Author Topic: how large should a balance dog be?  (Read 743 times)

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Offline analyn

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how large should a balance dog be?
« on: September 08, 2017, 12:26:57 AM »
If I get a dog to assist me with balance and mobility--how large does the dog have to be?  I am on the small side--5 feet 3 inches tall, but a little over weight about 148.  My condo is fairly small--and although I love GSD etc, I just can't imagine that much dog in my little space.  Can I get away with a medium sized breed?  Does anyone here use a smaller breed for balance and stability?  And if so--what are good breeds for it?

Offline Kirsten

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2017, 10:31:18 AM »
It depends how you intend to use the dog for balance and stability.  How are you picturing that working?  What kind of gear are you picturing using?  Are there some kinds of balance work a smaller dog, say 50 pounds can do?  Sure.  There are others they cannot.  But in all honesty if you need balance work from a dog that a 50 pound dog cannot do, you most likely should be using a walker instead of a dog.  Well actually, if all you need is help with balance you should be using a walker instead because they cost a lot less, take up less space, are more reliable, cause less problems with access and fitting places like planes and restaurants, and they don't get sick and barf or need to toilet in the rain.  So I'm kind of assuming there are other things you need the dog to do that a walker cannot and those things may also factor into size. For example, size affects the weight and size the dog can retrieve and carry, and where he can retrieve it from and where he can put it.  It affects things like operating door knobs and light switches.

Is there a reason why you aren't going through a program for your first service dog?  Because a good program would evaluate your lifestyle, living situation, worplace needs and disability needs and do all the figuring for you of what is the right kind, size, shape, temperament, etc. of dog to match your needs.
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Offline meeshymoosh

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2017, 10:49:23 AM »
I agree with Kirsten about going through a program to see if they can assess your needs well.

I use my 80 lb GSD for mobility, which includes me bracing up off the ground, down to the ground, and on stairs. I'm 5'8.  He's very big and hearty, and I wouldn't feel comfortable doing the same to a smaller boned dog. Then again, I wouldn't know what a particular dog could do if it weren't for my program's experience and knowledge.
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Offline analyn

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2017, 02:25:51 PM »
It depends how you intend to use the dog for balance and stability.  How are you picturing that working?  What kind of gear are you picturing using?  Are there some kinds of balance work a smaller dog, say 50 pounds can do?  Sure.  There are others they cannot.  But in all honesty if you need balance work from a dog that a 50 pound dog cannot do, you most likely should be using a walker instead of a dog.  Well actually, if all you need is help with balance you should be using a walker instead because they cost a lot less, take up less space, are more reliable, cause less problems with access and fitting places like planes and restaurants, and they don't get sick and barf or need to toilet in the rain.  So I'm kind of assuming there are other things you need the dog to do that a walker cannot and those things may also factor into size. For example, size affects the weight and size the dog can retrieve and carry, and where he can retrieve it from and where he can put it.  It affects things like operating door knobs and light switches.

Is there a reason why you aren't going through a program for your first service dog?  Because a good program would evaluate your lifestyle, living situation, worplace needs and disability needs and do all the figuring for you of what is the right kind, size, shape, temperament, etc. of dog to match your needs.

If I get a dog, I intend to go through a program.  However, I have not yet decided if I will get a dog yet, which is why I am reading/asking questions.

A walker would be a great solution if my problem was consistent.  I have a vestibular disorder and 85% of the time I am fine.  I have periodic episodes of extreme vertigo.  When I am not having an episode I move normally, which means I am loath to haul around a dog (or a walker) all the time.  However, my doctor recommended it--so I am looking into it.   I know zero about gear etc. I had never considered a service dog until about 48 hours ago when doc brought it up. 

The reason the doctor pushed the dog is because some daily activities that involve head movement can bring on or worsen vertigo--like bending to pick up a dropped object--a dog can be trained to do those activities--so that I would theoretically have fewer episodes.  Also--the best treatment for Meniere's is cardio--and although it would not be a "trained task" walking a dog would force me to get the exercise that I need--which also means fewer episodes.  Additionally, I work from home--and stick pretty close to home.  Since I don't routinely need balance assistance, it may be difficult for me to get in the habit of consistently lugging a walker from room to room in case I need it--but with a dog it would stay by my side--or I could call it if I needed it...

a bit smaller dog would be able to pick up things but could they occasionally balance me when I need it? 

Meniere's is a lifelong condition, it can only be managed not cured (at the present). 
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 02:47:07 PM by analyn »

Offline Kirsten

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2017, 02:57:42 PM »
Okay, so I fall over when I look up or down or bend up or down too.  The thing is a 50 pound dog probably isn't going to be able to retrieve to hand for a standing person without that person bending over.  My 85 pound 26" inch at the shoulder dog could do it, but my 80 pound 25" at the shoulder dog cannot.  I'm 5'4" plus an inch for shoes.  Not without bracing a paw on the handler, which is in itself a problem for handlers with bad balance.

In home use only, dog could be smaller yet because dog could retrieve walker instead of doing balance work itself.

