© Tammie Rogers 2020

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Expectations of the Dog Please   take   a   moment   to   contemplate   and   to   answer  these questions:  What  tasks  or  skills    will  a   Service  dog  perform   that   will   provide   positive   intervention   for  my disability ?      How  will a Service  dog   make  my  life  better  than  it is now?       Give   these         questions   a   moment’s         time.               Should         you         choose         to         move         into         the         application         process,         you         will   see   these         questions         again        and   will   be   asked   to   put  them into writing.     It’s         interesting            how         many         people         think         that         they         want         a         Service         Dog,         but         have         not         considered      the         very            specific         details         of         how        the         dog         will         assist         them         on         a         daily         basis.            A      Service      Dog      does      not            change         the         physical         disabilities         that         you         have.      The   media   often portrays   only      the         very      best,      most   rewarding         side         of   owning         a         Service      Dog,         so      it         is   easy         to         believe         that         it         will         change      your      life     completely.     A         Service         Dog         can   help         you         adapt         to         situations         in      a      way         that         you         were         once            unable      to         do.            But,      in      order         to         do         that,         specific        tasks   must  b   identified   and   then   reinforced.          You   may      find   that         it      is         far      easier         to         use         a         walking      cane      for      mobility         issues      than         to      have   a      dog   with   you   at      all   times.                  You         may         find        that         you         are         rarely         away         from         someone         (even         a         helpful            stranger)         who      can         pick         up         a         fallen         object         from         the         floor,         on         the         rare        occasion         that         might   happen         to         you,   making      a      Service   Dog   truly   unnecessary   or         cumbersome,         if      that   is   one   of         the      jobs   your   hope   your   dog     will   provide.       Specifically   identifying   trainable tasks  is critical in making the final   assessment  as  to whether a Service Dog is the right option for you. A         psychiatric      service      dog   can   mitigate      panic/anxiety   disorders   or   PTSD   by         helping         the      individual      determine         things         that         are         not         real         (if      a door   bangs   shut   and   yourdog   remains   calmly      at   your   side,   you   can   use   that   information   to   determine   that   things      are         OK         -         your      panicked      feeling        is   not  "real").      But,      a      Service      Dog's      job      is   not   to   assess   real      threats   or   act      as      a   Security         Guard.               Personal         protection         dogs         are         are         not         granted         equal        access      under   the   federal   ADA   law,   nor      should   a   Service   Dog   be   trained   to   perform   protection   tasks,      in   our      opinion.         A   dog   that   is   expected   to   be hyper-vigilant cannot also help ground their handler when she feels ovewhelmed. Be   aware   that   unless   it   has   been   intentionally   trained   about   specific   threats   (i.e.   a   Seeing   Eye   Dog   learns   about   the   perils   around   traffic),   most   dogs cannot   detect   many   life-threatening   situations.         For      example,   we   have   been   asked   to   teach   a   dog   to   “protect”   a   person   who   has   seizures   from   falling down   a   flight      of   stairs.      If   the   stairs   are   ones   that   the   dog   safely   negotiates   every   day   without   issue,   he   is   not   likely   to      rationalize   that   the   stairs   pose a risk to someone who is having a seizure near the top landing.   A dog cannot make that leap of rational thought. A   dog   that   detect   a   person’s   shift   from   normal   (such   as   a   seizure   or   other   “episode”)      doesn’t   know   that   it   is   a   “bad”   thing,   only   that   he   can   detect   it.        If   we   want   the   dog   to   alert   us   that   he   is   sensing   the   event,   we   need   to   train   him   that   we   appreciate   his   ability   to   recognize   the   situation   and   to communicate   his   detection   by   performing   a   behavior   that   we   have   previously   taught   him.         In   essence,   he   must   be   taught   that   your   negative condition is something that is worhty of his attention because he’ll get something he covets when it occurs to you. A   dog   cannot   be   selectively   trained   to   wake   you   from   a   bad   dream   because   we   human   trainers   cannot   differentiate   whether   you   are   having   a   good dream or a  bad one, so we don’t have any cue to give the dog.   A dog cannot distinguish that a razor blade can be used in  a positive way to shave your legs versus cut yourself during a psychiatric medical event.   However,   dogs   do      have   an   innate   capacity   to   assess   us   and   interact   with   us   differently   depending   upon   our   immediate      disposition.         We   can harness   this   capacity   by   establishing   the   proper   relationship   with   the   dog   where   he      perceives   us   as   a   valued   member   of   his   pack   -   an   individual worthy   of   his   attention   and   assistance.      Then,   if   we      select   a   breed   of   dog   that   has   been   selectively   bred   to   work   directly   for   people,   an   incredible relationship   can      be   forged   and   grown   to   the   point   that   we   could   begin   to   believe   that   the   dog   is   psychic   and   can   perform      miracles.      But,   that   takes time and effort.   You should expect that you will need to continue to work with your  dog on a daily basis for his entire career with you.