Age to aquire a service dog?

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by milos_mommy, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    So....originally the plan was to adopt a dog between about 10 months and 2.5 years, and train them as a service dog. (this will be next year at the soonest, probably 2 or 3 or more years from now)

    But now it's totally up in the air. I'm thinking a breeder might be the best way to go, I'm also thinking about getting a much younger (3-4 month) puppy to start training.

    So my options are:

    Get an adult dog from a breeder
    Rescue an adult dog
    Adopt a puppy
    Buy a puppy

    The pros of getting an adult dog from the breeder is I'll know more or less 100% what I'm getting...health test, personality, family personality, etc. and the dog will be basically trained.

    The pros of rescuing an adult dog is I'll know the dogs personality (I would probably get one who has been in a foster home) and well, it's rescue.

    The pros of buying a puppy are that I get to start training the way I want from the very beginning, I know the health history, I can have some idea of temperament from the parents, etc.

    Adopting a puppy: Well, it's kind of iffy and a big chance it won't work out. I won't know the parents history and if the dog is likely to develop something like d/a in a couple of months, especially if it's a pittie or rottie pup. I won't know if the dog will get sick. I don't know if it will have the temperament for this kind of work.

    But, I could start the training the way I want early, once again, and if it doesn't work out, I could keep this dog as a pet or treat it as a foster and try to rehome it, since he would likely be in a shelter/rescue otherwise.

    I didn't really want another puppy, but this might be different...first I'd be away from my family's stupid, secondly I'd spend so much time training and taking the puppy places it would probably be less of a handful during chill-out time.

    If I got a puppy I would stick to basic training for a little while, probably not bring the puppy to class until it was 7 or 8 months or even later if it's an older pup (like 5 or 6 months) that I get. We'd work on socialization, ignoring distractions, focusing, and basic obedience, and start guide work, tasks, and reading cues later.

    People would be more accepting of a cute, teensy puppy making mistakes in training than an untrained 80 lb dog.

    Those of you who have a service dog, how old were they when you got them. (especially if you didn't go through an association)
     
  2. RawFedDogs

    RawFedDogs New Member

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    What kind of service dog do you need? If you have serious need for a service dog, I suggest getting one from one of the reputable service dog orginazations. I used to volunteer with Canine Assistants in Alpharetta, GA. They breed their own Golden Retrievers, labs, and Golden/lab X's. Training begins the day they are born and continue for 1 1/2 to 2 years. They are trained by very qualified service dog trainers who know what they are doing. At that time, they were taught about 95 different behaviors and were socialized to go to movies, restaurants, airports, public transit, malls, and almost anywhere else.

    Training is a very tedious and time consuming process and if you are not a very good trainer you can spend a lot of time spinning your wheels without making a lot of progress.

    There is no charge for their dogs and if you don't have money, they will furnish food and vet care for the life of the dog. At the time I was there (7 & 8 years ago), their cost/dog was around $25,000 if I remember correctly.

    Last time I heard there was about a 3 year waiting list of qualified recepients. I never figured out how they handled that because some people would enter the list pretty high up and others lower down. They had a method of determining who was most in need of a service dog. I do remember one thing. If you had one of their service dogs and the dog died, you went to the top of the list for another dog.

    When you receive your dog, you go to a 2 week "camp" where you will be with about 15 or 20 other reciepeints. Each reciepient will be matched up personalitywise and needwise with one of the available dogs that has completed his training. The camp is very intense where you are taught how to control and use your dog to greatest advantage.

    This is a super service dog orginazation and I highly recommend them. I don't see any negatives at all except the difficulty in getting one of their dogs.

    ETA: If you insist on doing your own training, I recommend getting a very young puppy from a very reputable breeder. The best situation would be to find a breeder with a brand new litter and you could go by daily and play/work with your puppy even before he is ready to leave mom. Don't waste your time w/ adult dogs and I wouldn't go the rescue route. Most of the rescues I have delt with come with their own baggage that you would have to work through first.
     
  3. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    I don't have a physical disability (aside from some physical problems that come with my mental illness, like dizziness, fainting, etc), it would be a psychiatric service dog. I don't even know if there are any associations that train them yet. I would really like the experience of training my own dog, it's also recommended to train your own PSD for a couple of reason.

    Why would I be "wasting my time" with an adult dog? I feel like I'd be "wasting my time" more with a puppy who might develop dog aggression or other behavior problems or just not have the right temperament for this work...with an adult dog I would know what I was getting.

    Also, I don't mind working through some "baggage"...plenty of dogs in rescue are perfectly fine mentally and physically.
     
  4. Fran101

    Fran101 Resident fainting goat

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    I would stick with the breeder route honestly

    find a breeder that you like, with a breed with traits that you like and talk to them

    they may have an adult dog that has SD potential, just talk to them about what being a service dog entails, what they need to know, what personality needs to be like, etc..

