There are many good reasons to train your own Service Dog – in fact, Molli Dogs Training LLC (Molli Dogs) highly recommends choosing this option if at all possible to ensure the best possible working team. Training your own Service Dog is incredibly rewarding as you watch your hard work turn an unruly puppy or dog into a responsible working dog. It is also a great teaching tool that will help you prepare for the responsibility of caring for and working with a fully trained Service Animal. Molli Dogs will guide you through the process, lay foundations, and answer questions along the way, helping you learn and progress through the training process. When you train your own Service Dog it also creates a deeper, stronger bond between the Service Animal and Recipient at an earlier age, leading to a more successful working team. But that’s not the best part – almost all dogs that are fully trained by their Recipient have about an 70-80% chance of learning to actually alert to various disabilities. For dogs placed with their Recipients at a later age, already fully trained, there’s only about a 50% chance that an alert will develop. This is a significant difference that should be taken into consideration when making the decision whether or not to train your Service Dog yourself.
A Service Dog is not a pet and s/he will require more time, more effort, and more money than a pet dog. You will want your Service Dog to be healthy and able to work for as long as possible. Most handlers end up putting thousands of dollars into their dogs and insurance will rarely, if ever, help cover any of the costs. Most handlers have to do a good amount of fundraising to cover all of the high costs of their Service Dog. You will need to be able to cover the high costs of training, you will need to be able to provide a high quality diet, extensive veterinary care, basic dog supplies and specialty training gear and equipment. Many handlers like to get insurance to cover the high cost of training a replacement if something happens to their Service Dog. Making sure you have the ability to cover all of these costs is a huge part of owning and training a Service Dog.
Training a Service Dog (Service Dog in Training or SDIT), and even having a fully trained one, requires a LOT of time and hard work so it’s important to make sure that you are physically able to do so. You will need to be able to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day, if not more, to training (This is the bare minimum you will want to upkeep for the entire working life of your service dog or else your fully trained dog will lose all of his/her hard trained skills and behaviors). You also have to ensure that you have the ability to provide the dog with the play time, exercise, and general care all dogs require. In addition to teaching potty training and working through obnoxious “puppy” behaviors with the assistance of Molli Dogs, you will also be doing Obedience Training and Socialization, which is far more advanced for a Service Dog than for a pet dog. You will also be doing Public Access Training which requires you to take the SDIT everywhere you go (with very few exceptions), teaching him or her how to behave in public, so you will want to make sure this is something you can devote the necessary time and energy to.
You will have to plan every outing around the dog. Will there be places for the dog to go potty? Will there be places for you to get water for the dog or do you need to bring some? Be aware that people WILL stop you everywhere you go wanting to ask questions or just pet the dog. Having a Service Dog with you is like putting a big red flag on your head that says “I have a disability.” People will stop and stare. Both children and adults will attempt to touch the dog without asking, make funny noises at the dog, or do other things to try to distract the dog. Some people will give you unkind looks or make unkind remarks, some will ask questions and want detailed information about your disability, some people may behave extremely poorly and do incredibly inappropriate things. Some uneducated businesses will even try to deny you access or cause you problems and you will need to be prepared to handle these situations. Molli Dogs will assist you in learning how to appropriately handle such situations and help educate you about the laws you will need to know. A simple trip to the grocery store that used to take only 10 minutes may take 30 with a Service Dog. As a Service Dog handler you will become an educator and advocate for Service Dogs everywhere you go so you will want to make sure you're prepared to do. You will also make sure that you are prepared to train your dog to extremely high standards so that your dog is never the one that causes a business to never want to allow another Service Dog in again.
Socializing your dog to everything he or she may encounter out in public is the most important part of training a Service Dog. Socialization issues tend to be the number one reason that causes dogs to fail as being Service Dogs. This is why taking your dog with you everywhere you go in public is so critical. It may seem like a hassle or an inconvenience; however, this is the only way to ensure that your dog is fully capable of assisting you in any given situation.
You must also realize that even the best trained Service Dog is still a dog. No amount of training will prevent a dog from being a dog. They will have times when they struggle. You can’t expect them to do everything perfectly on their own. They are not robots, they are living creatures. You must guide them and give them directions. No dog can ever be guaranteed to do every task or command you train 100% of the time. They will have off days. They will still engage in all the typical “doggy” behaviors. They may fail to alert or respond to something when they are sleeping or sick. They can get over worked and will require ample play time and down time to just “be a dog.” If you want your Service Dog to work for you the way you need him or her to you must show your dog the love, understanding, and respect he or she deserves.
As you can see, training and owning a Service Dog is no simple matter and making the decision to do so is something you should take very seriously. Should you choose to do so, Molli Dogs will guide you through the training process, lay foundations, and be your constant ally to assist you through any struggle or situation throughout and after the training process – but it is ultimately up to you to dedicate the time and effort required.
Training your own Service Dog will reward you with a constant companion, friend, and lifeline. It will give you an irreplaceable bond you never knew could exist.