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?
___ 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)
___ training partner (another person who is also training their service dog or has trained their own service dog
___ training mentor/consultant
___ 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)
___ nurse practictioner
___ physical therapist
___ occupational therapist
___ therapeutic recreational therapist
___ 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.