How to get an assistance or support dog

How to get an assistance or support dog

I had a recent question from a follower along the lines of:

What breed makes a good assistance dog for mental health support?

There’s a lot of variables in this situation.

With support and assistance dogs becoming more popular, we want to make sure we maintain a good standard so that those who need support dogs in public can continue to benefit from this.

And I also want to say, every dog offers support for their people, even if they aren’t official – it’s part of their job 😉

As for getting an official support or assistance dog, here’s the factors to consider.

The first major factor is the dog’s suitability – keeping in mind that when an organisation breeds dogs for these roles and puts them through training, many are then deemed unsuitable and don’t go ahead. So picking the right dog is crucial.

Even when a dog is picked, it’s no guarantee that they will be suitable in the long term once we see how they cope with the training.

Sadly, most people who ask me to train an existing dog to be a public assistance dog have an unsuitable dog for this kind of job.

If your dog has behaviour problems, health issues, is elderly or has fears or phobias, they likely aren’t suitable for the pressures of assistance dog life.

What we require from the dog also depends on what you personally need from the dog and whether you require public access.

If you don’t require public access, you can choose the most stable dog possible and train solid obedience and manners so that they are a good all round reliable companion.

If you do require public access, the process will take longer and cost more, and you will need to sign on with an organisation that can approve dogs for public access.

With some such organisations you can train your own dog to the required level and have them assess and test the dog and grant public access.

With either of these options, a trainer such as myself may be able to train the dog to the required level to pass the PAT test, and then they do the assessment. Or if you live close to the organisation, they can help you with the training part as well.

The cost and how long this would take would also depend on whether you start with a puppy or an adult dog. A puppy takes longer as they need to reach maturity before they can be passed and also need some maturity to be more reliable in their training. So you would need to progress through basic puppy training and socialisation first.

As a rough ballpark, to train up a puppy from scratch would take 12-18 months and to train an untrained adult dog with no prior behaviour issues could take 3-6 months.

For comparison, to purchase a fully trained assistance dog from an assistance dog organisation can be a 2+ year wait and cost upwards of $30k.

With a rescue dog you could find a dog that already has a stable temperament and then train to the requirements. Be very strict in finding the right temperament as it is most important and if you adopt a dog with fears, anxieties health issues, reactivity, aggression or other ingrained unwanted habit, you will need to overcome that before being able to train to support dog requirements and for many of these dogs this is not possible and they are not suitable for the job. I have seen this many times and it ends in frustration and heartbreak as the dog cannot perform the role and causes more stress from the issues it needs work on.

So a rescue dog is great – you just need to be very firm that it be a calm and stable dog with no issues – they are out there.

As for breed, it will still come down to the right temperament of the individual dog. The next aspect is breed health and whether you want a non shedding coat, and the size of the dog.

There are exceptions to every rule but labradors and poodles are popular options for assistance dogs.

Again, look for a dog that has the right balance of stability, calmness and motivation for training without being so high in drive that it could work against you.

I hope this shed some light on what’s involved in getting an assistance or emotional support dog.

Woofs and wags

Tenille

PS Whenever you’re ready, here’s 3 ways you can improve your dog’s behaviour today:

  1. Browse the free lessons in the Dog Matters Academy
  2. Sign up for Academy Premium and take the full training program that will improve any behaviour you’re struggling with with your dog
  3. Read my free ebook, The Good Dog and submit a question for me to answer within the same module area

 

Don’t name it til you love it

Don’t name it til you love it

If you are in a foreign country and you don’t know the language, no amount of repeating the same word to you is going to make you understand it.

You would need to be shown what it means by pointing at an object or using a translator.

Remember too that your dog speaks a different language to us.

When they aren’t listening to something it is often because they don’t yet know the translation and need to be taught what the word means.

While repetition is the key to learning, this doesn’t mean repeating a word over and over and hoping that your dog will eventually get it.

It means repeating the behaviour until the dog knows that this behaviour leads to a good outcome.

And THEN we introduce a word, the new language.

That’s why you’ll often hear me say, “don’t name it til you love it.”

While I’m training something new to a dog, the owner often asks me, “why aren’t you saying a command?”

I’ll often start out saying little other than praise words (your dog needs encouragement).

But if I say the command before the dog knows which behaviour I want, the chances are they won’t get it right, which means they are being set up to fail AND as a human, my next step would be to start repeating the word.

When we repeat the word without meaning with it, it becomes less meaningful and easier for your dog to ignore.

