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Creating An Assistance Dog Support System

It takes a broad community to successfully raise and train a service dog to to the point of public access testing. Owner trainers can't do it by themselves! Even the professionals who train service dogs for a living have a support system! Many owners dive in without considering how they might meet the daily needs and training support their dog has. They also don't think of emergencies like periods where they may not be able to care for the dog due to their own medical emergencies. Here's a list of the possible roles of your community members to help you succeed. 

Identify Your Team Members

Before you seriously consider training your own service dog, make sure to identify who these people are, have a talk with each of them and specifically discuss with them what they will be doing for you and the dog for the life of the dog.  Make sure they are willing and eager to help. If they are not, you may face a challenge when you need them the most. Don't assume they like dogs or will know what to do with your dog. Are they willing to take direction from you? 

Identified                            Who

___   family/housemates  

___   landlord

___   your caregivers (family or paid) are on board with having a dog and their role in helping you maintain/train and use

___   dog exerciser

___   dog sitter (for periods when you need a break, are incapacitated or in the hospital etc)

___   trainer

___   training partner (another person who is also training their service dog or has trained their own service dog

___   training mentor/consultant

___   veterinarian

___   pet insurance or lump sum of money for emergencies

___   vet behaviorist (for significant problem behaviors like fear or aggression, perhaps due to an incident in public, if not local, you should be able to find one that does distance consultations via web cam)

___   groomer (for regular grooming)

___   fundraiser (lump sum or ongoing) 

___   case manager

___   family doctor

___   medical specialist (allergist, diabetes, etc)

___   Psychiatrist/therapist/counsellor

___   nurse practictioner

___   physical therapist

___   dietician

___   occupational therapist

___   therapeutic recreational therapist

___   employer/school/teacher

___   spiritual leader

___   computer support for online learning

Over the life or your dog, these individuals may change, but make sure that someone is designated to take on each role. Depending on your disabilities, some of the roles may be more important than others at times.

Make a Hard Copy of the Team List

It helps to keep a list (ideally a hard copy) of each role, who is doing that role when, their contact information and what they have agreed to do. Print off this list and fill it out. If something happens to you, your dog will be cared for. For those who you need to be in regular contact with, set up a tentative plan for weekly or monthly meetings.