Friday, August 29, 2008

Update: Team Training

I am preparing to travel to Summit next week for the first half of my team training. Yes, that's right, I said first half. Summit is experimenting with their team training protocols. They are separating the lectures and some of the group training such as learning commands from the more individual elements of the team placement that depend upon which person, which dog and their particular task/lifestyle needs. While this is not the the format I was expecting, I am willing to roll with it. I will be attending a full day of lectures and group team training this week with three other people and families who are being matched with dogs. two of the dogs going out this round are therapy dogs working with very young children with disabilities. Myself and another woman will be matched with service dogs. We are both receiving our second dogs. Since Summit's cues and rules are a bit different from the ones each of us were accustomed to with our previous partners, I imagine both she and I will be working to reconcile the old with the new and battling some ingrained patterns along the way.

I am beyond excited to start the process of training with Shilo. I would be lying if I said it wasn't going to be hard to go up there and come back without her. I am consoling myself with the advantages I believe this new training approach may have. For instance, I will be able to spend some prolonged time with Shilo without uprooting her world view, This period of watching Shilo and I work will give the trainer more information about any tweaking needed to her training (and my preparation before) October, and I will be able to ask some burning questions I have before I have to embark on the all consuming process of bonding and becoming a team. My roommate Leslie and her Guide Dog, Cammy, are also coming along so that Summit can meet them --not too mention a little vacation before school starts back up again. Finding the right person for the dog and the right dog for the person is a difficult match making process. The Summit staff must compare the dog's strengths, weakness, energy level, preferred home environment with those of the human partner and make the best make possible. While there is no such thing as a perfect match since perfect leaves no room for the growth and adaptation that create a true team. The Summit staff have the difficult task of making those match whee the human and dog will eventually meet in the middle and become indispensable to each other. For now I pour over my team training binder and identify books in my dog library [See Favorite Books about Living and Working with Dogs to the right].

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Book Review: A Dog Who's Always Welcome by Lorie Long

A few weeks ago I was in a local book store perusing the dog section (as I frequently do) and I came upon A Dog Who's Always Welcome: Assistance and Therapy Dog Trainers Teach You How to Socialize and Train Your Companion Dog by Lorie Long. This book shares the foundations used to raise and train service dogs, therapy dogs, and their human partners to flourish in the unpredictability that is human society. Ms. Long along with staff from Blue Ridge Assistance Dogs, St. Francis of Assisi Assistance Dogs, and Assistance Dogs of America impart the methods used by many service and therapy dog training organizations to raise happy, confident dogs who love to work and can handler (with support from their human partners) just about anything the world might throw their way.

Ms. Long shows the average dog owner how they can help their dog live the full life of a true best friend and companion. This book is not just about raising and training your dog to be a good canine citizen. Just as a service dog is only as good as the person on the other end of the leash, a confident dog about town needs an owner who is consistent, fair, willing to put in time, and who love them as unconditionally as our dogs do humans. Through out the book Ms. Long, along with the seasoned therapy and service dog trainers stress the importance of choosing a dog appropriate for your family, lifestyle, and how you envision the role of your dog in your family. Dogs are sentient beings who can be happy, driven, confused, excited, stressed, tired, and sick; they can reach extraordinary heights when they have owners who not only love them-- but respect and understand them as the unique beings they are. In A Dog Who's Always Welcome reader learn about understanding who their dog is, defining the experiences and skills their dog will need in their everyday life, developing a plan to teach their dog about their world, and teaching the dog the skills they will need to enjoy life to the fullest. Ms. Long weaves the example and experiences of service dog partners and trainers to illustrate the keys to raising a dog who enjoys learning, problems solves, and know that you will be their when the human world just doesn't make sense. The positive training techniques, emphasis on socialization, and list of useful commands can help even the most novice dog owner understand how that dog that they didn't even notice under the table next to theirs could have been there all day and they wouldn't have noticed.

