To Train Your Own Dog for Service (Handi-Dogs, Inc Tucson, AZ):
First and foremost, you must be eligible to have a service dog. In order to be eligible you must be a "person with a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, (and have a disability) including physical impairment, hearing impairment, and/or a psychiatric disorder; or a Caregiver/Family member of a child with a disability, and have a Statement from a physician required in order to verify disability."
- Will be assessed for appropriate temperament before acceptance;
- Must be physically sound and capable of performing the tasks asked of it;
- Must have proof of health and required vaccinations;
- Must have at least 6 years of working life after completing training. Generally, this means dogs no older than 4 years.
Format of Training:
- Classes are held in 10-week sessions. The number of sessions required depends on how consistently you train with your dog. Expect 6-8 ten-week sessions to achieve certification. (At $250 each, that's up to about $2000 to certification, not including Vet bills to ensure your dog is up to date on vaccinations, and other tests needed.)
- Participants attend a 60-90 minute class once a week, and practice daily at home.
- Classes are held on weekdays, during the day. Class placement is dependent on your dog's individual needs after evaluation.
- There is a non-refundable $35.00 application/testing fee.
- The cost for each 10-week session is $200 - $250, depending on class level.
Essentially, the cost to acquire, raise, train and maintain a service dog can range from about $2000 (training only) to well over $15,000. Keep in mind that you have to maintain your service dog, this means feeding/basic care to all Vet needs, which could range up to and over $40,000.
That's only to attach a monetary value to the dog. Now let's discuss the emotional, and service value of the dog....
Can you put a value on your freedom, your ability to be independent?
This is what a service dog does for a person with a disability. The dog allows that person to get out when they couldn't before, and allows them to do things on their own, that they couldn't before they acquired the dog.
Can you put a value on having a set of arms or legs?
A service dog can be a set of arms, or legs for a disabled person. The dog can also be a set of ears that hear, or eyes that see.
Can you put a value on your life?
Very often, service dogs also do things such as alerting. A dog might alert someone when they're about to have a seizure, or when their blood pressure is dangerously low, or high. These alerts can, and often do, save a person's life. There's no price you can put on that.
When a service dog is attacked by another dog and/or injured, it doesn't just hurt the dog. The owner isn't just devastated, the owner has now lost their freedom, their independence, their arms, legs, eyes or ears. The service dog, very often, has to be retired and the cost, training, blood, sweat and tears, must now be put into another dog, and the handler must now start all over again, all the while losing their independence, their helper, and their best friend.
Your stories are welcome here. Help people understand what your service dog means to you.
Service Dogs are priceless
I call all of this fateful because of how we were brought together. My order was a tall one. It's no easy task finding a good, quality German Shepherd that's been bred to work, but that also has his 'drive' in check so that he's not too difficult to handle. I was about to give up but then I found that folded piece paper on the floor of my car--the one that had all the breeders names crossed out. All but one. With this one last chance, I left a message saying I was looking for a Service Dog prospect, and hoped for a male. Later on, when the breeder returned my call, she informed me that a couple who worked for the FBI were there doing extensive tests on the litter in hopes of finding a cadaver SAR prospect. There were only two males in the litter, and they had said that this largest male would make a great Service Dog because he was mellow, and took things in stride. This made the breeder glow with pride, since she had long hoped to have a dog of hers do that kind of work). All that meant that Borias and I were meant to be.
And he knew it too. We've been inseparable since the day I was allowed to bring him home. He displayed none of the typical puppy- separation-anxieties like crying for his mom and litter-mates. It was as though he knew he'd just found home. The very next day he went on an outing with me on leash, trotting right beside my wheelchair with no problem. He was such a quick study. I used clicker- training to begin teaching him some of the things he would do for me, but I had no idea, at nine weeks old (and after only a few training sessions), that he would be picking up my dropped keys and wallet! In fact, he got so into excelling at his job, he learned how to unzip my backpack when I wasn't paying attention--- to take out my wallet just so he could give it back to me! (Perfect practice makes perfect, after all!).
On one occasion early in our relationship, I was in a grocery store, and had unknowingly dropped my wallet in the aisle. When I noticed, I said out loud "Oh no! Where's my wallet?" Instantly Borias was headed behind me, pulling on his leash, then suddenly was again in front of me, wallet in his jaws, tail wagging proudly. What a good boy!
This bond of ours has deepened through the years, which go by so fast. We've shared some incredible times, both recreationally and competitively. He's gotten to hobnob with celebs, been to a U2 concert, watched the Broadway play The Lion King with great interest, and is a regular at the zoo, where he often gets more attention than the other critters! He's the first dog I've ever earned an obedience title with, getting a blue ribbon twice. He passed a therapy dog test with a flawless performance, and can now visit the infirm and have children read to him.
Being in a wheelchair comes with some (but not too many!) obstacles. Do I really need to add 'social ignorance' to my list?
I'd love to find a way to open the heart of the world...
inspiration. My soul-mate. My heart dog.