© Tammie Rogers 2018

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Why Have We Decided to Request Clients Provide Their Own Dog? After working with Service Dogs and their people for over a decade, we became disheartened by a few, recurring issues. They   all   seemed   to   stem   out   of   a   basic   condition.      Folks   who   acquired   a   fully   trained   dog   that   we   sourced   for   them,   are   more   likely   to   suffer from “unrealized expectations.” When   someone   brings   us   their   own   dog   for   our   custom   Service   Dog   training,   they   have   typically   lived   with   that   pup,   perhaps   even   raised   it   from just   eight   weeks   old.      They   experienced   it   chew   their   good   pair   of   shoes   because   they   were   not   paying   attention.         They   dealt   with   vomit   on   a new   sofa,   or   a   potty   mess   on   the   white   carpet.      They   recognized   that   they   were   unsuccessful   at   teaching   their   wayward   pup   to   refrain   from jumping   up   or   barking   at   the   neighbor’s   cat.      They   knew   that   their   dog   was   not   perfect,   but   they   also   realized   neither   were   they.      Perfection   is not   necessary   for   love,   loyalty,   devotion   or   just   basic   tolerance   between   a   human   and   her   beloved   canine   companion.      So,   when   that   client comes   to   the   Handler   Training   after   the   dog   had   learned   how   to   display   calm,   relaxed   self-restraint,   even   around   dozens   of   distractions,   she   is not only impressed, but excited to take on the challenges of learning how to maintain her dog’s new standards of behavior. On   the   contrary,   individuals   who   arrive   to   “take   ownership”   of   their   new   Service   Dog   (as   if   it   is   a   shiny,   new   automobile),   are   often   ill   equipped   to handle   some   very   simple   requirements   of   Service   Dog   ownership   (even   if   they   have   owned   dogs   in   the   past).      They   expect   their   new   Service   Dog to   be   perfect.      Regardless   of   how   often   we   explain   it,   they   don’t   realize   they   must   work   hard   to   become   the   benevolent   leader   that   their   dog expects   and   needs   to   continue   on   the   path   of   exceptional   behavior,   happiness   and   service.      I   refer   to   the   concept   as   “the   Lassie   syndrome.”     Lassie   was   a   fictitious   character.      In   one,   thirty-minute   episode,   I   watched   the   beautiful   Collie   dog   save   three   kittens   from   a   wild   fire,   usher   them through   the   desert   (including   locating   a   source   of   water   when   they   became   parched),   defended   them   from   the   claws   of   a   Mountain   Lion,   then negotiated   through   a   mountain   path   on   a   moonless   night   to   the   safety   of   a   barn,   where   they   curled   up   next   to   Lassie   in   the   soft   straw   until morning.         If   you   think   that   your   service   dog   is   going   to   perform   such   death   defying   feats,   autonomously   without   your   constant   intervention   and management,   you   are   going   to   be   terribly   disappointed.         But,   most   people   who   suffer   from   a   disability   seek   a   Service   Dog   to   enhance   their life…immediately.      They   are   looking   for   that   moment   when   they   realize   the   dog   just   saved   them   from   their   pain   or   suffering.      Like   any   employee, it   takes   time   for   a   Service   Dog   to   learn   the   ropes   of   the   new   work   environment,   and   that   includes   developing   trust   and   respect   for   the   new “boss.” Regardless   of   how   well   a   dog   is   trained,   its   behavior   will   most   often   be   a   direct   reflection   of   its   relationship   with   the   humans   in   its   life.         That   is true   whether   the   dog   comes   from   the   owner   or   we   acquire   it.      However,   the   folks   who   bring   us   their   dog   already   have   figured   out   that important   message,   at   least   somewhat.      They   know   that   a   failure   in   management   or   training   will   result   in   an   unexpected   or   undesirable outcome.      But,   more   importantly,   they   already   love   the   dog,   so   they   are   more   apt   to   assume   the   responsibility   for   the   dog’s   failures   and   not   over think   the   fact   that   they   need   to   continue   to   develop   their   relationship.         One   error   isn’t   the   end   of   the   world   -   either   in   their   handling   of   the   dog, or the dog’s behavior. Folks   who   acquire   a   fully   trained   dog,   of   course,   fall   in   love   with   it.      However,   they   do   not   enter   an   established   a   relationship.      So,   it   is   far   more challenging   for   them   to   evaluate   their   new   dog’s   behavior,   once   they   go   home.      Mostly,   any   unacceptable   behavior   is   due   to   fatigue   and   the anxiety   that   the   dog   suffers   from   leaving   a   home   where   they   thought   they   had   it   all   figured   out,   and   learning   how   to   cope   in   a   strange   place   with new   people   who   don’t   necessarily   know   how   to   interact   with   it.      We   inform   our   clients   (in   writing   they   receive   before   coming   to   Handler Instruction   and   during   the   class   presentation)   to   let   the   dog   have   a   good,   long   week   to   simply   become   acquainted   with   its   new   world.         Don’t have   guests;   don’t   take   it   out   in   public;   don’t   feel   the   need   to   work   on   all   the   training   exercises   in   the   first   two   hours   you   are   home.      Let   the   dog sleep   and   recuperate   and   trust   that   you   will   feed   it   every   day   and   take   it   outside   to   go   potty.      But,   then   we   hear   stories   about   how   the   new Service   Dog   handler   invited   twenty   people   over   to   meet   her   new   dog   on   the   second   day   after   she   got   home   and   now   she   is   worried   because   the dog   seemed   shy   or   reserved.         Our   experience   tells   us   that   those   unrealized   expectations   are   far   more   common   with   folks   who   acquire   a   dog that   they   didn’t   know,   than   folks   who   brought   us   a   dog   that   they   had   sourced   as   their   potential   Service   Dog   and   developed   an   understanding about its personality, faults and admirable qualities. In   order   to   address   our   own   unrealized   expectations   of   our   clients,   we   have   chosen   to   eliminate   the   issues   by   asking folks   to   locate   their   own   dog.      It   is   our   strategy.      We   believe   it   will   provide   the   best   opportunity   for   our   clients   to   have the best experience and for their dog to be successful, happy and cherished in Service Dog work.