I foster strays and am interested in training them as service dogs. I would be interested in therapy, guide dog training, service dog training, or anything else along those lines. Does anyone know any resources?

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  1. Kirsten R

    If you are not in the U.S., then generally you would have to work for an ADI recognized program. In the U.S., private trainers are permitted, but are uncommon.
    Most dogs aren’t suited for service work. Paws with a Cause did a study showing that among rescues only one dog in a hundred was able to complete screening and training.
    Before you start training you have to temperament test. Service work is extremely stressful and requires a very very sound dog. Most rescues are going to come with some baggage. It wouldn’t be fair to put a dog with baggage into a highly stressful career.
    Then you do health clearances, including OFAs on hips, elbows, thyroid and cardiac, plus a CERF. It takes two years to train a service animal and the investment in time and expenses runs into thousands of dollars. It just isn’t practical to start training a dog without the health checks and risk putting all that training into a dog who has to retire early because of a health issue. These aren’t pets, they are working dogs. They have to be healthy enough to work.
    If you really want to learn to train service dogs professionally, there is no way around it. You have to apprentice with a good program under trainers already experienced in training service dogs. It is significantly more involved than training pets to have good manners or even training a dog for obedience competition.
    Individuals with disabilities may choose to train service dogs for themselves, but those who would train them for others really need the credentials and those only come from real experience with an established program.
    Guide dogs are probably the most difficult to train and there are so many really good schools out there, like the Seeing Eye or Guide Dogs for the Blind, that private trainers of guide dogs aren’t really sought out. In fact, in some states it is illegal to train guide dogs for others without a special license.
    You mentioned therapy. That’s really different. It’s more achievable. More dogs would be capable of doing it because there are no health clearances and the training is minimal. Note: therapy dogs are pets who visit facilities like hospitals or nursing homes to cheer up the residents, while a service dog is partnered with a person who is legally disabled. So you’d either have to do it with your own pets, or start a local program to help others get their dogs certified and coordinate visiting programs for the group.
    I’ll tell you what is really needed, that would fit beautifully with rescue dogs. Emotional Support Animals. You’d have to become an advocate as well, but the training is basic. They just need good manners, like not barking all night or pooping everywhere. Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (in the U.S.) people with disabilities and the elderly are permitted to keep well-behaved pets, called emotional support animals, even if their landlord has a “no pets” rule. We know how much an animal can give to people in isolation or chronic pain. They can be lifesavers. All that is needed is a letter from a doctor recommending the person have an Emotional Support Animal.
    Start with some therapy dogs doing visits to skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes, as well as psychiatric wards, to establish yourself with the medical providers of potential recipients of your emotional support animals. Let the doctors, etc., see first hand just how beneficial interaction with an animal can be to their patients, then suggest you are prepared to help individual patients find a suitable partner for an ESA.
    I don’t know of anyone specifically targeting that market. It seems ideal to me, though, because both the animals and the humans are being rescued in such a situation, by each other. It can make for some really incredible bonds.
    If you still want to pursue the service dog thing, enroll at the Assistance Dog Institute (http://www.assistancedog.org/) or apprentice with an ADI (Assistance Dog International) accredited program. You can find a listing of ADI members here:http://www.assistancedogsinternational.o
    If you want to learn more about therapy dogs, try one of these sites:http://www.deltasociety.orghttp://www.tdi-dog.org/http://www.therapydogs.com/
    If you want to learn more about emotional support dogs, try wikipedia or Service Dog Central (http://servicedogcentral.org/content/nod

  2. Rebecca and Molly

    The requirements vary from location to location. If you are in the US, you can train a dog yourself, but whether you have a legal right to access as a dog’s trainer with an SDIT varies from state to state.
    Check the yahoo groups for service and assistance dog lists.
    But remember that not every dog is suited for this type of work. You might be best off just trying to put a good solid obedience foundation into them. It can take years to train a good working SD. But a dog with good socialization and good obedience skills is a better candidate than most and you may find people more interested in homing the dogs you train regardless of their needs.

  3. K9Resqer

    Most service dogs are specifically tested and picked out by the organization and raised by qualified puppy raisers before spending time at the training facility. Not every dog is qualified to be a service dog and very few, if any, are trained by private individuals.
    Here’s some helpful information:http://www.fidosforfreedom.org/assist-do

  4. Funny Fart Videos

    Locate some people that supply service dogs and ask who they get them from and then contact them for information on what credentials you need to be teaching therapy dogs.

  5. JAG

    Contact some groups in your area and see what their requirements are. It’s a great idea!

  6. bj2circe

    The first thing you would need to do would be to carry out extensive health checks on the dogs, as if a dog is not incredibly heathly and physically sound they are not suited to the stress involved in public access work, and the tasks of service dogs.
    If after having passed the physical tests the dog would then need to be extensivley temperament tested. Service dog work is incredibly stressful, and these dogs have to be able to ignore people grapping at them, kids jumping on them, having pencils shoved up their noses, tails pulled and stepped on, carts rammed into them, etc. Service dog work is not pretty, and many people can be incredilby cruel to them. If the dog is not able to ignore such things then they deserve to be able to live their lives as a pet, without all the stresses that public access involves.
    Most programs have their own breeding programs for a reason, and this is to ensure that the dogs they produce are physically and mentally sound. Even then, they are lucky to have 50% of their dogs make it. It is estimated that only about 1% of dogs have the temperament suited to be in public access roles, and it is likely to be even less for strays. While some dogs will have been given up for reasons related to the owners most have been given up because of problems related to the dog. Also most people who give up dogs have not trained or socialised it when young, which makes it much less likely that it will be able to cope with these things when older. Service dogs must love their jobs, and no dog should ever be forced into public access work. You do not train a dog for such work by dragging it everywhere with you when young, and programs that encourage such behaviour from puppy raisers have much lower levels of dogs passing the grade. Dogs need to be slowly and carefully introduced to the different elements of public access on a sliding scale, ensuring that each exposure is a positive experience and that the person on the other end of the lead is able to pick up the first signs of stress and respond appropriately.
    Dogs also need to be young in age. It takes about 2 years to fully train a service dog, and for a dog to then only be able to work with a person for a few years before having to retire is not fair to the person concerned, and it is also an incredibly large waste of money and resources.
    If you do want to look further into it I suggest you look at Assistance Dogs International, Service Dog Central, Delta, International Association of Assistance Dog Partners and the like.
    Therapy dog work is entirely differnt to service dog work. These are dogs who visit people in nursing homes, hosptials, etc to cheer them up, and to give them something different to foucs on. These dogs need to have a CGC, and then pass a temperament test and health checks. Most people love it if the dogs can do tricks, like shake hands, roll over, etc, etc, as it gives them something to focus on instead of just petting the dog. Basically these dogs need to love being around people and being petted by them. They do need to be able to tolerate rough and clumsy petting, and to be comfortable around different types of medical appliances, ie. wheelchairs, crutches and the like. Many differnt programs have therapy dog testing schemes, including Delta and Therapy Dogs International.

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