Recently, I had an email question that I thought would be helpful for others to read that answer to. 

"I am writing to inquire it be ideal to train two young pups as service dogs together. There are two members of my family who could each benefit one. The breeder/trainer/rescue involved suggested we wait to get a second pup, rather than taking two home at once."
I am in agreement with the breeder/trainer/rescue.
Firstly, two pups together can be a crazy-making situation! With any pup, the socialization with other people, dogs and environments is key. Toting two growing pups and their equipment around is more than double the workload of one, especially if there is only one person able to do the training! If one or both of you have disabilities, that adds too much on top of the already challenging situation you are dealing with. 

Secondly, having two pups close together in age can create problems with bonding issues with their people unless there is a significant effort to train separately. Typically it’s called “littermate syndrome” where they get so bonded that the humans get squeezed out of the equation. Separation anxiety from the other dog, as well as not being able to train without the other dog present, or relying on the other dog for guidance are all common issues seen. I myself always have gotten dogs that were about 14-18 mos apart. By that time the older dog has a strong bond with their person or people and the pup sees that and usually chooses to bond with the other person. It also helps you to choose a temperament that suits the first dog so they get along. For example, Jessie was very careful about the dogs she plays with and Lucy is perfect in that she always gives Jessie the space and time she needs and goes out of her way to avoid conflict. 

Thirdly, If you or your family member get sick or are unable to continue the socialization during critical periods or can't afford to hire someone else to continue the process, then you have only one dog to do catch up with, not two. 

There are other benefits as well. Once you have learned to train the first dog, training the second one comes easier and the handler/family makes fewer mistakes so general training tends to go faster. Of course, each dog has their own challenges. You learn how to create and what daily structure/environment works for all of you. Puppies tend to fit into those quickly when there are older dogs in the house.The older dog often models the behaviors you want the puppy to do as well (assuming he doesn’t have too many unwanted behaviors. LOL!)

So there are many valid reasons to wait to get the second service dog candidate pup!

A local service dog training organization has calculated the value of a certified service dog at CDN$80,000. Another in The US states US$55,000.  That is more than the value of most people's vehicles! 

Can you imagine a person letting their child run up to and jump in your car and demand a ride? You would be pretty upset if they did and probably tell the child off, or at the very least demand that the parent remove the child.

That is a pretty good analogy of what is happening when a child asks to pet a service dog. Unlike the car analogy, the result might be more disastrous than just delaying the driver a few minutes. The child is interfering with the dog's ability to medically assist the handler. That is the dog's job. All it takes is a momentary distraction for the dog to miss a medical alert, not be available to support their handler or not be there to block the person from moving forward.
 

That is why there are laws that protect service dogs from being interfered with by the public.

What A Member of the Public Can Do:
1. Talk to and look at the handler, not the dog. It's great to be friendly to people with disabilities!

2. Start up a conversation with them. Let them know you think their dog is pretty or quiet or doing a good job. Or that the weather has been nice recently.
They may be in a hurry or may have already greeted several other people that day so be ready for them to just thank you and move away. 

3. Look at the handler while you ask if you can interact with the dog. Be prepared for them to say "No". They may also ask if you can help them train their dog by interacting with the dog in a specific way. It is good to practice with your child that the handler might say no and you need to keep moving or smile and look away.

The service dog may be in training and greeting you, your child or your dog at that moment may set the dog back in that training. Ensure your child stays out of the dog's space and keeps his hands at his side. If you have a dog with you, keep your dog close to you on leash and well out of contact range of the service dog team if he is showing too much interest in the service dog. 

4. Keep your own opinions about the level of disability of the handler. Many disabilities are invisible. Examples of invisible disabilities are seizures, diabetes, anaphylactic allergies, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety.  

5. If you see that a service dog is causing a disturbance in public, move away and notify the manager of the store. Let them deal with it. They should ask the handler to control the dog. If after being given a chance to do so and they are not able to or make no attempt to control the service dog, then the manager can ask them to remove the dog. Members of the public cannot ask a service dog to leave. That would be considered interference with a service dog team.

Did you know that in BC, Canada there is up to a $3000 fine for anyone interfering with a service dog team? Or that a record and jail time is possible for doing so? There are similar laws all over the world. Please respect a service dog team!

Click Here to see Part B

C. Not Having a Support System for Themselves to Help Meet the Dog's Daily Needs and Training 

A key point is that any person who is helping you with your service dog must have the same approach to training that you do, or at least agree to handle your dog in the same way you do. If for example, you use positive reinforcement, and a helper handles your dog in a stress environment, they will not have the skills that you do and may set your dog way back in training by using methods or tools that you have not agreed to. This applies to groomers, dog walkers, veterinarians, the handlers caregivers and any other people involved in your dog's care. It is best to have more people on your team since at times, not all of them will be available. Always have a back-up!