    If you do go the puppy route, check out the temps of parents. look for obedience titles I guess and things like that, and talk to a service dog org about what they do to "choose" puppies at that age, there are a bunch of tests (how they react to objects like an umbrella popping open, being cautious/stepping back for a sec is normal, but then curiousity and sniffing is good)

    Honestly, id go with an adult/older pup (6 months-) from a breeder. their personalities are pretty set and you can start with training. but be sure to find a breeder you trust, build a relationship, and honestly, Id go and meet the dog.
    the breeder should be honest about an adult dogs personality, and about their potential.

    so it would be help if you could give them a bunch of ways to JUDGE if they have potential.
    "how does he do in public places?"
    "quick to learn?"
    "easy to please"
    "ok with other people"
    "dogs?"
    "loud noises?"

    and of course a description about what your dog would need to know how to do
     
  5. RawFedDogs

    RawFedDogs New Member

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    I don't have a clue what a psychiatric service dog would do so any information I would give you from here on would be suspect but that hasn't stopped me before. :rofl1:

    Again, I don't know what PSD's do exactly but I do know that the largest percentage of professional dog trainers could not train a service as well as the people who do it for a living.

    Because you will have to unteach a lot of stuff he has picked up from puppyhood on. Not just bad habits although you will have those also, but bad attitudes and bad learning abilities. You see, a dog has to learn how to learn. One that has been taught from puppyhood is good at that. Older dogs have to be taught that as part of their training.

    If you start with a puppy while still in the litter or a puppy just out of the litter and bring him up properly, teaching him the rules of life as well as the duties he will have to perform, the chances are very great that those problems will never develop. I never saw any problem like you are talking about in the Canine Assistants dogs(and there were several hundred that I saw) and have never seen it in puppies I have raised myself or taught people to raise.

    You will be spending time working through baggage that you might or might not ever be able to get a handle on when you could be spending that time teaching the dog what he needs to know. There is a good chance that it would take you longer to train a dog with baggage than it would a new born pup.

    Yes, there are plenty of dogs in rescue that are perfectly fine, however often you don't know until its too late. Canine Assistants used to in their early years take shelter dogs and make service dogs out of them. Several of them had to be taken back because they developed problems that the trainers didn't notice during training. After they started their own breeding program and started training the pups from the day they were born, they never had problems like that again.
     
  6. Maura

    Maura New Member

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    Why do you need an 80 pound dog? Little dogs live longer. The smaller the dog, the more welcome he is in more places.

    I've fostered several rescue dogs. Two of them came from a breed that would be exceptional psychiatric service dogs, unfortunately, they were from puppy mills and had psychiatric issues themselves. Frankly, I did not consider them to be adoptable, but the agency was blind to their faults. Most of the Boston terriers we get are also from puppy mills, but they still have remarkably stable personalities. The Shiba Inu was a puppy mill breeder, her only fault being oversized. If you have minor needs, more for comfort, a rescue dog could work for you. Be aware that being unhousebroken is common.

    If you go through a good rescue agency, they can probably pick out a good fit for you.
     
  7. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    A service dog is allowed anywhere, regardless of size.
    And it depends on the tasks it needs to do, but there are a number of SD tasks that small dogs just cannot do.

    I tend to agree with Fran on the older puppy/young adult from a breeder.
     
  8. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    I'd recommend taking Rawfeddog's stellar advice.

    :hail:
     
  9. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    I don't NEED an 80lb dog. But I do need a large dog. I need a dog that can support my 130 lbs (not all of it, but still) and a dog that I can lean on, and I'm 5'9. Plus, I want a dog that will dissuade people from approaching me.
     
  10. Saeleofu

    Saeleofu Active Member

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    I would go with an adult dog from a breeder. I chose an adult because I really don't have the time or desire to start with a puppy right now. Logan is a little over a year, and so within a year he'll probably be ready to be a full time service dog. IF you go with a puppy from a breeder, it's still better than a rescue puppy because you know what the parents and possibly previous litters were like. An adult from a rescue can be good, but what if after the "honeymoon" period and the dog gets all settled in, he's a holy terror, fearful, aggressive, etc.

    Getting an adult dog is NOT wasting time. It's insurance against a puppy washing out because it didn't turn out how you expected. Of course it's still possible the dog will wash out, but when you start with an adult the risk lowers because you know what the dog is like. It also saves you all the hassle of puppy raising, and lets you focus on training the dog. This is why SD organizations use puppy raisers.

    The bottom line is a PSD MUST have a rock solid temperament. They, above all other service dogs, need to be flawless.

    Small dogs are typically huggers or fakers. Sure, there are some legitimate service dogs that are small, but they're rare, and so I think people will assume that a small dog isn't really a service dog, and you'll have more access disputes. Honestly, if you're worried about access disputes, go with a lab. The more exotic the breed, the more people will approach to ask about it, and the more access disputes you'll have.

    Regardless, the dog shouldn't be taken into public places until fully grown. Lots of people drag prospect puppies everywhere, and that's not the way to do it. Depending on where you live it may be illegal.

    Also, I really, really suggest going with a program for your first SD. I would have if I could have found a place that would train what I need in a dog. There are a lot of organizations that train PSDs. I don't know where you live, but I've heard Susquehanna Service Dogs is a great PSD organization.

