Some of the tasks that our dogs are able to do are:
|Brace For Stability|
Take Items From Shelf
Retrieve Indicated Items
Alert for Help
Turn Fixtures On/Off
Carry Items Upon Request
Give Items to Others
Drag Wheelchair/Walker/Cane Back To Partner
Assist with House/Yard work
Assist to Remove Clothing
Bringing the telephone or remote control upon request, getting a towel from a drawer, taking something from another person to give to their partner, picking something up off a store shelf.
Pushing buttons on automatic doors, elevator buttons, specialized K9 Rescue telephones, doorbells, etc.
Getting items such as dropped keys, papers, clothing), etc.
Having a Service Animal means not only covering the costs associated with it, but caring for the animal on a daily basis. Consider how a dog will fit into your lifestyle: when will you walk the dog? When will you groom the animal? Is there a place to exercise the dog that is accessible to you? How will you feed the dog? Will the other members of your family deal well with the dog? While these issues are not insurmountable, they are things agencies will ask potential recipients to consider. Many organizations understand that an individual with a disability may need assistance completing the tasks necessary to care for the animal, and do not necessarily require that all care be done by the recipient. However, they often stress the importance of recipients being involved in every aspect of caring for the animal. For example, a graduate may ask his/her personal assistant to clean the dog's ears, but it is important that the graduate be present during this time. Oftentimes, veterinarians or stores such as Petco will offer discounts or free services for Service Animals.
Most Home Health agengies do not allow their help to deal with animals
Another important consideration early in this process is both your expectations of a dog and your expectations of a potential agency/individual trainer that you will be working with. What are the types of tasks you are hoping the dog will be able to perform? For example, would you like the dog to assist in pulling your wheelchair? Under what circumstances is this not possible? If you would like the dog to assist in picking up and carrying items, you may want to gain a better understanding of what the animal will and will not to be able to pickup. Don't be afraid to ask questions. It is important that you have a realistic goal of what a Service Dog might be able to do for you.
Keep in mind though that it is also very important that you realize that this is a living and breathing animal, not a piece of equipment that works flawlessly every time. Will you be able to deal with the stresses of keeping the dog in reinforcement training once you've partnered with a Service Dog? Have you taken to heart that these dogs are not pets and can't be allowed to let their training lapse even for "minor infractions"? Just as we humans would prefer to play rather than work and we lose the ability to do something if we haven't practiced it, so do these canines. Are you prepared to take on YOUR responsibilities to make sure a Service Dog is able to do theirs? While a Service Dog is an incredible help to those who utilize them, it requires a dedication that not everyone can add to their busy lives or health status. If you feel that the stresses of the responsibilities would be difficult for your emotional or physical health, then you should reconsider the route of a Service Animal, as it wouldn't be beneficial for you. The ultimate goal is to make your life easier, not more difficult.
The application process differs depending on the particular agency. Sometimes agencies require those who want to apply for a Service Dog to submit a letter explaining their interest/expectations of a Service Animal prior to receiving an application. Other times, individuals may simply submit an application. The application may ask individuals if they've had pets, the qualities they're looking for an animal, how they will care for the animal, and their expectations of the animal. Interviews may be conducted in a potential recipient's home or at the agency's training facilities. This gives the agency a better idea of whether or not candidates are suitable. There may be an opportunity to tour the facilities, gather information from previous graduates of the program, or informally see a Service Dog in action. In any event, this is the perfect time to ask additional questions. Once the application is accepted, the candidate's name is placed on a waiting list. When a suitable dog is found, trained, and ready to be placed, the individual is contacted.
Prior to a dog being placed with a recipient, it typically goes through anywhere from 3 to 32 months of training. On average, however, dogs are trained for 12 to 24 months. During this time, they not only learn the basic commands - such as sit and stay - but also more advanced commands. While training methods and duration differs, . Although Service Animals are allowed in places of public accommodation under the ADA, each state has its own regulations regarding Assistance Dogs-in-training and volunteer handlers (vs. professional trainers). Some states afford volunteer handlers more legal rights and protection than others. As FAR does all the training of their dogs rather than utilizing foster families, we do not have the difficulties of denial of access that a non-professional volunteer has. As such, we make sure to expose them to as many environments and situations as possible during their stay with us.
Once a dog has had both basic and advanced training, it is matched with an individual with a disability. Each agency has its own process and criteria for making a match; however, the match is always made with both the recipient and the dog in mind. This phase of training can last anywhere from five days to three weeks. Sometimes it is done at the agency's facilities, while other times it is done in the individual's home. Training at a facility provides structure, additional resources, and other benefits, such as the social support of other recipients and the expertise of additional trainers working at the facility. Training at an individual's home can provide an additional sense of security for the recipient. This method also allows the dog to become acclimated to the environment in which they will work on a regular basis.
While the ADA does not require Service Animals to be certified, many agencies may require graduate teams to undergo public access tests. This involves ensuring that the individual can safely handle the dog in a variety of public situations, and that the dog behaves appropriately. FAR has developed a public access test used/adapted by many service providers throughout the United States. FAR does require a public access test for placement of their dogs. This is to make sure that both the dog and the handler are able to deal with everyday life in a calm and safe manner for both themselves and for those around them.
While getting an assistance dog can change your life in wonderful ways; it is a major commitment. Careful planning now will ensure that you and your assistance dog will be a happy team for many years to come. Knowing all of your options is the first step. If you opt to obtain a dog from an established providing organization, ask questions and consider all aspects before choosing the program. Do not give up if one provider does not accept you or cannot accommodate your needs, as each provider has different requirements and does things differently.
The following provider checklist contains many of the questions/items you may want to consider. It may be helpful to make a copy of the list for each provider that you interview.
Agency Name: ________________________________________________________
Contact Person: _______________________________________________________
* How much will assistance dog cost?
* Is there an application fee or other types of fees?
* What breeds are used?
* Where does the organization get its dogs?
* What is the minimum age of a recipient?
* Does the recipient do the training, or does the provider?
* Does training occur at home or in a facility?
* How long is the dog in training before being placed with the recipient?
* How long is training for the recipient and the dog as a team?
* What geographical area does the provider serve?
* Will the program consider applicants with multiple disabilities?
* Will they consider training an individual's own dog as assistance dog?
* What is the waiting period for a dog?
* Does the program award ownership of the dog to the recipient upon certification?
* What are the trainer's qualifications?
* Is the facility accessible to your physical needs?
* Does the agency provide lodging for recipients during training?
24 HOUR COMPANION
Service dogs are with their partners constantly. It's basically like having a helper 24 hours a day!
No matter how rotten a day has been, these special dogs provide affection during those hard times and offer unconditional love and support. So often a person with a disability will put on a brave front but inside will be in pain, scared, depressed, frustrated, angry, or just plain exhausted with dealing with the effects of their disability. Having their canine partner there, giving them both physical and emotional support can make the difference between a tolerable day and one where you just want to give up.