I’ll begin by saying that having a Service Dog is by no means a blessing. I’m not lucky or anything else to be able to bring my dog everywhere with me. Honestly, my service dog IS NOT a pet. She is considered medical equipment, the equivalent to a wheelchair, crutches, or even an oxygen tank. For myself, my service dog is my lifeline and a reason I am able to even leave my house. Sometimes I’m lucky and thankful for her so I can simply get myself out of bed. I’m lucky enough to be training my service dog with the help of a professional.
Training My Service Dog
My hero dog, my service dog, is my best friend and I couldn’t have my current life without her. Her life is quite strict and although she gets ample playtime, she is working all day and all night. I’ll add that training a service dog isn’t easy work and takes roughly between one and a half to two years. It’s not an easy process and most dogs aren’t cut out for this type of work.
At the beginning I looked and looked at going through a program. They can be great and get you a fully trained service dog but one reason I didn’t was I couldn’t find one close enough to where I could visit the dog frequently and truly build a bond with the dog that would impact my life so much in positive ways. Building a bond and a relationship with a dog who was going to be my “partner” for the next 6-8 years give or take was extremely important to me as the handler.
We train every single day. Training my service dog is something I do daily, not because she needs it but because it truly does help us bond. She is eager to please and always wanting to help me in any way she can. Together we work on stuff from the basics (sit, down, stay) to task work (DPT, alerts, mobility) and more! There is so much she needs to know prior to have started public access. She needs to obey the command given to her the first time it’s said.
Public access, in my opinion, is earned once your dog has learned to behave at home and in pet friendly stores. Most pet stores are good for beginning public access training. You run into people but also other animals and work with them to ignore so many distractions. When training my service dog, I was strict (still am) about her looking away from me for more than a minute. I expect her to check in constantly with me while she’s working.
One of the most important commands aside from the basics, but is also considered a basic command for service dogs is the “focus” or “watch me” command. This is where you can say either command or even your dog’s name, whatever you decide, and they stop and look directly at you. If they get distracted by something or lose focus on you, this command is great so they can refocus on you and remember their job is helping you. Dogs aren’t perfect, they aren’t robots, just like humans they can make mistakes. Even the best and most well trained service dog can have an off day.
While training my service dog and working her we have used many different items. She has gear she wears while out in public to make access easier for us as a team. Some of my favorite gear items will be listed below. This will include items such as my service dog’s vest and patches plus boots and training gear and treats.