Welcome Charlie Bales, assistance dog support and access skills training specialist. Charlie joins us as a resource for those needing more information on what it takes to train an assistance/service dog to aid a disabled handler.
We encourage those who are looking into training a dog to be an assistance dog to start with basic training and work towards passing their Canine Good Citizen test. Once you and your dog are clicker savvy and have your CGC, contact Charlie for assistance in making a training plan as well as private lessons to help you achieve your goals of teaching your dog specific skills to mediate your disability.
In accordance with the A.D.A. (Americans With Disabilities Act): Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. If a dog is trained and works within this definition, the dog is considered to be a service animal under the A.D.A. regardless of who trained the animal, and whether or not it has been "certified" by an agency.
What is a Service Dog or Assistance Dog?
When many people hear the term service dog, they think of "guide dog for the blind." In fact, dogs can be trained to perform a long list of tasks that help people with disabilities live more independent lives. Some examples are:
therapy dog is NOT a service dog.
Dogs who visit hospitals and nursing homes with their able bodied handlers may provide Animal Assisted Therapy in their work with patients, but they do not have access rights under the ADA as a Service or Assistance Dog.
How does a person acquire a service dog?
There are organizations throughout the country that train dogs for service work. The dogs in these programs are temperament tested, screened for medical conditions and extensively socialized prior to being trained to perform specific service tasks. These dogs are then paired with a disabled person and both the dog and its new person go through a training program to insure a compatible match.
Some people train their own service dogs.
Training your own dog can be a rewarding experience. But keep in mind that training a service dog requires a great deal of skill and at some point in the training process most novice trainers benefit from the services of a professional who is experienced in dog training.
Training a service dog requires a financial investment. Beyond the initial cost of adopting a dog, food, collars, leads, harnesses, and other training tools are necessary throughout the life of the dog. Money should also be budgeted for annual veterinary exams and dog training classes or other professional assistance.
for an excellent description of minimum skills
and Public Access Standard for a working Service Dog.
Click HERE for links for videos/DVDs for teaching specific skills.
Sue Ailsby's Training Levels: Steps to Success (book). Sue also has her older version of the Levels for free on her website. There is a Yahoo group where both versions are discussed. Sue trains her own service dog and has been helping others do it for years. There are lots of folks on the list using the Levels to train their own service dogs. The link to the group is at the bottom of her home page: http://www.sue-eh.ca/
Train Your Own Assistance Dog
- 4 DVD set by Barb Handelman
Be sure to read Karen Pryor's review of the DVD set on the above link!
for an article on How Long Does it Take to Train a Service Dog?
Selecting a Dog for Service Work
Selecting a dog for service work is a sobering experience. According to Paws with a Cause, an organization that has been rescuing dogs to train as assistance dogs for nearly 23 years, an average of only 6% pass the preliminary temperament test. Of the dogs who pass the preliminary test, approximately 1 in 8 successfully complete the training program.
It is difficult to temperament test dogs in a shelter situation and it takes a specially trained, experienced eye and knowledge of breed traits and canine behavior to select a service dog prospect. Whether you select a puppy or an adult dog is an individual choice. There are advantages either way, but most organizations prefer to start with a 1-2-year-old dog. Adult behaviors will be apparent by this age, yet the dog will hopefully have many healthy working years ahead.
Puppy and adult temperament tests are different, and will help show how well suited the dog is to assistance work. The tests are designed to reveal whether the dog will be able to accept a variety of unusual sensations, be able to overcome natural instincts to run, chase, greet, and scavenge when working, and be easy to train.
It takes an outstanding dog to do this type of work. You may look for months before the "right" dog comes along. If you are thinking about acquiring a dog to train for service work, we recommend you consider your decision long and hard. Do extensive research to make sure you are up for the physical and mental challenges and make a realistic assessment of your training skills before visiting the shelter and taking a dog home.
dog must have the temperament and social skills for the job
A service dog needs to be extremely stable and confident. A dog who is nervous or uncomfortable when out in public is not the right dog for service work. A proper service dog must deal with unpredictable and novel situations every day. A suitable service dog prospect takes everything in stride: noises, people in all shapes, colors and sizes, especially children, big equipment, traffic, the unexpected. A service dog should never be disruptive or be perceived as a threat. Barking, growling, spooking, lunging should never be seen in a working service dog. If a dog is to be responsible for taking care of its handler's needs, it cannot be worried about its own safety. A dog who works under duress will break down mentally
When a dog is a public access service dog, he is under a lot of scrutiny from individuals who may not like dogs or don't feel they should have the access they do. Therefore, service dogs should always be clean, brushed, and have the very best manners. When accompanying his person in a restaurant or office, he should be quiet and not call attention to himself. A good dog is seen, but not heard - or smelled!
