Pre-work Read this page carefully, then decide whether a Service Dog is right for you
© 2017 Committed Canine, LLC

Is a Service Dog right for you?

Owning and working with a Service Dog  could be one of the most satisfying and  beneficial experiences of your life.   However, it could also prove to be a  frustrating and taxing endeavor.  The  difference between benefit and burden lies  solely within you.   Since you are visiting our website, you may have already  dreamed of all of the benefits this  magnificent animal might bring you.  The  purpose of this page is to guide you to the  best possible decision for you.

Expectations of the Dog

Please   take   a   moment   to   contemplate   and   to   answer  this question;    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   disorders   or   PTSD   by   helping   the   individual  determine   things   that   are   not   real   (if   a   door   bangs   shut   and   your   dog   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. Be aware that unless it has been specifically provided the opportunity to learn about specific dangers (such as a Seeing Eye Dog learns about traffic dangers), 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 stair pose a risk to someone who is having a seizure at the top of the stairs.   A dog cannot envision that threat.   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 the dog that we appreciate his ability to detect the event and to communicate that by performing a behavior that we have previously taught him.  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 work.   You should expect that you will need to continue to work with your dog on a daily basis for his entire career with you.

What is a trained dog?

It is critical that you understand that, to be exact, there is no such thing as a “trained dog”.   There are dogs that hve been highly educated to perform certain skills and tasks. During your Handler Training or T.E.A.C.H. class you will learn how to train your dog using operant conditioning; which includes both positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement & positive and negative punishment, too.   Using this balanced approach to training allows us to show you how ot create desired behaviors and to reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors. As the owner of a Service Dog it will be your responsibility to follow through with the training that you learn in T.E.A.C.H. or at your Handlers Training class when you come to get your Custom Trained dog.   So, you must ask yourself whether you are willing and able to rehearse skills and reinforce behaviors with your dog every day for the duratoin of is service to you (up to 10 years.) If that sounds overwhelming, then a Service Dog is probably not right for you.   However, if you are up for the challenge, you may find it very rewarding to have such an incredible relationship with your dog.

Standing out in a crowd

A serious consideration for those living with “invisible disabilities” such as deafness, psychiatric disabilities or seizures/intermittent medical events is the potential loss of your anonymity.  Without a Service dog you blend into society quite well.  Once you have a Service dog with you that cloak is gone.  The general public has been educated and they know that if you have a Service dog you must also have a disability.  You will be stopped, questioned and watched.  You may be treated as if you are blind, even if your dog's function is to serve as a Medical Alert animal.  Although it may seem like an admirable function to "educate" people about the use of Service Dogs, there will be times when you have no interest in interacting with anyone for any reason, yet, you will still be stopped and addressed as to why you have that dog and why you need him.           Many Americans love dogs and many have dogs of their own.  Be forewarned your Service dog will draw the attention of every dog owner in the mall, on the street and in the workplace.  They will stop to visit, to ask questions and to share stories about their dogs.  If you are introverted or self conscious this may prove to be quite annoying and in some cases even stressful beyond belief.  Think this through… your Service dog may accompany you everywhere you go for the next eight years or more.  You will be required to instruct strangers that they may not pet your dog while it is working, even if he is wearing a cape that clearly states, "I'm Working Do Not Pet Me".  It will also be your responsibility to reinforce with your dog that the  visitors that approach you with the intent of interacting or petting your dog are off-limits and that your dog is to remain on task and not be distracted.  This could mean that you need to correct your dog in front of others, people who may believe you are cruel to give feedback to your dog about his performance.
The Bottom Line

After taking the time to answer all of the  questions that have been proposed here, it  all boils down to answering this question,  “do the projected

benefits of a Service dog  outweigh the expected burdens?”  If the  answer is yes, then you may very well be  an excellent candidate for a Service Dog.  

However, if the answer is no, you should  consider seeking alternative interventions  for your disability.  Consider making a chart  with Burdens on

one side and Benefits on  the other.  List all the possible pros and  cons and then take time to review the lists.   If you are happy in your decision that

you  can accept all of the burdens an Service  dog may bring in order to reap the benefits,  please review the  pages for the T.E.A.C.H. program or a

Custom Trained SD. Then, if you are still happy with  the decision to participate in the Committed  Canine program, feel free to complete the 

application, which will contain a question as  to whether you have read and fully  understand the information on this pre-work page.