|Barked: Fri May 7, '10 1:50pm PST |
|A therapy dog is a dog that is trained to help people other than their owner-- in other words they bring joy and happiness to people in hospitals, nursing homes, etc.
A service dog is trained to ignore other people and to only help their disabled owner. Service dogs are allowed to go anywhere the general public is, while therapy dogs can only go into no-pet places if they are specifically invited.
It is very important to get the terminology straight. There are some organizations that train diabetic alert dogs, or you can train your own. If you want a program, you should probably look for one in the general part of the country where you live. The Delta Society has a nice listing of service dog programs state-by-state. If you want to train your own, here is a list of steps I recommend you take:
Step 1: Talk with your doctor, verify your disability, and discuss what work or tasks a dog could do to assist you. Talk with other service dog owners about the pros and cons of living with a service dog, reading these webpages for more information http://www.psychdog.org/lifestyle.html and http://www.psychdog.org/faq.html
Step 2: Find a trainer and have your dog temperament tested to make sure they are likely to make it as a service dog-- any sign of aggression in a dog's past (towards humans or other animals) is unacceptable in a service dog candidate in my opinion. Talk with the trainer and/or a vet to be sure your dog can safely do the work/tasks needed to assist you. Also have your dog examined by a vet to make sure they are healthy enough to work. If you don't have a dog, or your dog is not suitable for service work, read this article for help deciding what breed and where to get the dog: http://www.psychdog.org/lifestyle_ChoosingDog.html and hire a professional trainer to help you pick a dog.
Step 3: Master basic obedience at home, in local parks, in petstores, and in other dog friendly stores-- some hardware stores and bookstores will allow pets, call and ask. Make sure to start keeping a training log of what you are doing, how your dog is doing with obedience, public access and assistance behaviors.
Step 4: Once your dog is pretty much able to pass the CGC (in other words could do it with the use of a few treats) purchase a vest and in training patches, and visit the places in step 3 with the vest on. If you haven't already started training tasks/work, start that now, too.
Step 5: Gradually visit more and more difficult environments-- saving places with lots of crowds, food etc for later. Train to the public access standard on the PSDS website.
Step 6: If you live in a state with SDIT protection, spend another few months in training just to make sure you're both really comfortable with whatever comes up. Really, it's not a race!
Step 7: Take a public access test like the one here http://www.psychdog.org/attach/Public_Access_Standard_Test_Sheet.pdf and have someone videotape it if possible. If you don't have a trainer who can give the test, have a friend do it. The idea is that your dog should be able to perform these things, and if you ever have a court case, video proof of this may be helpful, or at least a letter from a trainer saying that you did the things.
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