My Service Dog, Jade

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jade Gets Certified!!

Today, my Jade took her Certification Exam with the field trainer and the Head Trainer.  SHE PASSED!!! I knew she would; she's a great dog, and has come such a long way since beginning training!  She skipped the Level 1 beginning class, went into the Level II class, and acquired her Canine Good Citizen Certificate.

Soon after we started training; after her first class, she then skipped a class and went straight into service dog training. Once she got her CGC and headed off to service dog training she got her Blue Vest.  She began going everywhere with me in order to expose her to all kinds of environments, people, noises, sights, smells, etc.  She did great, but at this point still had an issue with loud noises making her very anxious and still was somewhat reactive when other dogs got in her face to sniff her.  I was discouraged about these two issues, as they were really her only issues.  Other than that, she was becoming a wonderful service dog and learning her tasks very well. If you've read my blog, you know how hard we worked on these two issues to get her where she is today.

She completed one service dog training class, skipped the Level II Service Dog class, and went straight into Field Training.   That's when she got her Red Vest.  This meant "Service Dog In Training" and stated so on the vest. We worked hard together, getting her past her issues with loud noises and getting her past her reactivity to other dogs who got in her face.  It's noteworthy to add here, that we soon learned that Jade's reactivity had a lot to do with her being viciously attacked by a roaming pit bull at the park, which she found very hard to get passed. We also learned that once she was passed it, I was not. Her reactivity was then a result of MY reaction when another dog got close to her or got in her face.  Once we had that down, it was a green light.  I began to change MY behavior in these situations, and hers followed.   It's also noteworthy to mention here that when a service dog is working (on duty) other dogs SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO GET IN HER FACE!! Nevertheless, there will ALWAYS be irresponsible and ignorant dog owners out there, who just either don't know what a service dog is, don't understand that letting their dog get in your service dog's face while its working is a complete and total distraction for the service dog, or simply don't care. I know this to be a FACT, because in the short amount of time that Jade's been a service dog, MANY dog owners have let their dogs approach her and get in her face, sniff her, etc.  I now use this as an opportunity to educate people, if I have time; otherwise, we turn around and leave.

My field trainer and I worked hard on her reactivity issue and mine as well, and soon she was working alongside another service dog, and with the field trainer's Rottweiler. Once this was going well, the field trainer informed me that she felt Jade was ready to take her certification exam.  A week later, that's what we did.  That was today.

 The test was pretty easy for Jade at this point, just because we'd worked so hard and pushed her far beyond what the test requires.  I thanked the field trainer for that, because it got her through today with flying colors! So Jade has now acquired her Teal/Green Vest, which states that she's now a Certified Service Dog.

The Head trainer accompanied us once we reached the exam destination, and the field trainer came along as well. The Head trainer carried her clipboard, and marked things off as we did them. Just the fact that the dog is able to maneuver through the establishment with the appropriate service dog etiquette is a major requirement. This means, the dog has to be next to the handler at all times, no sniffing merchandise or people, no soliciting pets from people, and the dog's focus must always be on the handler. This requirement is first and foremost. Then we went through the checklist, which included things like coping well with loud noises and being able to recover quickly, performing down/stay with handler in sight and out of sight, tolerating a step-over by a stranger, petting by children, sit/stay with other dogs walking past/getting close, handler recall off leash, performing a front/wait at the cash register, performing leave it when food is left on the floor, or dropped, performing a follow the handler (walking behind the handler when necessary in tight spaces), performing an under (quietly lying under the table while the handler sits/eats/talks, etc for at least 15 min), proper bathroom etiquette (sit and wait quietly) and of course performing her tasks when cued, or when not cued. There were some other things that I can't think of right now, as it's been a long day and I'm wiped out.  The entire exam took about 2 and 1/2 hours, but it was mentally exhausting, and for someone that is disabled and finds it difficult just to get out and around, it's tiring.

Jade was a SUPERSTAR!!! I am SO VERY proud of her for accomplishing what she has, and yeah, I'll say it....I'm proud of myself too for working so hard on this, and for training her so well.

Jade is completely Certified now, but the training doesn't stop. It never stops.  A service dog must always be up to the standard that it can always pass the Certification exam.  So, her certification will expire in one year and at that time, she will take the test again. AFter that, it will expire after 2 years, and at that time, she will take the test once again.  This is done to ensure that the service dog team doesn't start slacking on the dog's requirements, and behavior/etiquette, etc.  I think this is great! It's important to make sure that the service dog teams out there are always being monitored.

The agency we Certified with told me that the ADA requirements may change soon, and that Certification by a professional trainer or agency may soon be a requirement for all service dogs. Frankly, I hope that's the case, because in my opinion, there are far too many service dogs out there that are NOT up to par, and could never pass the public access test, even though they're out there in the public all the time.

Jade now has her Teal/Green Vest, is a completely Certified Service Dog, and will also soon be issued an I.D. card with our photo and names on it.  I couldn't be happier, or more proud of her!


Jade at 11 weeks, when I first brought her home. 

Jade at work in her Blue Vest
Pretty girl!