Some things that concern me about the cases currently in the headlines and I think could add to the discussion:
- Immature dogs being placed with children.In one high profile case from the news accounts the dog in question is less than a year old.
- No apparent preparation work going into: the child having a dog and preparing the staff expected to work with said child and dog based on news paper accounts.
- No discussion of how the dog will be looked after and cared in early articles for since the children in question are incapable of doing it.
- The constant comparison of the dogs place with these children to people with guides for the blind. The simple fact is many of these programs say in articles they get dogs that washed out of other programs because they were unsuitable for full service dog placement. Some people seem to think if we were talking about a blind child and a guide the whole thing would be a non-issue.This is simply not true, in my opinion. For one thing a young child would not have the orientation and mobility skills required of a blind person before they can even be consider for partnering with a guide dog. The youngest person to ever partner with a full guide dog in the world was 11 when he did it. Still most guide programs require applicant to be at least 16 and those are accepted on a case by case basis.I'm sure everyone can agree for most children there's a huge difference between 11 and 5.
- The backward application of the umbilical leash technique.Trainers spend years teaching dogs people are not paper weights to be dragged around at will and that being with humans is great.Yet with these some of placements the children often cannot give the dog warning it is about to move and may be prone to violent tantrums which the dog can't get away from and possibly could be injured by. I just don't see how this can end well for the dogs or children, in my opinion. (see comments for a program's views).
- The Social Ice breaker. Dogs only work as a limited social ice breaker. In my experience, the person must be taught how to recognize use those initial interactions because of the dog to have deeper interactions or as soon as the fascination of the dog wears of the person is isolated from other humans just as before. It is just as likely (not too mention a poor substitute) that any and all interactions the person has are always about the dog --never moving on to get to know the person who brought the dog.
- How do Children Cope in situations where it is truly not safe or appropriate for the dog to accompany them? We all know service dogs are great but there are dogs and there are limits on where they can and or should go. Who is teaching these children how to cope when they can't bring the dog? If this is not done the child's world will once again be limited. Furthermore, dogs are living beings who get hurt,sick, and need to retire. Will children miss days or weeks of school because the dog is out of commission?