See this is what I'm saying about talking to a program.  You're getting into detailed specifics of your situation that affect how you would be accommodated by a service dog that you aren't anticipating because you haven't done it before and though I can anticipate a lot of it, I don't know your full situation (which is not my business).  I can answer in generalities but I don't think those answers in this specific situation (trying to figure out if a service dog will work in your unique situation) are really going to give you the best guidance.  I think you'll get the best guidance, the answers that are most useful to you as an individual person, by talking to a program that is willing/able to work with people similar to you.

And frankly, it may take some time to find a program, especially the right program and you're going to have to ask them a lot of questions to determine that.  By the time you sort out whether this is a good move for you, you'll probably have a really good idea of what program you want to work with too, if you put these questions to likely programs.  If a program doesn't want to talk to you to help you determine whether this is the right choice for you, then they aren't a program worth bothering with because you're going to have a bleepload of questions not just prior to placement but during team training and very much so during the first year after placement.  They need to be very good at answering questions and very willing to answer them

Instead of you trying to figure out what size to ask for, they'll assess your situation and tell you what you need.  They've been at it so much longer than you that they'll be in a much better place to work out the details.  What you need to focus on is what you cannot do without assistance and what assistance you need, then talk to programs about whether they can produce a dog for you that will provide all or at least the least that is absolutely necessary assistance that you need.

So that's why I assumed you were planning to owner-train.  Usually when people start talking about choosing characteristics in the dog that is what they are doing.

I think I recall you mentioning a smaller home and that was a main reason for considering a smaller dog.  But your program might decide a less active but larger dog is the better answer, one that doesn't mind being in a smaller space for long periods.  Their job is to try to match what they have with what you need.  The match doesn't always turn out the way you might expect or assume.  The thing is, if you try to make decisions now about things like size, you tie the program's hands to an extent.  So it's in your own best interest not to try to plan anything about the dog yourself, but to discuss it and negotiate it with your program so that you both agree together not necessarily on a type of dog but on a specific individual dog that can get the job done.

Does any of that make sense?  I'm a little distracted trying to multitask and on a deadline.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 03:00:07 PM by Kirsten »
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

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Offline Kirsten

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2017, 03:05:01 PM »
So I have in mind a list of characteristics I want in a future service dog.  I had a list when my current one was selected.  But the thing is big chunks of that list were flexible and negotiable.

It turned out that the best match was not a perfect match to my list.  I wound up with a dog that is more difficult to maintain than my previous service dog (more difficult to brush out because he's got long hair) and a bit harder to handle and that my mom is afraid of because of his color, but he's also more resilient and unflappable and sturdy.  No one dog is EVER going to be perfect.  Just like no spouse will ever be perfect.  But there's a match out there, one that fits well enough to make a solid partner.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline analyn

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2017, 03:09:54 PM »
no worries, I'm grateful for some input.

I am trying to see if a dog is appropriate for my situation at all.

If I need to have a very large dog--I was going to put the service dog idea off the table right there. 

I am exploring questions of feasibility--I don't intend to even think about contacting organizations that train dogs unless this idea is feasible for me.  So for me, the question is more in the realm of if a 50-60 pound dog would not be enough--then I was just going to tell the doctor--no--it isn't feasible for me.
Thinking about these nitty gritty things is something I did not intend to bother with UNLESS a dog looks like a viable solution.

However---I'm glad we are thinking about them!  your idea is brilliant--have the dog retrieve the walker. 

I rarely leave my home--and when I do I usually have a human with me--or have access to one--so the dog would mostly work inside my home.  (I had an incident about 2 years ago where I got so nauseous while driving I couldn't stop vomiting--all over the steering wheel etc---it was awful.  I gave up my car after that.  If I go anywhere--I call a friend or a ride service)
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 03:31:57 PM by analyn »

Offline Kirsten

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2017, 07:21:49 PM »
A typical service dog is about 50-60 pounds.  Such a dog can do some kinds of balance work, but not all kinds.

Is a standard sized service dog feasible for you?  Yes, if you don't get stuck on wanting it to work in a very specific way.  There's nearly always more than one way to accomplish something.

Can you use a 50 pound dog as a substitute for a walker?  No.  I mean some people do because they want to (it is not illegal to do so), but it is unkind to the dog and damaging to their musculoskeletal systems.  I'm a biomechanical engineer.  How the job impacts the dog's physical (and mental) wellbeing matters quite a lot to me.

I mean, I have vertigo and my dog helps me with it, but I don't use him as a substitute for a walker.  It sounds like my vertigo affects me similar to the way yours affects you in some respects and different in others.  I've never puked on a steering wheel, but I have puked on peoples shoes.

A home-only service dog faces different challenges and advantages than a public access one.  He doesn't have to be bomb proof around stupid people because he'll encounter them rarely at home.  He doesn't have to be bombproof with public transportation or loud noises and strange sights that a pet dog never encounters.

He's also going to tend to have a different task set and/or to perform his tasks in a different way than a PA dog would.  I said a smaller dog couldn't do light switches or operate door knobs, but you can modify those switches and knobs at home so he can.  He's got a home court advantage that makes his job easier to do at home than it is in public.