While overall, this reviewer found Ms. Long's book to be well done, I was disappointed to see that Ms. Long choose to use disempowering language when talking about people with disabilities choosing terms like suffering, confined and wheelchair bound rather than more respectful terms in People First Language . Ms Long also states the the ADA guarantees public access for trainers training service dog. Unfortunately, this is not true. In fact, the ADA silent on the issue on access for trainers working with possible future service dogs. The ADA left the decision on access for dogs in training up to the individuals states. Anyone with a dog in training should check their state laws about public access and use the steps in A Dog Who's Welcome to ensure you dog has the skills to begin training in public.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Service Dogs strut their stuff on YouTube

These videos are excellent examples of the variety of tasks and types of dogs working as service dogs.I especially ecourage people to pay attention to the newfoundland working with the handler with multiple psychiatric disabilities. I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I did!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Meet Bastien, an Owner Trained Service Dog

Name: Bastien

Breed: English Shepherd

Date of Birth: May 2000

Weight: 55-57lbs

Handler: Melissa who has CP and uses a wheelchair

Favorite things: Other Dogs, Training, Children

Favorite Toys: Booda squeaky terry cloth pig (aka Piggy), Dino Bone "wolf" Nylabone, Kong

Favorite Treats: Simon and Huey's, Castor and Pollux, Three Dog Bakery Jump, Sit, Fetch Bits, Fruit and vegetables (all kinds except celery), string cheese, Zukes Mini Naturals

Certifications: Canine Good Citizen (passed 3 times), Public Access Test (passed Twice), and Therapy Dogs International (passed just before retiring)

Job Description: Service Dog, Globe trotter, Socialite

Favorite Tasks: Wheelchair pulling, pulling off my coat, finding people

Unique Tasks: Flushing toilets

Natural Talents: Unscrewing bottle tops, learning names

Countries Visited: Canada, Germany, Spain, USA (almost half the states)

Favorite Trip: Camp Winnaribbon

Favorite Places: the dog park, the beach

Friday, August 22, 2008

Note to Readers August 2008

Dear Readers,
If you are only reading the main posts, you are missing a goldmine of information in this blog. Look Right and you will find:

Update on Fundraising for Shilo

I continue to contact friends and familiy to raise money for my next service dog. I am happy to report some have already come through! Both for my travel to team training and Summit Assistance Dogs.

For Donating to my Fund to attend team training in October, I wish to thank:
-My cousin April for her $100 Donation
-My longtime friend Wayne Terry for his donation of a Large Dog Crate ($100 value)
-Shelley Maynard,Owner of Pewter Rabbit Antiques for her $25 Donation
-Kathleen Ison for her $10 donation
-Olivia Emilia and Rob Harden for their $50 donation
-My longtime friend Anne Hensley for her $50 donation in memeroy of her first SD Andrew
-My longtime friends Pam and Loc Reader for their $100 donation
-My former co-workers at Pierce County Deparment of Emergency Management for their $155 donation.
-My Aunt and Uncle, Steven and Marie McDonald for their $100
-My college internship supervisor Mr. Jim Stevenson and family for their $100

I have saved $81 towards my Team Training costs in October! That brings my total so far to $771!
To see the break down of the costs associated with team training, please see "Contribute to My Service Dog Fund" on the righthand side of this blog.

Several people have also pledged to contribute to my Fund to attend Team Training:
-My Uncle Dale McDonald
-My Uncle Scott McDonald
-My Uncle Danny McDonald
-My Grandmother Mary Ellen Spring

Even though Summit Assistance Dogs does not charge for the dog itself, each recipient must be able to attend a team training with their new dog in Anacortes, WA for anywhere between 14 days days.I am working to save money myself, but I work for a non-profit and I have to take at least two weeks from work to train and bond with Shilo.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What is the Purpose of a Service Dog?

Today I was reading a debate on the Assistance Dog Group hosted Yahoo Groups on the necessicity of task training for service dogs in order to be considered a service dog. First, it is not the dog that has any rights; it is the person with a disability as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA). [Further discussion on the definition of disability across the legal feild] A sevice dog as currently defined under the ADA is:

Q: What is a service animal?

A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. "Seeing eye dogs" are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

_____Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.

_____Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.

_____Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

Further definitions from From Miriam-Webster Online regarding "service" and "Assist" since service dogs are also sometimes referred to as assistance animals:

Main Entry:

1 a: the occupation or function
serving active service> b: employment as a servant 2
a: the work performed by one that serves b:
help, use, benefit be of service> c: contribution to the welfare of others d: disposal
for use

Main Entry:

transitive verb : to give
usually supplementary support or aid to intransitive verb 1 : to give support or aid 2 : to be present as a spectator

