My experience with Service Dog Training is similar to the article that I recently posted an article on the myths concerning Assistance Dogs, COMMON MYTHS ABOUT SERVICE DOGS, . As someone who has gone through the process of training and registering my Bella as a licensed Mobility Service Dog, i found this article to be very interesting and beneficial. As I entered my so called “Golden Years” , I found that my ability to ambulate became a problem. It became necessary for me to use a cane to ambulate. I was recently widowed and also found myself alone for the first time since I was 18 years old. In order to combat loneliness, Bella entered my life as a 4 month old puppy.
I immediately signed her up for a basic obedience class, which turned out to be the beginning of our journey to her licensing. I learned a great deal about her abilities in the basic class. There are several ways to train and certify an assistance dog. The “PAWS WITH A CAUSE” program noted in the article performs the entire process, including matching the dog to the owner/handler. I already had the puppy. Now she needed the training. And so it began.
One of the things I learned in the basic class was that Bella is a “non-reactive dog”. This was a huge plus for me! Bella does not react to other animals barking, crossing her path, or running away. I was amazed in a class of about 20 barking puppies, waiting for the class to begin, Bella was quiet and laying next to me. I was one lucky lady!!!!! Bella and I went on to learn concepts like: lunging (which is an exercise to teach the dog to work on a loose leash, focus, and pay attention to the handler), loose leash walking to a sit position, making eye contact between dog and handler (CONNECTION between both), recall ( which teaches the dog to come when called by the handler , extremely important for safety), and much more crammed into a 6 week program. Complete with a test and demonstration for both handler and pup at the end. This was just the beginning. Advanced classes followed to build on the foundations of the basic class. These classes included accompanying the handler on trips to the mall, shopping, movies, and restaurants. Each class ended with a test for both the dog and handler, Final graduation allowed the awarding of her certificate and licence. She wears a licence on her jacket and I have a duplicate hanging on my purse.
Finally Bella was ready to concentrate on learning to be a mobility Service Dog. My disability involves my left side and balance. She was taught that when I stop moving to automatically go into a sit position, close or leaning on my left ankle/foot for stability. When we are walking, she walks very close to me giving my weak side some extra support. Going up steps or curbs are a real challenge for me. Bella goes up the curb first, stands straight, and I go up beside her. Going up flights of steps, she will go two steps ahead and wait, until I advance one step. Going down a flight of steps, we reverse the process.
When Bella and i are out and about I often hear comments about her being a “Doberman Service Dog”. While I understand the comments, almost any breed can be a service dog- it depends on the temperament, intellect, and loyalty of the dog that is being trained. When I bought Bella, I had no intention of making her a service dog. I used a walker or a cane for steadiness. Being a new widow, I needed the unconditional love and companionship that only a dog can give. One of my friends suggested I look into the training and I am elated that I took her advice. As the article stated, different breeds are better suited for certain jobs. Bella is a German Doberman, somewhat smaller in stature than the American version. It makes her small enough for me to handle, her but strong enough to support my left sided weakness. She has a very laid back personality and is very social. The perfect little girl to be my sidekick!
Before I end, i have to relate a funny story. My 10 yr old grand daughter was doing a “sleepover” at my house several weeks ago. A new Disney movie was just released about the life of dogs. Of course, she wanted to see it! So off we went! Bella, Kaylee, and I entered the theater, got our goodies and sat down about midway. . There was a nice size separation between the block of rows that we were in, so Bella had a lot of room to get comfortable. As the movie started, I suddenly saw a bunch of animated barking dogs on the huge screen before me. A feeling of horror passed over me. OMG, I just brought a dog to a movie that was about 90 minutes of nothing but barking dogs.! Smooth move, Granny! As I sat there in horror, expecting that i would have to run out of the movie at any given time, I looked down and Bella looked up at me and yawned! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. During the entire 90 minutes, Bella looked up at the screen a total of three times, and then went back to sleep as she was trained to do. She never barked or made a sound during the whole movie!. I guess she is non-reactive to animated barking dogs as well. What an unusual experience.
One final word concerning a growing problem of “fake assistance dogs” appearing in restaurants, airports, and businesses, as pointed out in the article. I have seen these dogs out and about in my travels. No identification, no jacket, nothing to show that the dog was legal. Certifying a legal Service Dog is hard work for both the dog and the handler. I even saw a small dog in a shopping cart in a grocery store. No one in the store even blinked. I never went back to that particular store. Those of us who have legitimate service dogs are PROUD to display the accomplishments of their hard work. Next time you see a Service Dog, make sure you look for the appropriate identification. For regular followers, I am starting to do a short blog on each article I post. I would appreciate feedback from my followers1
Well. its time for Bella”s dinner! Signing off for now. Don’t forget to SMOOCH YOUR POOCH tonight! Look forward to more! Good Night!