Preparing For Success with your new Prospect
This page is for educational purposes and has no legal basis unless there is a quote directly from the ADA which will be labeled as such. There is no right or wrong way to go about owner training a service dog and the goal of this page is to give people a place to start.
All dogs pictured are real working service dogs in training or service dogs.
What To Have Before Your Dog Comes Home
-Toys (chew, soft, puzzle)
-Vet picked out
-Trainer picked out
-A letter from your doctor stating you need a service dog
-A list of tasks your dog will be learning eventually
Exposing your prospect to as many stimuli as possible will set your dog up for success in the future. Who knows what types of enviroments, sounds, smells, and experiences they will have and getting them exposed to these things early will be extremely beneficial. Just sit or walk around these areas with your dog and let them take in and experience everything happening. Keep these sessions short and sweet. Great places for exposure training are:
-Local sporting events
-Ice Cream booths
-Pet friendly stores
Be VERY carful about dog parks or doggy daycare. When going into these spaces you do not know if the other dogs are vaccinated, friendly, reactive, aggressive, possessive, or fearful. Lots of service dogs have been retired early due to being attacked at dog parks and doggy daycares.
Training wise the best place to start is with basic obedience which will then advance into obedience in public spaces. Look online for puppy or basic obedience classes to get stared if you do not have very much dog training experience. Classes are a great way to get educated on training, meet new people, and expose your prospect to new smells, people and dogs. As your dog becomes proficient at home you then move outside which is more stimulating and a harder place to focus. Getting your dog to listen to you no matter the environment is a very important part of service dog training.
Before starting public access training some helpful obedience commands your should know for the best possibility of success:
Whenever starting public access make sure to start in pet friendly stores so that if your dog makes a mistake it is not as big a deal. Your dog should be 100% vaccinated and toilet trained before starting this. When you are starting public access your prospect should have basic obedience down and you can start working on advancing that obedience in a stimulating environment. You are going to start with 5-10 minutes and then add 5ish minutes each time your dog has a successful outing. Do not rush this and take your time. Going into stores and seeing strangers is very exciting for your dog. It can take them some time to adjust to these new places enough to focus on training. Some behaviors you are looking for are:
-Not sniffing people as they walk past
-Not going up to greet strangers
-Not sniffing or picking up merchandise
-Not eating stuff off the floor
-Focus on you
Asking friends and family to come with you to set up controlled scenarios for your dog to practice such as ignoring someone calling them, or ignoring dropped items can he helpful. Once you are proficient in pet friendly environments you can advance into non-pet friendly spaces.
Pet Friendly Locations (be sure to double check before going in)
-Pet Supplies Plus
-Barns and Noble
You should already have a list or idea of what tasks your dog will be performing to mitigate your disability. Lots of people reach out a dog trainer at this stage if they haven't already. It is extremely beneficial to have a dog trainer already picked out and interviewed before you reach this stage so that you already have a working relationship and they know your goals and needs. Obedience and public access training have not stopped and you will be continuing with those as well.
You will experience set backs. This is a normal part of the process. As your prospect ages they will go through fear periods and adolescence which can both set you back in your training. Your dog might also have a scary experience that sets them back in training. Take a breath. THIS IS NORMAL.
Go back to basics. Give them lots of wins with tasks they can succeed at to help build their confidence and your relationship. Spending a little extra time on fun activities such as hiking, swimming, playing or sports is a great way to bond and reconnect.
If your dog is showing any type of aggressive, reactive, or fearful behavior you might be going too fast in your training and have overwhelmed them. If you see any of these types of behavior stop all public access immediately and try to find the source of the behaviors. Did they hear a loud noise that they now associate with all stores? Did something fall off a shelf and onto them? This would also be a good time to reach out to a trainer to figure out what happened and how to fix it.
Deciding if a dog is not right for service work is hard and only a decision you can make. If you are wondering whether your dog is cut out for service work due to behavior issues or other reasons, reach out to a dog behaviorist or trainer to help you through the process.
Taking Your Service Dog to Work
Taking your service dog in training/service dog to job interviews is up to you. There are pros and cons to taking them. Take into consideration a few things when deciding.
-Your future job might wonder why you are requesting a reasonable accommodation for your service dog if they didn't come to the interview
-Your future job might discriminate against you when they see you show up to the interview with the dog
-Showing up with your service dog to the interview allows for the interviewer to see your dogs good behavior and thus eliminate all "what ifs"
-The interviewer might not know the appropriate questions they can and can not ask you about your dog and your disability so be prepared
Asking For Reasonable Accommodation:
Your place of work does not legally have to allow you to have your service dog especially if you work with food or in a potentially hazardous environment. Talk to HR about a reasonable accommodation. Try making a resume for your dog so that they have something physical to hold. Your resume can include: trainers used, a few tasks, vet, flea and tick prevention, vaccines, emergency info, and a picture of your dog. They can ask you for a doctors note so it is best to already have that available to make the process as quick as possible. Some things to help you prepare:
-Know when your dog will go on bathroom and play breaks ahead of time so you can plan your work day accordingly
-Have a dog bed and water bowl available where you work
-Put up a sign or have HR send out an email announcing a dog will be in the building and not to interact or pet the dog without permission
-Put a sign near your desk or work area explaining there is a dog and not to pet