So repeat the behaviour before you repeat the word, and don’t name it til you love it 😉

Woofs and wags

Tenille

PS Whenever you’re ready, here’s 3 ways you can improve your dog’s behaviour today:

  1. Browse the free lessons in the Dog Matters Academy
  2. Sign up for Academy Premium and take the full training program that will improve any behaviour you’re struggling with with your dog
  3. Read my free ebook, The Good Dog and submit a question for me to answer within the same module area
Not aggressive

Not aggressive

“She is biting the kids – but she’s not aggressive! She just wants to play!”

“He rushes up to other dogs and fights break out – but he is just being friendly – he is not aggressive!”

“She’s growling at strangers – but she is not aggressive.”

These are things I hear almost daily and I want people to know – it’s okay. I know your dog is not a bad dog.

I know that when your young dog mouths your family members, he is not being aggressive – he is being playful and doesn’t know any better that teeth are not allowed on people.

Mouthing and play biting and straining on the lead out of frustration are not aggression.

If the dog is growling, this can lead to aggression and in fact many trainers would define growling as an aggressive act.

Just because a dog is acting out of fear, it doesn’t mean that they can’t or won’t cause harm. In fact, most aggression comes from some type of fear or insecurity.

To a degree…

Aggression is built in to every dog.

It’s a tool built into their instincts to protect them and help them survive.

Aggression brings down a hunt to feed and nourish them.

Aggression wards off threats to protect them from harm (hence fearful dogs will growl, lunge and bark)

No matter why a dog is displaying aggression, being that they are living in the human world, aggression from dogs is not acceptable – but there is hope.

If your dog is displaying aggression, seek the help of an experienced trainer.

If your dog is one of those dogs who is mouthing, biting, lunging or making people feel threatened through unruly behaviour, but is not aggressive, much of this can be solved with some basic manners training and a better understanding of how dogs communicate and why they do the things they do.

To start learning how to understand your dog better and address these unwanted habits, visit the free Dog Matters Academy hub here.

Woofs and wags

Tenille

Free ebook + submit questions

Free ebook + submit questions

Today I want to highlight my most recent free ebook, the, “Good Dog,” ebook. Amazing name, right?

While it may not be as in depth as some of my other books, this is one of my favourites because it’s all about understanding the way your dog thinks and how to apply this to day to day life.


This is so important because it’s one thing to follow step by step instructions to get your dog to do or not do something, but it’s a much more valuable skill to really understand where these behaviours come from in the first place. 

Additionally, I have made an area where you can submit your dog training questions for me to answer on the page / in my emails – it’s right below the ebook download. 

I’d love to see your questions and feedback!

Access the book download area here

Woofs and Wags

Tenille 

PS If you’re ready to take the next step together, here’s the best ways to do so:

1. Join the Premium Dog Matters Academy and get access to all my online dog training courses here 
2. Browse the free section of the vault here 
3. If you’re a dog trainer in business and want to hear about how I help trainers grow their biz, visit Dog Matters PRO.
Why not put a muzzle on your dog?

Why not put a muzzle on your dog?

Why not try muzzle training for your dog?

You may say, “I don’t need to – my dog isn’t aggressive.”

But could there be other reasons to teach your dog to accept a muzzle?

There’s a stigma around muzzles and people are put off from trying them, even if their dog does show some aggression. 

So why would we want to muzzle a dog who doesn’t really need it? 

It’s true – not every dog really needs a muzzle – but on the other hand, you never know when you might need one. 

Click here to view my video on muzzle training and why you might want to muzzle train your dog whether they are higher risk or not. 

It could be another useful training skill to have up your sleeve.

Tenille

PS If you want to learn more about how to train this, or you want improve your dog’s training skills, you can log into the Dog Matters Academy here and start free, or sign up for premium to get it all.

Transform your dog with the basics

Transform your dog with the basics

So often trainers over-complicate things but really, so much of the gold results is in getting the foundations right.

When you’re facing a problem you would like to solve, ask, is there anything in the foundations that we haven’t kept up with? The answer is often there.

I think the most important foundations are:

– Come when called
– Have a communication system that is clear
– Place training and stay
– Focus. Because with focus, anything else becomes easier.

Do you have these foundations in place? What do you need to work on the most with your dog?

Woofs and wags

Tenille

PS If you’d like to work together to improve the relationship with your dog in the new year and beyond and teach them to really listen, you can sign up for the Dog Matters Academy for all my content. You can start free or take it to the next level with a cancel any time subscription.