The keys here are that the person have a disability the "substantially limits one or more of life's major functions" and that the dog in question has been trained to
perform tasks that the person cannot perform themselves and that mitigates their
disability. The argument on the list was in regards to what happens if the person's disability doesn't need any of the commonly trained tasks? In that case do you
really need a service dog? Based on the aforementioned definitions the answer is a
resounding no. If you have a disability that you feel would be mitigated by having a service dog, you should also be able to identify ways the dog beyond their mere presence can lessen the affects of your disability. It is important to remember that service dogs are not the latest in accessory. They are highly trained[see the Training Standards from Assistance Dogs International], working animals that enable their handlers to accomplish tasks and interact with in the public domain in ways the disability without the presence of the equiptment, namely the service dog, becomes unreasonably difficult or impossible.If a person cannot identify any asks for which a dog can be trained that will mitigate their disability beyond the
comfort of their mere persence, then they may want is an Emotional Support Animal. The only two places Emotional Support Animals are granted access under the laws are housing and flying.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Staying in Touch with the Latest News in the Service Dog Community

The world of service dogs and the rules that govern their use are equally dynamic. There are several fine newsletters published throughout the community keeping those partnered with service dogs up-to-date and connected.
  1. Assistance Dog Club of Puget Sound Newsletter- written by the members and associates of the ADC. People interested may subscribe for $20 a year.
  2. Harness Up-the biennial Newsletter of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, (NAGDU) contains information of interest to guide dog users and others associated with the guide dog movement and the organized blind. Unlike many other publications on the subject of guide dogs and their use articles appearing in Harness Up are written from the stand point of guide dog users themselves. Anyone who belongs to NAGDU and who is current on their membership dues is eligible to receive Harness Up in print, or on audio cassette.
  3. Partners Forum- IAADP's global information sharing & advocacy newsletter links together disabled persons with guide, hearing and service dogs and assistance dog training programs on 5 continents. Under the editorship of Joan Froling, our publication has been honored for excellence in the field of Canine Newspapers by the Dog Writers Association of America at their annual Awards Banquet in New York City on numerous occasions since 1994. Selected issues are available for free download. Those needing/wanting an alternative format can subscribe for $30 annually

Thursday, August 14, 2008

News: Proposed Changes to the Definition of Service Dog

Today I received an email from the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners regarding the Department of Justice's proposed changes to the ADA with regard to service dogs and animals urging their members to submit comment before the August 18, 2008 public comment period. This is a chance for all service dog partners to have a say in the rules that govern what makes a service dog a service dog.

If you are tired of people fraudulently claiming their pet is a service animal, untrained animals in public, dangerous animals veiled as service dogs, or people claiming their snake is a service animal I urge you to read submit comment to these proposed changes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

News:Woman Arrested, Shackled After Pets Walk in Nearby Yard

According to the Washington Post Linda Johnson was arrested for repeatedly allowing her dogs to admits that her two miniature poodles, Ollie and Hershey, sometimes trotted into her neighbor's yard during their morning and afternoon walks. "It is possible that once or twice, the two brown and black fur balls even peed in the grass, "she said.

This article reminds us as service dog owners that it is important to train your service dog to go to the bathroom on command as well as a good "Off'" cue. While we may love our dogs people do have the right to keep them out of their yards. Service dogs especially need to be impecably houesbroken. A good handler always offers their partner a chance to eliminate before going into a public place.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

News:Sad Story Reminds Service Dog Handler of the Importance of Distraction training

I came across this extremely sad story today. This loss of this service dog should service as remind to us all that we need to be aware or our environment and our dogs level of interest and attention to it. Working with the distraction of other dogs is a skill that service dogs really need to be rock solid on for the safety of the entire team. Handlers should regulary train and work their dogs in the presence of other dogs. It would be very simple to blame what happened to the dog in the story on the other dogs, but in the end as handlers we are responsible for our service dogs and ensuring they have the training to stay focused on the job at hand in these common situations.
Articles to prevent future tragedy and keep your service dog safe:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Deciding What Tasks to Train

When owner training a service dog it is often a challenge to decide what beyond obedience that you want your future service dog to know. Since the purpose purpose of a service dog, under the ADA, is to mitigate the affects of a disability, it is important that you as the training engage in some reflection on how your disability limits you in daily life. Some questions to consider are:

  • What are the primary affects of my disability currently?

  • What are the secondary affect of my disability?

  • Does the level of my disability fluctuate?

  • What tasks do I currently depend on others to do? Could a dog be trained to take over any of these duties?

Dogs can be trained to perform a lot of tasks that will make your life easier; however, a good portion of your dogs tasks should relate to your your primary affects of your disability. A good trainer is both creative and fair about the the tasks they ask of their dog.


