Getting Validation From Family Members

The Service and Therapy Dog forum is for all service and therapy dogs regardless of whether or not their status is legally defined by federal or state law, how they are trained, or whether or not they are "certified." Posts questioning or disputing a person's need for a service or therapy dog, the validity of a person's service or therapy dog, or the dog's ability to do the work of a service or therapy dog are not permitted in this forum. Please keep discussions fun, friendly, and helpful at all times.

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Member Since
Barked: Tue Sep 25, '12 5:30am PST 
Hi Guys, I'm Ariel, I'm new around here, and have been kind of lurking for the last few weeks. I'm 19 and have been in the process of finding the right dog for PSD work for myself for the last year. As I've narrowed down a handful of dogs of varying breeds (some mixed, some pure), placements (shelters, rescues, breeders), and genders, all with similar temperaments to run through a battery of tests. Up until this point a PSD was this "glorified dream dog for Ariel that wouldn't likely happen" in the minds of some family members, my sister in particular. Now that it is an idea that is starting to form a shape, she has switched from "supportive" to freaked out, and in my mind, disapproving.

I will be the first to admit that I put the family dog and took him out in public when he was not (and would never be) ready. I am even more willing to admit that the way I've gone about getting a PSD is what puts SDs, PSDs in particular, to shame in the eyes of the community. I also had a dog I had to wash out due to a poor pick of temperament. I picked the dog. My trainer didn't.

Let's switch to now, keeping all that background history in mind, and I'll now describe my process, as written out for me by my trainer and myself.

1. Write out list of conditions I'd need mitigation for:

-Bipolar Disorder
-Anxiety Disorder
-Severe Tactile Sensitivities
-OCD Behaviors/Thought Processes

2. Then I decided the tasks I'd like performed for each of these:

Bipolar: Alert to manic episodes. (mine are often accompanied by dissociation and self-injury)
Anxiety: Perform a "lean" cue for deep pressure.
Tactile: Orbit me in public to create buffer between me and other people.
OCD: Break repetitive thought processes with a lick, nudge or paw.

3. Come up with a list of characteristics both needed for my tasks and preferred by me.

-Larger than 40 lbs to be visible and capable of buffering in public.
-Smaller than 70 lbs so as to be able to provide the level of deep pressure I need.

-An interesting yet totally recognizable dog (so as not to incur an excessive amount of questions)
-A low grooming requirement
-Preferably female
-Not intimidating, yet not tiny

4. Come up with a list of tests to perform on each dog tested:

Temperament - Volhard Aptitude Test
Learning Speed - Teach something spatial (go to mat), something with the head/nose (head down/are you sad), and something with the paw (turn on a tap light)
Body Contact - Pet the dog, and see if they cuddle/relax into me in a way that would indicate that they naturally lean.
Problem Solving - Using a dog puzzle to determine if the dog thinks well on its own.
Public - How well they do in a crowded place with a variety of people and distractions.

5. Rank those in order of importance for me.

-Body Contact
-Learning Speed
-Problem Solving

6. Come up with a list of 5+ dogs to test.

7. Testing all dogs, ranking each dogs reactions. (Where I am now)

8. Gather the rankings and weigh them to choose the best SD candidate.

So back to the whole story. Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel as if I've done a good job thinking this all out. I feel sufficiently in need of a dog.

Now my sister feels I am glorifying pets, and while I love her and seek her approval, I often do not approve of her choices either. I don't feel I'm glorifying a pet... Like I said, I feel like I've thought this out. I just want to know I'm doing the right thing. I hate fakers, but the last thing I want to be is one myself...

What do you guys think?

Don\'t Give Up
Barked: Tue Sep 25, '12 8:11am PST 
I do not have an SD, how ever I can relate to some of the disorders and reasons for which you want an SD myself. To be honest when I was struggling a lot it was recommended for me to get a PSD and my family was 100% supportive. I cannot speak accurately to whether or not what you described counts under ADA as being legally able to have an SD, some of the other members here will be able to answer those questions for you better .

I'm not sure how close you are to your sister but perhaps if you explain to her the NEED for an SD and that it won't be like a pet. Working dogs have a job and they are there to make life a little easier for their handler and help them through the day with various tasks.

I have a friend who thinks that what I do with Jesse, my therapy dog is just "being able to take my pet to public places for fun". It isn't true and I've had to explain to her that what I do with him is not service work and it most certainly is not for the purpose of taking him everywhere with me.

I hope this helps =)

Wanted to add: It seems to me that what your are considering in a dog and how you will evaluate each one is the right to go. also the training plan you have so far seems accurate. Again I am speaking from training a TD and I also did not pick out the dog. It sort of just happened that he had the right personality for it.

