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Donna Hill's

Service Dog Training Institute


Choosing a Service Dog:
What Do You Need?
(Part 4)

dalmatian sitting looking over shoulder
Click here to see Part 3

31. Do you like attention?

If you get an unusual looking breed or individual dog, you will be stopped frequently to be asked “What kind of dog is that?” which you may or may not be comfortable of have time to do. Introverts may not like this kind of attention so choose your dog accordingly. It helps to be prepared with a few standard answers and how to remove yourself from the situation without being rude.  

32. Is there Breed Specific Legislation BSL in your city or region?

If you choose to use these breeds as a service dog, you need to follow the laws even if your dog is a service dog. Uneducated people will also show fear of your dog and may go out of their way to avoid your dog or conversely, educate you about local laws.  This can be stressful for both you and your dog. If you move into an area that has an outright ban on your breed, you could legally have your dog removed from you and even destroyed without your permission. Whether this is morally right or not is not the question. It can happen to anyone so it is brought up as a point of consideration here to prevent stress and heartache.  If you are willing to fight in in court that is up t you but that will add more stress and cost. 

33. What are your group or breed preferences?

A group is the kennel clubs way of classifying dogs that do similar jobs together. 
The 6 groups are: sporting hound working terriers herding non-sporting and toy (companion dogs).Breed preferences are which breeds of dogs do you like the best from what you know about them. Remember rather than looks, you want to focus on their general personally type and behaviors as this is the foundation of who they are and what they will be willing to do for you.

34. What personality could you live with?

Could you tolerate a goofy fun-loving personality or would a serious dog be a better match for you?  

35. Would you prefer a purebred or mix of breeds? 

Mixed breed puppies usually have an unknown genetic, gestation and socialization history. You won’t be able to test the dog for most health issues until he is 2 years of age. Considering an adult mixed breed dog may be a better choice as you can health test him and get to know his temperament before putting too much training in.

36. Are you a dog person or cat person?

There are several breeds that are cat-like inbehavior. This typically means more independent. Daschunds and Shiba Inus are two such breeds.  Depending on the task you need them to do, they may work or not as a service dog. 

37. Do you have other things happening in your life that will compete with training a service dog?

All dogs, no matter the breed, need you to focus on their training daily during the first two years of life and beyond. The early training needs to be continuous, ideally with no breaks. Certainly the socialization period during the first 16 weeks of life cannot be set aside. Behavior and tasks training can be postponed but not indefinitely. You need to make a commitment to your dog to complete the training.  An adult dog is more forgiving in this respect if his adolescent stage is over.

38. How much time each day can you commit to socializing and training the puppy or dog?

At least 120 hours of specific training within 6 months is required by the Assistance Dog International (ADI). That is one hour a day 5 days a week for six months. Most dogs required 18 months to 2 years of training before their skills are solid enough in public to be considered a service dog.  

39. After all of this, how resilient are you?

Could you start again after a dog you have trained for many months is failing the process? Will you rehome the dog? To whom? Keep it? Can you realistically financially afford having two or more dogs? Do you have the time for the second dog? 

40. If you are using the dog for mobility support:

In general the dog must be at least half of your weight or heavier and at least 23 inches at the shoulder for small women and 25 inches at the shoulder or larger for men. Taller may be needed, depending on the fit of the harnesses with attached handles. Choose dogs that have a heavier bone structure. Remember that male dogs tend to be larger than females dogs so consider that. Larger dogs cost more in food, need more space, are at risk for more joint issues, have a shorter life and vet procedures often cost more. And know that there are many mobility tasks that you should not be asking your dog to do as they pose a safety risk for him.

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