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Donna Hill's

Service Dog Training Institute


Choosing a Service Dog:
What Do You Need
(Part 3)

active field line labrador
Click here to see Part 2

21. How pushy does the dog need be to stop you from doing an activity or be able to redirect you to another activity?

Will the dog be persistent enough to wake you from a sleep when your blood sugars drop? Look at the persistence of the breed and what types of things they are persistent at. Does your dog need to interrupt a dissociative state? Or does he need to be biddable and sensitive to your mobility needs? 

22. How much support do you have to raise and train your service dog?

Do family members believe you need a service dog and if so, are they willing to help? Do they have issues with specific breeds that would make them less likely to help?  How dependent are you on them for your living arrangements and help?

23. Can you get help for what you need to train? Or are you assertive enough to ask for help?

For example, if your dog is jumping up, are you confident enough to ask neighborhood kids to help your dog practice not jumping? Even if you don’t know them? Would you be able to ask strangers walking towards you to help you train your dog? Can you give them specific directions of what you need them to do?  

24. Is there a time frame involved?

For example, your current service dog is retiring or a family member is moving away. That may affect whether you get an adult or a pup.

25. Level of emotional sensitivity is needed from the dog?

Can the dog adjust his emotions to the level you need? (in other words, calm himself to calm you). Can he sense when you need this adjustment?  

26. Level of physical sensitivity is needed from the dog?

This includes impulse control for moving into a person’s space as well as how physically sensitive the dog is to physical touch. If your disability causes you to be physically rough with the dog will he be okay with that?  Or does your disability make you super sensitive to teeth and nails on your skin?

27. Is the smell of a dog going to be an issue?

The wet dog smell can be disagreeable to not only you but others you work with.  Some breeds have oilier coats than others. Pay attention to how each breed and dog smells as this may affect other people’s impression of your dog when working. Basset hounds, for example, have a very distinctive (and strong) odor. Once you’ve smelled it, you won’t forget it.  The breeds that need to be clipped may develop a distinctively doggy odor if not bathed regularly. Some dogs also vary their smell depending on what they are fed. Some dogs like Samoyeds have very little scent, even when wet. 

For some dogs, feeding raw decreases the odor (both from flatulence as well as general body odor). Also note that active dogs can develop odor through sweat glands on their feet. I knew of a mini daxie who had feet that smelled of bad body odor. This is because bacteria and fungus grow on the moist pads if they were not washed after hard exercise.  

28. Is your environment at home or work calm, scheduled or chaotic?

Most breeds and individuals do well with calm and scheduled but others enjoy some mental challenge as long as it is not all the time. Dogs that are intelligent and active like to have things mixed up at times to keep them interested. Hounds can do well in some chaos as they are so even-tempered if bait independent as a group. But all dogs need a break from it on a  daily basis.  

29. Are you quiet or loud?

Choosing a sensitive dog may not be a good choice if you are loud and boisterous as a person. A quiet person would not do well with a loud pushy dog.  Herding and protection breeds tend to be space sensitive. Hunting breeds not so much.

30. Do those around you have bias or prejudices for certain breeds?

Another thing to consider is to look at how the general public views the breed. This dog will be at your side in public and will affect how the public, managers, and co-workers interact with you.  One person noticed that people were much more friendly, helpful and tolerant of her needs after she retired her Belgian Malinois and got a yellow labrador. She felt they were uncomfortable with the Malinois as it was a protection breed. He was actually a very people social dog but people’s perspectives do affect their interactions.

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