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Feeling awkward with my service dog?

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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Matilda

1272511
 
 
Barked: Fri Oct 19, '12 11:44am PST 
I am a 21 yr old training my first cardiac alert animal for my neurocardiogenic syncope. Eventually, Matilda will be able to alert me before I'm going to faint - which will be wonderful, as I currently have maybe a second of notice before it happens.

Matilda is only 4 months old and service-certified or not, a puppy is a puppy. I just feel extremely awkward using my service tag. Her trainer and my doctor both tell me that I need to take her as many places as possible while she's young to socialize her to it, as well as so she can get to know my "stable" body verses what happens before I faint.

However, as I'm young, and there is nothing people can physically see wrong with me, AND Matilda is still a puppy and still wants to play with everyone we see, I feel SO awkward using my pass. I feel like people think I'm faking (which I know it doesn't matter), but I feel judged and uncomfortable and it makes me not want to take Matilda anywhere with me. It's especially bad when a lot is going on and it's very hard to keep Matilda's attention. But what can I say? She's a baby, she's still learning!

Does anyone else feel the same way? I just don't get why people think they can judge me because I don't have a disability they can see.
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Riley SDit- CGC

75lb lap dog
 
 
Barked: Fri Oct 19, '12 1:53pm PST 
Hi and welcome!!! I am 19 and use a service dog for a usually invisible disability. It is a very tough transition and I can certainly say I was very, very uncomfortable and nervous for a long time. Eventually though you learn all the questions and form an automatic response and you get used to all the stares and attention-I barely notice it now! The other day I was out with my sister and she asked me how I handle all the stares and points-I said "who is starring?" lol. It really is like going everywhere with a celebrity! I might suggest taking her to pet friendly places as much as possible so when you do go out in public she is well behaved and you are used to having her by your side. Remember to that a lot of the public's questions don't need to be answered. I often have people flat out ask me what my disability is-and I just say I keep that private!
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Happy

The Boy Wonder
 
 
Barked: Fri Oct 19, '12 2:22pm PST 
First off there is no legitimate certification, there are a number of scam registries and certifications out there but they have no baring on your situation. In addition at her age she is not a service dog yet, she is a service dog in training and as such it's important for you to understand that your rights to public access come from state law rather than federal (ADA). The difference is that while CA does have public access for service dogs in training you do need to register her as such with the county (in order to benefit from state protection as a fully trained service dog you also need this registration tag). It is Very important here to recognize that this is not a federal registration and if you had a fully trained service dog you could get by with out that but you wouldn't get any of the protections under state law.

Now, I don't agree that she should be going Everywhere with you. Puppy training runs should be kept short and done in such a way that it's set up for her to succeed. The more chances she has to practice good behavior rather than bad the quicker she will learn.

By the way there is a huge difference between socialization runs and desensitizing runs, and training runs. On both of these you need to have your full attention on your dog rather than running to get your groceries or something else. You need to be able to focus on what she's doing, and recognize when she's had enough and stop before she get's to that point. Rushing training will only make it harder for her to succeed.

She will learn what your normal body rate is without going everywhere, and the risk of her going everywhere at this point is that she could be soured to public work, that and you still have some fear periods to get through as well, and bad exposure is a huge issue with service dog prospects.

Now... all of that aside it takes a lot of practice to get to the point where you can confidently deal with the public. A lot of it comes from looking as professional as possible, it helps you feel more confident when you look professional. At first this means stick with standard color vests - red or blue are best rather than cutie colors. Avoid overly colorful patches and try to stick to things that get the point across simply.

Next decide how much you're willing to tell the public about your condition. You can take the educational route and teach people about service dogs and about your condition and how they can help, or you can take the silent route, either way is your choice. Your medical condition is your business not theirs. Then I come up with a basic statement to the most common questions. Practice saying it as often as possible, the more you say it the better you'll be when you have to. Ultimately the biggest thing is time though. You get better with practice though, and if you need to just talk I'm more than willing. I am a long time handler, and a have a lot of practice dealing with the public.
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Reboot - Retired SD

Retired and- livin' it up!
 
 
Barked: Fri Oct 19, '12 7:20pm PST 
Everyone already summed up most of what I was going to say, but I wanted to point out that you cannot teach a dog to alert for NCS (I have a form of dysautonomia too.) smile It's great if it happens, but you can't guarantee it - I focus on training response work and then pray for alerts.
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Tiaki CGC- SD

I am a Pringles- pilfering pup!!
 