Myself, my primary disability is Cerebral Palsy. I use a manual wheelchair, and forearm crutches. The affects of my disability include a lack of a sense of balance, muscle spacsticity, etreme fatigue, shoulder damage, and overuse syndrome in my hands. I focused on tasks that would save my shoulders, prevent falling and save me vauable energy.

Standard tasks Bastien was trained for:

-wheelchair pulling (*note of caution: dogs with long spines or that are under 50lbs are not considered physically appropriate for the task of wheelchair pulling.)

- Tugging open doors

-Turn on and off lights

-Retrieving dropped items

-Retreiving items by name

-Getting help

-Back packing (*note A dog should never be asked to carry more than 10 percent of their weight)

Non-stand tasks Bastien was trained for (Many of these tasks capitlized on his natural talents and focused on reducing my fatigue or helping when I was fatigued):

-Unscrewing the caps off of plastic bottles (this was something he figured out on his own. I though it would be use full when my hands at I kept bottles hurt. It did require that I kept bottles with dangerous things out of his reach.)

-Flushing toilets

-Finding people in a crowd. I discovered that Bastien was very good at learning words and names and I so used that skill as much as I could.

Example 2: My friend with a hearing dog

Beyond the hearing dog tasks he has trained his dog to alert him when things fall out of his pockets.

Training Resources:





Let me know what you want to know about

I want to know what you want to know about. At the bottom of every entry there is a link called Comments.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

News: Next week is National Assistance Dog Week

August 10-16, 2008 is officially National Assistant Dog Week. This is a wonderful opportuntity for those in the service dog community to:
  • Educate our local communities by contacting media outlets and giving presentations
  • Fundraise to support the work of service dog organizations
  • Present a united front on what a well trained, well care for service dog can do for people with disabilities
  • Celebrate and be thankful for all that service dogs add to our lives

Ideas for Celebrating your service dog

  • Give your service dog some time off
  • Take some time just for you and your service dog. Play their favorite game, go to their favorite spot, or make their favorite treat.
  • Buy the service dog in your life a token of your affection a new toy, a bone, a new bed. Whatever your service dog like most.
  • Engage in sessions of TTouch, or grooming

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More on Shilo

Shilo was adopted by Summit Assistance Dogs after passing an intial evaluation by summit staff from the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County on 11/21/07.They called her "Mitzi" while she was there, and she came in as a stray dog on 10/22/07. Wendy at Summit said, "We didn't care for that name, so we changed it." They also think she had had a litter of puppies before she arrived at the shelter, as her mammory glands were larger then usual, and it was obvious that she had nursed pups at some point in her life. Summit then evaluated her for a few weeks to be sure she seemed like a good candidate for training lacking any major behavior problems. Shilo also had show she had no lasting health problems and sound structure in her hips, elbows, and eyes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Update on Summit Assistance Dog Fundraiser

Although Summit Assistance Dogs dogs does not charge the people with disabilities with whom they place highly trained services dogs,service dogs cost around $20,000 to train and place. Summit therefore encourages recipients to fundraise as much as they are able to summit the continued work of Summit.
I wish to thank the following people for their Donations to Summit Assistance Dogs in my name:
-My Parents Sandy and Gary Greve for their $625 donation
-Shelley Maynard, Owner Pewter Rabbit Antiques for her $25 donation
-Olivia Emilia and Rob Harden for their $50 donation
Every dollar people donate to Summit goes to supprt the raising, training and placement of highly skills service dogs with people with disabilities.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Update on Fundraising for Shilo

I continue to contact friends and familiy to raise money for my next service dog. I am happy to report some have already come through! Both for my travel to team training and Summit Assistance DogsFor Donating to my Fund to attend team training in September, I wish to thank:
My cousin April for her $100 Donation
My longtime friend Wayne Terry for his donation of a Large Dog Crate ($100 value)
Shelley Maynard,Owner of Pewter Rabbit Antiques for her $25 Donation
Kathleen Ison for her $10 donation

My Aunt and Uncle, Steven and Marie McDonald for their $100
I have saved $81 towards my Team Training costs in October! That brings my total so far to $416!
Several people have also pledged to contribute to my Fund to attend Team Training:
My Aunt and Uncle, Steven and Marie McDonald
My Uncle Dale McDonald
My Uncle Scott McDonald
My Uncle Danny McDonald
My Grandmother Mary Ellen Spring
Even though Summit Assistance Dogs does not charge for the dog itself, each recipient must be able to attend a team training with their new dog in Anacortes, WA for anywhere between 10-21 days.I am working to save money myself, but I work for a non-profit and I have to take at least two weeks from work to get my dog.