You will need: 
1. Someone to make sure the dog's daily needs are met if you are not able to do this or become incapacitated for more than a day or so: feeding, pottying, exercise, play, social etc. This may cost extra money. 
2. Someone who will be a training helper and create distractions while proofing training. 
3. Transportation provider to move you and the dog where you need to go both for daily living and for training purposes.
4. People you can borrow training props form or who can make you training props. 
5. Veterinarian (your dog's health care provider)
6. Groomer (if needed)
7. Your mental and physical health care providers (who are they and what role will they play?)

Did you make any of these mistakes? It's time to fix them!

Click here to see Part A

 

Click Here to See Part A

B. Choosing the Wrong Dog for the Job

Owner-trainers need to start out with a dog with the most solid temperament and health that they can find. Starting with anything less decreases their chance of success. 
1. Choose a dog with a known genetic and behavioral history. Find a quality breeder for a pup or for an adult dog that has been returned to a breeder or a retired conformation dog the breeder is looking to retire.
Behavior issues related to temperament are the most common reason a dog is removed from training for public access. Look for a dog with friendly, biddable and bombproof parents. Look for a dog that was raised in a home environment with attention to socialization with people of all ages and other friendly known dogs. Environmental enrichment for the puppies to grow the little brains before you start working with them. Health tests on the parents. 
2. Health issues. When adopting an adult dog, have that dog screened for health issues common to the breed at 2 years of age. That way there won't be surprises down the road where you have to retire the dog early. If you are getting a pup, make sure the parents have been screened and passed for the same health tests by recognized bodies, not just any veterinarian taking a passing look at the dog. 
3. It can take screening as many as 400 shelter or rescue dogs to find one that has suitable health and temperament for a service dog. These usually have an unknown gestation and health history. Avoid adding a rehabilitation project to your list of jobs and costs. 
4. Be especially careful to choose an emotionally sound dog that is emotionally resilient or physically insensitive if you are training your dog for anxiety or PTSD. For these, it is recommended to start with a dog that is at least 18 mos of age so you can see the dog's temperament. 
Alternatively, consider asking a friend or family to raise a puppy to that age for you. Pups exposed at a young age to people with anxiety tend to either become supersensitized or learn to ignore the anxiety or PTSD unless (and sometimes even if) they have a bombproof temperament. Herding breeds tend towards sound sensitivity. That's why the three most common assistance dog breeds are golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and standard poodles. As a breed, they tend to be emotionally and sound insensitive and physically robust and resilient. They are also the most commonly available breeds so you have the best chance to find Lgood example of the breed.

Click here to see Part C after Nov 26, 2017

There are three mistakes that owner-trainers of assistance dogs commonly make when training their own service dogs for public access.

A. Not Setting Aside or Fundraising Enough Money before they start the process.

While owner training can be cheaper than program trained dogs, especially if you happen to be a professional trainer, the training ends up costing more that the person thinks. It is a good idea to have $3000-$6000 set aside before you start so you are not under the pressure which causes you stress or have to delay training while you fundraise more money. The lower end would be for starting with an adult dog, the higher end with a puppy. 

Parts of Training Not Often Considered that Cost Money:
1. Time to make a realistic plan with the guidance of a knowledgeable service dog trainer, tailered for their specific needs.
2. Owner-trainers are not likely to have the knowledge of training dogs to take the dog to a high enough level to be reliable for public access. That costs money to learn whether it's online or inperson coaching.
3. Getting guidance from a trainer privately or even in semi-private sesssions isn't cheap. Rates vary from $40 to $150 per hour, depending on where they are.
4. Group classes help the dog to learn to work with them despite the distraction of other people and dogs. Plan for at least 4 setsof 6 classes over 2 years for a pup.
5. Testing for progress. Tests such as the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test, the Urban Citizen Dog etc are great indicators of what you need to work on. They typically cost $25 each. 
6. Speciaized training such as scent training for diabetic alerts, gluton alerts, and other task training. 
7. Access to locations and transportation for specialized public access training. Costs for arranging and reserving use of specialized services need to be covered by the owners.  
8. Serious behavioral problems arise that the owner need professional help to solve. This can cost much money!
9. Independent testing for public access is key to prove that your dog demonstrates the required safe controlled behavior in public. Some juridictions require standardized testing provided by province or country. This may cost $200 plus transportation to the tester or to bring the tester to you. 
10. Purchase price of the dog. 

When the handler runs out of money, the training stalls and the dog is left in limbo. This may happen during critical socialization and fear periods, in adolescence and during public access and task training. This will set the dog back in training and can signicantly slow the training process.

Click here to see Part B