The following resources might provide some of the information you need in your quest for a service dog:
Delta Society National Service Dog Center
Service Dog Resources. Service dog materials and books available from Delta Society.
Minimum Standards for Service Dogs (downloadable pdf document)
Or order it in book form from the Delta Society for $10
Association of Assistance Dog Partners
A non-profit, cross-disability organization representing people partnered with guide, hearing and service dogs.
Service Dog Society
"Dedicated to responsible Psychiatric Service Dog education, advocacy, research and training facilitation."
Assistance Dogs International, Inc.
Assistance Dog Club of Puget Sound
For local support regarding access issues, contact
The Coalition for Responsible Disabled
612 N. Maple, Spokane, WA 99201 (509) 326-6355
Dogs for the Blind Access-Related Legislation (relates to all
kids of assistance dogs)
Human Rights Commission - Service Animal Questions
Human Rights Commission - Complaint Process
Federal Policies on Access for Service Animals
Friends for Life: Humane Housing for Animals and People
This booklet explains the federal laws that protect your right to keep pets in all federally-assisted housing, and if you are disabled, your right to an assistive animal in all types of rental housing.
Prodigies - Neo-natal and Early Learning Program ... 1-707-228-0679
Puppy Prodigies is an innovative program that services the entire United States. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which helps puppies achieve their full potential, thereby enriching the lives of those they assist. As you know, dogs assist people in many, many ways. From saving lives, to creating independence, to being a faithful companion.
With A Cause…1
Paws With A Cause® trains Assistance Dogs nationally for people with disabilities and provides lifetime team support which encourages independence.
Assistance Dogs…1 (360) 293-5609
Summit Assistance Dogs is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing highly skilled assistance dogs to people with disabilities or institutions. They currently train service dogs for people with mobility disabilities, hearing dogs for people with hearing disabilities and social/therapy dogs to be used in conjunction with a caregiver or healthcare professional to aid people in various therapeutic capacities. They are located in Anacortes, WA.
established in 1997 to provide high quality assistance dogs to people with mobility, hearing, neurologic or psychiatric disabilities, provide facility dogs to retirement centers and to provide a better quality of life for unwanted domestic and farm animals at our shelter or through adoption.
Companions for Independence
Canine Companions for Independence is a national nonprofit that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly-trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships
Francisco SPCA Hearing Dog Program
The San Francisco SPCA initiated the Hearing Dog Program in July, 1978. The Hearing Dog concept, when applied to an Animal Shelter framework, has resulted in a unique and exciting combination, offering assistance to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, while at the same time, giving previously homeless animals a chance for useful lives of love and service.
for the Deaf, Inc., Central Point, OR 97502 Voice/TDD 541-826-9220 Fax
DFD rescues dogs that might otherwise be euthanized from animal shelters throughout the Pacific Northwest. We choose dogs primarily between the ages of eight months and three years old, that are people friendly and motivated by toys, treats and affection. We place 30-40 Hearing Dogs and 90-120 Career Change Dogs annually.
Books to help you train your own service dog:
One and Teamwork Two
Dog Training Manuals for People with Disabilities, by Stewart Nordensson and Lydia Kelley.
Lend Me An Ear: the Temperament, Selection and Training of the Hearing Dog by Martha Hoffman.
OC-Assist e-list… An email list of people with disabilities who are training their own service dogs. The purpose of the list is to offer support and training tips. You can access the list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OC-Assist-Dogs
www.clickertails.com…a website hosted by Debi Davis, a nationally recognized leader in training one's own service dog.
Need more information?
Disabled Service Animals Links