    I'm PMing you a link that should be VERY helpful.
     
  11. Saeleofu

    Saeleofu Active Member

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    Also, keep in mind it takes 18-24 months to train a service dog. If you start with an adult with a solid obedience foundation, that time can be reduced, but still plan on about 6 - 12 months of training. Ideally a dog won't be working in public until abotu 2 years of age, not only for physical maturity (especially if you'll have any weight-bearing tasks) but also mental maturity. If you start working a dog too early they can burn out rather quickly. You can also watch as everything a "teenage" dog has learned fly out of their brains overnight, and when that happens you don't want them to be working in public, really.

    So my point is, if you go with an adult, I'd place a cap on it of about 2 years. 1-1 1/2 years is really ideal.
     
  12. Brattina88

    Brattina88 Active Member

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    I've never worked with or trained any type of service dogs, so you can take this post with a grain of salt if you will :p but I wanted to say that I've met some rock-solid-temperment dogs in the rescue. Some of them, even better than our own (raised from puppies) or even retired from show (Mia's temperment is not stellar). But I've also met some crazy ones :p
    If it were me, I'd contact a couple of people (breeder, trainer, and/or rescue ... w e) and keep your options open. You'll find the "right" one when the time is right! ;) Good Luck!!
     
  13. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    Brattina, that's how I feel. It will be a bit harder to find and riskier, but worth it IMO.

    Also, I'm not sure about not taking the dog into public until it's a year old....I live right near an enormous guide dog foundation, work with people who work there, and often see them training in public.

    Puppy walkers take those pups into public wearing a cape starting at 12 weeks old. And by four or five months those dogs are pretty rock solid in public about not being distracted, barking, etc.

    If I get a puppy the plan would be something like work on basic obedience and start socializing, maybe short outings in low-distraction areas, and once the puppy had basic obedience around distractions down, to start taking them (at maybe 6-8 months) for "working" outings, not with task work but just things like lying under a restaurant table, automatic doors, public transit, etc. and then start to introduce tasks around a year or a little less (all of this would be pushed back if this was an older pup). I would of course be working with a trainer, hopefully someone with service dog experience.

    I'm starting to think puppy is the way to go. I think a rescue puppy is the riskiest option, though. But also at 2 or 3 months a puppy wouldn't have had a lot of trauma or developed many negative behaviors.
     
  14. CaliTerp07

    CaliTerp07 New Member

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    We have litters born while momma is in a foster home (she's pulled from the shelter while pregnant. That would mean they've never experienced abuse or anything like that. You'd also get to meet at least half the genes that went into the puppy.
     
  15. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    Check out psychdog.org. They've got a table of tasks that these dogs perform, for anyone who is wondering what they do.
     
  16. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    Just keep in mind with this, though, is that you still don't know the genetics behind the puppy. I adopted Chloe at nine weeks....and she is a dog with ISSUES. I did everything "right" in her puppyhood and raising, but she has anxiety issues, reactiveness issues, and aggression issues, all of different severity. She would definitally not make a good service dog. At all. (She barely makes a good pet, and that is after three years of work. lol) Just because a dog starts out right does not mean you are going to end up with a stable dog - Chloe is proof of that.
    Of course, you also have the chance of getting a really good dog (we've had three of those to Chloe's one), but it is a chance.

    I'd keep my eyes open for a rescue adult, but if I were you I'd probably go through a breeder for either a puppy or an established adult dog.
     
  17. Saeleofu

    Saeleofu Active Member

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    The difference is they usually have special permission to do so. You have to check the laws for your state. Also, if you check out that link I gave you, ask a question about it there and they can explain it much better than I can at the moment.

    Just a warning, Psychdog.org isn't the greatest site. Sure, they DO have some good information, just be cautious about it. Some things they promote there are also technically illegal.
     
  18. Saeleofu

    Saeleofu Active Member

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    Also, if you're going to use a trainer (and if you don't have extensive experience training a dog, you really should use a trainer), have the trainer picked out first, and then have the trainer help you pick out a dog.

    I do have a lot of dog training experience, but I do technically still have a trainer...in the form of my dad ;) He's trained several service dogs as well as a guide dog in the past, plus 40+ years of other dog training experience.
     
  19. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    I believe dogs with issues like an anxiety, etc. can come from a good breeder. Maybe it's more unlikely than coming from a bad breeder, but it's a chance I'd take.

    I just thought Pyschdog had a good example of the tasks those dogs can do, most of their info seems pretty reliable, to me, actually, but I haven't read even close to all of it yet.

    do service animal laws vary by state? I thought they were federal civil rights laws or something? I also know they'll likely be changing in the next few years.

    Here, a lot of stores have a sign in the window (at least big corporate grocery stores and wal mart and costco and stuff) that say "Service dogs always welcome" and a number you can call to report if they give you a hard time.
     
  20. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    Service dog laws are federal.

    Service dogs in training are covered by state law and vary from one state to the next.
     

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