Author Topic: Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?  (Read 553 times)

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Offline featurelessorb

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Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?
« on: July 25, 2017, 04:00:44 AM »
I'm a very small woman (4' 11") with severe joint/nerve pain due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome who is looking for a service dog to mainly pick things up and bring things to me (including out of the refrigerator), as well as help me cope emotionally. I don't think I'll use it for balance or anything, but it may someday accompany me in a wheelchair if I eventually need one. My family had a very large dog when I was a kid, and when she got old and sick it was very hard to take care of her. She was 115lb with hip problems and it took 4 people to get her into the car or bath. The experience taught me that I would never want to own a dog that I could not carry in a true emergency in which the dog is incapacitated. I'd also like a dog that can share the couch comfortably with me and maybe sit in my lap sometimes. While I have mobility issues, I can carry a dog up to 25-30 pounds a short distance/into the car if I absolutely have to. Are there any breeds around that size that are physically and temperamentally suited to service work and fetching tasks? If not, how do physically disabled people with bigger dogs deal with dog health emergencies?

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2017, 10:13:42 AM »
Corgis and shelties are both in that size range and both well suited for retrieving tasks.  They are generally quite biddable and trainable.  Both require a good amount of brushing, the sheltie more so than the corgi. 

However, I think you would probably be better served by a standard sized dog, about 60 pounds because getting a dropped item a foot or foot and a half off the ground is not as satisfactory as getting it 2-2.5 feet off the ground and back into your hand while you stand naturally (not bent way over).  As you progress into a wheelchair, a 60 pound dog can also open doors and operate light switches and give you a boost when you tackle a difficult hill.  It's also going to be a lot easier to find a program training standard sized service dogs.

As far as what you do with a larger sized dog, I suggest building community connections so you can call for help.  There are church groups and service organizations (lion's, optimist, scouts, etc.) who would generally be willing to help out if you reach out to them to form a relationship.
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Offline Azariah

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Re: Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2017, 11:27:29 AM »
My dog is amedium breed. Female is 22 inches at withers and male 24 inches. Both are a good height to hand me things. I am 53. I would not want a shorter dog. Mine weigh 40 to 50 pounds. When my first one was sick I used a life jacket with a handle to help lift him.
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Offline Candy3

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Re: Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2017, 12:53:14 PM »
I have a Sheltie SDiT, and chose him for many of the very same reasons that you are talking about, and he is just within the weight range that I can carry him for a short distance, if necessary. I can sympathize with you on the weight issues.
Also, my SDiT is 15" at the withers.

I mainly use him for retrieval, leading me to specific learned places, turning on/off the lights and delivering a note.

Retrieval:  He brings my medicine pouch, a bottle of water, my phone, my cane, my keys, my shoes, etc. He will search and retrieve any of these items if I cannot find them. He will retrieve unnamed objects from tight spaces if I ask him to. What is important to note here, is that most of these retrieval tasks are needed when my mobility issues cause me to be stuck in a chair or bed. That puts me closer to his level and within easy reach.

Leading me:  He leads me to my car, a chair or bench, a first aid station or other learned place.

Turning on/off lights: We have ceiling fan lights. I tied a long clothesline to the light chain so he can pull it on or off when asked. This was the first task he learned.

Delivering a note: He does this when I need help, but I cannot talk.

I have not taught my SDiT to retrieve things from the refrigerator. If I wanted to do that, I would attach an adapter for him to pull.
I have seen smaller dogs turn on and off light switches with a little step placed beneath it. Those may have been wheelchair accessible homes, though.

Shelties need a lot of brushing, generally one good brushing once a week, is best. I also often lightly brush him just before going out, so he looks his best in public. They are doubled coated, and very easy to brush. Their coat resists tangling, except a very small area at the back of the ears. We find grooming to be a sweet bonding experience.

I can speak up for Shelties, but it really comes down to choosing a good breed candidate that works best for you, not just by size, SD behavior type, genes and the desire and ability to work, but also how you and your dog's personality types work together.




Offline ccunnin3

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Re: Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2017, 03:11:53 PM »
Slightly tangental question:  How big does a dog need to be to open a standard fridge? Seems to mee like they wouldn't have very good leverage to open it.
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Offline Candy3

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Re: Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2017, 04:07:00 PM »
I suppose that would depend on the type of handle. I just tested my SDiT with my 3-Door refrigerator, and he opened that pretty quickly. Getting something out of a refrigerator like that (The fridge sits above the freezer.) is another story.

Offline EmmaH

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Re: Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2017, 04:11:03 PM »
I've seen smaller dogs open fridges with a longer pull. As long as they have the strength to pull the door open I think you could find a pull rope that would work. My friends corgi taught himself how to open the fridge by pulling on the dish towel they had hanging from the handle. Their fridge was a 2 door with the fridge on one side and freezer on the other.He was a short stubby guy, and had no problem!
« Last Edit: July 25, 2017, 04:12:36 PM by EmmaH »

Offline servicedoginwaiting

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Re: Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2017, 05:07:15 PM »
I hear what you're saying on the fear of not being able to lift/assist your dog if they were infirm. I'm not a large person either (I only have a few inches on you); my last dog was 60 pounds and she had a couple of knee surgeries and then some significant mobility challenges nearing the end of her life. I felt the same way as you, but then I learned how to use very simple harnesses and techniques that made it quite reasonable for me to get her up and down stairs, into and out of my vehicle etc, basically everything we needed to do without having to actually lift her. It can be done :smile:

Offline Amber

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Re: Small/medium Sized Service Dogs for Chronic Pain?
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2017, 09:14:04 PM »
Maigee is 25 pounds and can't open the fridge because she can't break the seal on the door to get it open.
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