I'm not trying to dance around an answer to your question but I'm back at generalities because I haven't seen your home or how you live your life or the challenges you face.  So I can't guarantee it's feasible or not feasible in your individual case.  Just that being 50 pounds alone wouldn't put him out of the running for some people with the difficulties you've described here if they're flexible about how he gets the job done.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 07:24:08 PM by Kirsten »
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In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline analyn

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2017, 07:36:20 PM »
after thinking about it--maybe I wouldn't need a true service dog (at the moment).

If I had a trained Retriever type dog (as a pet)--fairly good size like a golden or lab--they could bring me what assistance I need in the home or dial for help if I needed more assistance.  Having a dog help with the tasks that bring on vertigo would help a lot, and supposedly walking the dog (cardio) will also help a lot with Meniere's.  Why would I need a balance dog--if within the house the dog can retrieve a walker, assist with tasks that cause vertigo and call for help if needed? 

I may be able to get by without a real service dog at this time.  True--my HOA has a weight limit--but that is mainly to keep out bully breeds and they approve exceptions on a case by case basis.  With my medical needs and a note from my Dr, I think it is very likely they would approve an exception for me to have a larger pet dog if it was a breed that is commonly accepted and not thought of generally as ferocious....

My hearing is affected also by the disease--but is not yet bad enough that I need a hearing dog.  Unfortunately--the hearing problems are irregular--just like the dizziness--so it is impossible to correct with hearing aids etc...
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 07:41:43 PM by analyn »

Offline analyn

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2017, 08:15:19 PM »
 Kirsten, I really appreciate all of your help.  It sounds like we share a few similar issues--which makes me feel a bit less alone.  I think I have a bit more clarity on the dog issue now.  I think a dog could indeed be a help to me--but I don't think I need a fully trained service dog with public access (at least not at this time).  I may just look into getting a good, obedient dog and work with a trainer to teach them to do a few things.  Fortunately, I do know a great trainer in the area--he may be able to help me find a good dog as well.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2017, 08:48:28 PM »
It's still a service dog and you can still get one from a program.  The definition of a service dog isn't that it does public access, but that it is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate its disabled partner's disability.

Some people opt for a home-only service dog for a variety of reasons.  It makes a lot of sense in your situation.

Suppose you approach a program that has a service dog that say got pulled because it was attacked by another dog and lost it's nerve around strange dogs.  That probably means it can't do public access any more, but it might still work comfortably and happily at home.  I have a dog like this, Ruby.  I can't work her around other dogs because of her fear but she's a happy little clam at home and I can walk her in the neighborhood so long as I'm willing to make adjustments to help her to manage her fear.  Maybe I need to cross the street to avoid another dog that looks like it's not under great control.  That doesn't negatively impact me on a walk.

At any rate, needing a home-only dog should in theory increase your prospects and somewhat shorten the time to getting matched because there are fewer criteria that have to be matched.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Kirsten

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2017, 08:51:08 PM »
You should be done with moderation now and able to post as you please wherever you please.  Sorry about moderation.  It's automatic, including that it ends when a moderator approves the fifth post of a person.  We took a big hit from porn spammers a few years back and had to set up moderation this way to protect against similar attacks in the future.  Our spam is way down thanks to new member moderation.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline analyn

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2017, 09:12:50 PM »
It's still a service dog and you can still get one from a program.  The definition of a service dog isn't that it does public access, but that it is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate its disabled partner's disability.

Some people opt for a home-only service dog for a variety of reasons.  It makes a lot of sense in your situation.

Suppose you approach a program that has a service dog that say got pulled because it was attacked by another dog and lost it's nerve around strange dogs.  That probably means it can't do public access any more, but it might still work comfortably and happily at home.  I have a dog like this, Ruby.  I can't work her around other dogs because of her fear but she's a happy little clam at home and I can walk her in the neighborhood so long as I'm willing to make adjustments to help her to manage her fear.  Maybe I need to cross the street to avoid another dog that looks like it's not under great control.  That doesn't negatively impact me on a walk.

At any rate, needing a home-only dog should in theory increase your prospects and somewhat shorten the time to getting matched because there are fewer criteria that have to be matched.

that is brilliant!  I think this would be a great idea.  I'm sure there are often dogs that can't take the stress of some public situations but would be a great SD  in a quiet home setting.  I feel much more enthusiastic about this. 

Offline analyn

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2017, 09:14:07 PM »
You should be done with moderation now and able to post as you please wherever you please.  Sorry about moderation.  It's automatic, including that it ends when a moderator approves the fifth post of a person.  We took a big hit from porn spammers a few years back and had to set up moderation this way to protect against similar attacks in the future.  Our spam is way down thanks to new member moderation.

thanks!

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Re: how large should a balance dog be?
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2017, 09:34:33 PM »
There are programs that place in home service dogs and they usually have a far shorter waiting list than the public service dogs. The program I last used called them "Home Helpmates".
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