Sunday, October 18, 2009

Service Dog Stuff: Tips for Lightening your Load while Working a Service Dog

Let's see.... Leash, poop baggies, vest/harness, towel/blanket, water bowl, chew toy, food/teats (maybe), door pull, wallet, coat.... is that everything?  Service dogs come with a lot of stuff and use a lot of tools that the handler must have with them in order to ensure their service dog can complete all the tasks their handler needs. Over the years I have picked up a few tricks to lighten my and my service dog's load when out working, and I would like to share them with you (I hope my readers partnered with service dogs will share their tips as well).

Watering a Service While Out
There are a number of ways to accomplish meeting your service dogs thirst; the most common being a Collapsible Water Bowl, however, I find these types of bowls awkward to handle, hard to dry completely, and eventually mold growing. Here are some ways I have found that work to water my service dog while working that do not require either of us to carry more than we would have (and that work for my fine motor limitations).
1.Ice cubes. Ice cubes are a great way to quench a service dog's thirst and bond with your dog (since most dogs love ice cubes!). I usually ask for a small cup of ice from the restaurant, coffee stand or whatever. I have never had anyone refuse my request. Note I only do this at places I am patronizing.It's kind of bad form to do otherwise.
2.Teach your service dog to drink from a water bottle. This can be easily accomplished by using a sport top.You dribble the water out slowly while your service dog licks (like a hamster bottle). You can use the same water bottle with the lid still on or if you don't want to drink from the same lid as your dog remove it and enjoy a cool drink yourself.
3. Float your dog's food. This a way of being sure they get a certain amount of water. It's also handy when traveling with your dog to combine food and water this way as you can speed up the process and only need one bowl.

Cleaning up After your Service Dog
Most handlers (including me) buy some form of those little plastic blue/black poo baggies. I have an Outward Hound poo bag dispenser velcroed to my wheelchair. However, it is possible to run out. Plastic grocery bags and plastic sandwich  bags make just as good poo bags.

Keeping Your Service Dog Comfortable (and Clean)
I know many handlers who lug about bath mats and other types of dog blankets to keep their service dogs comfortable and clean on long down stays on dirty floors. I, for one, find it much easier to have my service dog help me off with my coat and then let them lay on it. This practice allow them to be comfortable, clean and dry, without requiring us to lug around something extra. Plus, it's soothing for the dog because it smells like you!

Have Leash, Have Ever ready Door Pull 
I use a six foot cotton web leash that I tie a handle in the middle. I use this as a door pull one of two ways:
1. Tie the leash to the handle and have the dog pull on the excess length.
2. Hook one of the handle to the doorknob and have the dog pull

From Bastien working

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