It can be a daunting prospect to begin to research and search for a service dog or assistance dog in the best of cases. When you are going to be training the dog yourself, due to barriers accessing charitable services, it can be even harder.
A Force-Free Professional Can Make a World of Difference
Seeking help from a qualified Pet Professional Guild trainer can be extremely helpful. You are guaranteed to be working with a vetted and approved trainer. You can ask for their experience and knowledge with service/ assistance animals, and also ask for their references and client testimonials. Your trainer may already have a list of breeders that they recommend and know of, and they even may be willing to accompany you to assess and choose a puppy. Even though you may have a particular puppy in mind, they may not necessarily meet the requirements as a suitable candidate for the future role you have in mind. A qualified professional can help you identify traits and select an ideal puppy prospect.
There are no rules that say you cannot train your own service dog/ assistance dog and there are no rules that your prospect has to be a puppy. There are advantages and disadvantages to both a puppy and an older dog, but the main thing is that you feel comfortable with, and have a bond with, your choice of future assistance animal.
It can feel overwhelming and as though there is a lot of pressure when training your own service/ assistance dog. However, working with a force-free professional can make the world of difference in supporting you and your dog with your training journey.
How Long Does It Take?
It’s normal for people to want to rush the process and have a fully prepared service dog/ assistance dog as quickly as possible. It is important to remember that dogs not only need time to develop properly, both physically and mentally, but also need time to learn necessary behaviors effectively and in a way which suits the individual dog and handler.
Charities often have a puppy with a foster puppy-parent until they are around ten months of age to ensure that they have had the opportunity to be a puppy and socialized to everyday environments. This also helps in being able to train the young dog once he has gained some physical and emotional maturity. It can then take a year to 18 months and sometimes longer to fully train a dog to be a qualified service dog or assistance dog.
In the UK, it is recommended that a dog is trained at least five times a week and that the training and activities are recorded within a diary. Sessions are encouraged to be kept short so as to not overwhelm the dog.
All dogs are different and the training is a part of the journey, which should be enjoyed by both dog and guardian, whilst also developing a unique bond for a successful team.
About the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) Assistance Animal Division
Our volunteer committee includes a broad representation of pet professionals with a variety of skills and interests specific to assistance animals. We invite individuals and professional organizations interested in training, working with, and receiving support from animals who assist people in different ways to join PPG. Pet guardians can join for free, and as members will have access to additional pages on our website (along with some amazing vendor discounts).
We look forward to welcoming you into an inclusive group that prioritizes humane treatment and welfare of both people and assistance animals!