Did you know there are more domestic canines in the United States than in any other country in the world? To be exact, there are 75 million of them. About 500,000 of these canines are service dogs assisting people with disabilities to lead better lives.
Before a dog can become a service dog to help and assist people, the dog must go through an extensive training program starting when they are a young puppy. This unique training not only takes a special dog, it takes a specialized trainer who has expertise specifically in the disability to which the dog will provide support. If you are looking to purchase a service dog, we recommend not only researching various organizations, but also learn specifically about the trainers who work for that organization.
When researching organizations and their service dog trainers, here are a few important traits the trainers must have:
1. The Ability to Recognize Behavioral Signals
A great trainer can quickly read the behavioral signs of a dog. Dogs have many emotions that can easily be missed by an untrained eye. It’s especially important to see, process and correctly respond to any sudden changes in the dog’s behavior.
For instance, non-verbal cues from a PTSD service dog can express its fear, aggression, happiness, or even distraction. A skillful trainer will pay close attention and adjust their training considering these behavioral signals. To decode what a dog might be feeling during training, the trainer will closely monitor its posture, teeth, ears, and general expressions.
2. The Capacity to Identify Common Health Problems
Every dog breed has a unique and different set of potential health concerns, and the trainer must be familiar and on the lookout in case the dog shows signs of health issues. Beyond health issues that are breed specific, trainers should also be on the lookout for any other issues, like changes in eating behaviors, physical changes, or even an unusual dry nose.
Throughout the training process, the trainer should be able to dispense primary care to the dog, such as giving them oral medication, removing ticks and fleas and cleaning any wounds. If the service dog trainer also happens to possess a canine-specific work background like a veterinary technician, they should be able to give the dog relatively specialized attention. They should be able to administer injections, collect blood and other types of samples as well as conduct more advanced medical procedures.
3. Possess Desirable Characteristics
Training a service dog is a long process and doesn’t happen overnight or even in a couple months. The entire process usually takes between 12-18 months. Along the way there can be setbacks and major hurdles to overcome; therefore, a trainer needs to exhibit extraordinary amount of patience as it may take longer than anticipated to inculcate the desired traits in the dog.
Although patience is a virtue, an exceptional trainer knows when to increase the intensity of the training but doesn’t go overboard stressing the dog out. Proper training ensures a fine balance between the two.
It takes a special type of person to dedicate most of their time to the training process and integrate the dog with their daily activities. The dog should accompany the trainer virtually everywhere they go; the grocery store, school, work, shopping trips, visits to the neighbors, etc. The trainer must have determination and dedication while adhering to a consistent training process in a variety of environments.
Your Service Dog Deserves the Best Training
Service dogs provide a critical duty to their owners in helping them navigate life despite their disability. Trainers are responsible for teaching service dogs good behavior both at home and in public. Trainers also rear the pups to be close companions—to trust and be trusted. Their goal is to develop energetic and curious pups into mature, dependable dogs that have the following characteristics:
- Well-behaved: Service dogs have good house manners and will not relieve in the house. They are quiet and calm, eat only their own food, and are not destructive.
- Socialized to the world: Service dogs have been exposed to a wide variety of people, things, and places and accepts new situations in a calm manner.
- Well-traveled: Service dogs are relaxed and comfortable when traveling in cars, buses, trains, airplanes, ferries, etc.
- People-friendly: Service dogs bond well with people, enjoy receiving verbal praise and are eager to please.
- Animal-friendly: Service dogs are calm and appropriate around all sorts of animals including other dogs, cats, birds, livestock, etc.
- Responsive: Service dogs obey basic commands and are cooperative during various training exercises.
To learn more about our training programs and services visit our Contact Us Page or call us at 540-543-2307.