the public access rights of service dogs and their owners. It is therefore recommended that you inquire about the pet rules of the place you intend to go with your SDiT.
Pros: Low cost. It could be expensive, however, if you (the owner) have to take lessons so that you can train your dog faster and more effectively so that he acquires the necessary skills.
Cons: Time consuming. Make sure you have plenty of free time before choosing this method. However, if your service dog is to assist with non-physical disabilities such as diabetics and social anxiety, his tasks may be easier than other types of service dogs such as guide dogs. This means that you do not need to spend too much time to teach special tasks.
3. Attend training courses
Another type of service dog training is to participate in group training courses in training schools or through a trainer. Group lessons include puppy classes, basic manners classes, advanced manners classes, public access field trips, assistance task training, etc. The cost of each class is about $150/lesson and varies by region. The total cost of training in the first year depends on the number of classes and the trainability of your pup, ranging from $3650 to $40250.
Pros: Optimal. The different courses offer owners different options, which is beneficial for the owner with limited training experience.
Cons: Inconvenient. For some group lessons, you may have to send and pick up your dog every day. If the class has more than 5 dogs, the trainer might not take care of each trainee, especially not the energetic ones.
Each training method has pros and cons, so owners should make a decision based on their needs and their economic situation. Keep in mind that besides the additional costs of the service dog (eg training course, training tests and service dog registration) you must also pay the cost of a common pet (like supplies and vaccines).