Edited by author Tue Sep 25, '12 8:31am PST


The Boy Wonder
Barked: Tue Sep 25, '12 9:55am PST 
Just putting it out there... Have you considered looking into a program trained dog. The wait time is realistically not any or much longer than the time it takes to raise and Train a service dog candidate. The cost is seriously not any higher than raising, feeding, vetting, and training a candidate for the time it takes to get a dog to Service dog level... and there's little to no risk involved of washing out.

The concept that you are eligible for a program trained dog might calm your families fears.

The other suggestion I have if you are against a program trained dog is to work closely with a trainer and or program that is highly familiar with service dogs. At this point the best convincing you can do with your family is with your actions. Some family members may never get on board with the idea of a service dog, and some will only be convinced when they see you with a well trained dog that is helping you manage your disabilities.

You are going about this the right way, you're putting thought into your choices and planning out what you need to do. That's the important thing.


Future Service- Dog
Barked: Tue Sep 25, '12 6:12pm PST 
Have you thought about a smooth Collie for a breed? They tend to be in the size restrictions you listed, as far as I know.

Member Since
Barked: Tue Sep 25, '12 9:21pm PST 
Happy: Yes, I have considered PT dogs and I'd rather go the OT route. I am apprenticing as a dog trainer (18th century style apprenticing where the apprentice go to live with the master) with a dog trainer of over 20 years, with over half that specializing in assistance dog training. So I get expert training advice on not only a daily, but near hourly basis. Both I and my parents feel comfortable with that. I think that is a very good point about my actions speaking for themself. My sister is (IMO) more afraid of being seen with me in public dragging a dog around. I guess it really comes down to that I am an animal person and she is not. She believes animals are to stay at home and not enter a store... unless it's a pet store. They shouldn't be in parks unless it's a dog park and so on. I love my sister to bits, but we are night and day different.

Lacey: Not only have I looked at collies, but I temp tested a litter several months back. None were quite what I was looking for, but they are stunning! I will always have a soft spot in my heart for collies. My top dogs now are smooth and (possibly) rough collies, dalmatians and mixes.

The Boy Wonder
Barked: Tue Sep 25, '12 10:54pm PST 
Some of our closest friends and family may never understand our need or use of a service dog, especially when you're using a service dog for a disability that they can't see. Sounds like you're in good shape with a trainer and on the right track there. There isn't a lot more that you can do than just continue how you are going.

I wish you a Lot of luck with the dog search, I'm there now trying to find a prospect to start training to take over for Happy when he has to retire. I know dalmatians have some temperament issues that make me cautious with the breed but if you find the right litter you'd be in good shape there. I'd almost obviously add Labs and Goldens because by the simple fact that they are almost universally recognized as service dogs and that makes all access issues easier to deal with. I know a number of people with smooth collie service dogs and they seem to be becoming more popular. You mentioned grooming but other than that Standard Poodles also make very nice service dogs. If you'd like to talk service dogs, or just dogs in general my email is on Happy's dogster page since you don't have messaging privileges yet. I might could point you towards a few different groups that might also be some help.

Future Service- Dog
Barked: Wed Sep 26, '12 10:20am PST 
If you don't wish to do regular, extensive grooming, I would stay away from the Rough Collie and go with the Smooth Collie instead.

Wiggle waggle
Barked: Sat Sep 29, '12 1:52am PST 
I have used a service animal for almost 9years now. My moms side totally unapproved and still does.and my dads doesn't understand the cultural difference. I am lucky though because my son, husband, and in laws understand. I wish you luck with training. smile

Wiggle waggle
Barked: Sat Sep 29, '12 1:54am PST 
Also, I hope your family.members come around it really does help as far as support goes. But there are support groups and meet ups around that revolve around the service dog communities.
Crazy Sadie- Lady

Im a SD and- proud of it so- there!!!!
Barked: Sat Sep 29, '12 6:45pm PST 
I am confused at your posting as far as what you have done as far as now. Seem you have tryed using the family dog as a SD and then another dog that you had to wash out for some reason?
I worrie on both of those attemps since you did not state what happen with your wash out but seem to understand that the family dog was safe still having a home. I just have issues with that idea.
As for how you worded the post I thought you were asking about family who apposed your using a SD in the first place. I have had to deal with that on a few levels and form time to time as well as friends questioning the idea that my dog is a valid SD. That is a very hard thing to deal with and validate at times most the time I just a thought that they will have to just deal with it. that would be my answer to that.
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