 
Barked: Fri Oct 19, '12 8:36pm PST 
I am currently training a puppy as well. Happy pretty much summed it up. Tia goes everywhere with me, but has not started public work yet. She is still too much of a puppy & her behavior right now could harm other SD teams as well as possibly cause issues in her own training. If I have to go into a store or other place, I leave Tia in the car with Sita (my current SD; I worry about leaving Tia alone & that anxiety trumps anything in the store) & keep my shopping/errands as short as possible. The 15 minutes or so that we are apart will not diminish her learning my norms vs my glitches. You can do plenty of training to prepare for public work without having to take your pup into non-pet friendly places. Open air malls are great for training. You can find a place to sit & let the pup watch all sorts of different people passing by. You can work on her being calm with all kinds of distractions going on. Taking her to a playground can help her get use to the noise of children & when no one is around, you can use the playground equipment to get the pup use to different surfaces. Even though your pup hasn't finished her shot series yet, you can take her to places that aren't frequented by other dogs & she'll be perfectly safe (provided she doesn't have any health issues now). Tia started going on client walks & playdates with me when she was 9 weeks old (when I brought her home). Her vet gave her clearance for this & Tia has never been sick (except for a tummy issue that came from something she ate). You can socialize her to other dogs by finding a playgroup. If you have friends with older dogs that you know are healthy & dog friendly, set up play dates with them.

Sorry if some of my post doesn't make sense. I came off my horse today & I took a pain pill. I'm sure I'll read this tomorrow & think "what the heck?!". Just remember to have fun training your dog. If you take it too seriously or get too anxious about training, your dog will pick up on it & can make your training unnecessarily difficult.
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Polly

Lolly girl
 
 
Barked: Sat Oct 20, '12 4:17pm PST 
Happy did a great job explaining everything smile Good luck and take your time dog
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Crazy Sadie- Lady

Im a SD and- proud of it so- there!!!!
 
 
Barked: Sat Oct 20, '12 4:49pm PST 
I am 49 and will be 50 very Soon. Sadie is my first real SD and I have been training her myself now for the last 4 years. Sadie came to me when she was 7 months. She is a american bull dog/ Bull Mastiff.
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Matilda

1272511
 
 
Barked: Sat Oct 20, '12 7:27pm PST 
Whoa, I am so glad I found this forum! Thank you all for the info! I am having so much trouble finding more information - the Dr and trainer seem to be only able to tell me so much. Unfortunately, Cardiac Alert SDs aren't very common.

To clarify: I don't take my SD everywhere - or ANYWHERE that isn't already dog-appropriate, actually. That is kind of the problem. I feel uncomfortable taking her places and that is what my trainer/Dr are getting on my case about. I mean, it's just awkward for me as a puppy is a puppy regardless of her little tag.

Also, Reboot - YAY for a NCS buddy! Although I'm sorry that you must suffer through all of it as well. I am actually lucky enough to have symptoms prior to fainting - ones that I don't recognize quickly enough and this is pretty much what we're going off of to begin the "alert" training. But I'm there with you. So far, we're working on alerting others that I am fainting/have fainted (just in case I ever fall and hit my head, etc) and hoping for the best as for the pre-fainting training.

Happy - THANK YOU for your wonderful information. I always clarify that she IS in training. Matilda is certified through an SD organization, but I am still so confused as to the process. No one seems to be able to give me a straight answer. Because of the lack of an official SD registry, should I bother registering her with the county (and what does that entail)? Her current tag works everywhere (granted, I haven't used it much at all), and I supplement it with the Dr prescription for the SD (although no one ever asks to see it). I guess I'm at a loss at what to do going about all of this.

Thank you all so much for the support!
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Baja

You're like two- sides of the- same coin
 
 
Barked: Sat Oct 20, '12 8:43pm PST 
There is no need to register your dog with an organization unless your dog came from one. If you registered your dog with an online registry and paid money, most of them are just scams so be aware of that. Also for future reference, DO NOT show your doctors note to gain admittance to any businesses. They cannot ask for it and if you do show it then it may make it harder for future teams to gain access. If your county wants you to get a tag then I would recommend it. In California if your dog is a service dog and you get a tag for them then they also get a free license. Feel free to send me a pawmail if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them, I know how confusing and overwhelming it can be.
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Happy

The Boy Wonder
 
 
Barked: Sat Oct 20, '12 8:44pm PST 
First off yes, it is very important to get her registered with your county as a service dog in training. That tag is what will give you the right to take her in public with you. I'm not sure what you mean about her being certified through a program... if you're talking about an online registry then that isn't a real certification, it's a scam. What makes a service dog is training specifically towards your disability. Has your trainer ever worked with service dogs before? Because it doesn't sound like they've given you a lot of useful information. I'm not sure what part of the state you are in but if you'd like to message me I might can put you in contact with some handlers in the area who can help straighten some of it out a bit.

As to the rest I will try to revisit this when I'm not in such a fog with my meds and see if I can't answer more of your questions.
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