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Starting the service dog journey

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While this is my first post I would like to thank everyone on the boards, all of the information I have read has helped my understanding of SD's and their handlers/Partners.

I am just starting my journey of acquiring and training my service dog. So far I have read ADA laws, looked into service dog programs, studied breeders, and made a list of tasks that would help mitigate my disability.

Background Information: I have Fibromyalgia, I was over 10 years ago and have learned to live with my disease. Over the last few years my mobility and cognitive capabilities have steadily declined. I have reached a point where I am not declining further, but am no longer able to do everyday tasks that I used to.

I have bad dizzy spells, very little to no feeling in my fingers, light and sound sensitivity, and terrible all over pain and fatigue.

I am looking into a mobility service dog trained to help me balance, retriever items, help with dizziness by bracing me, help keep people from bumping into me, as well as a few other tasks that are similar.

I am looking for some advise from the community.

I am looking into larger breeds and have narrowed the choice down to a few candidates: Golden Retriever, Standard Poodle, Dalmatian, or a Golden Retriever/Bernese Mountain Dog Mix.

I know that getting a dog from a program would be ideal, as training is tiring and time consuming, but I have tried to get into a program and have had terrible luck as they have very long wait lists and are very picky about who they let on their wait lists.

My questions are two fold:

1) Which breed would you go with? You may also suggest other breeds not listed.

2) Would you start owner training with a trainer who has trained SD's before or would you keep trying to get into a program? FYI I have tried to get into 5 different programs with no success.

Thanks! :paw:

I wouldn't lose a Dalmatian for temperament issues, or a Bernese Mountain dog mix for size issues.  I'm not suggesting Dals have bad temperaments but that they are temperamentally not ideally suited for service work.  They're designed as carriage dogs.

I'd go for a golden or poodle.  I think I'd go for the poodle over the golden because though goldens are very good in obedience they favor pattern training which I'm not fond of and I might get away with more of the style of training I'm used to with a poodle.  Other than this personal preference I think either could be suitable.  Just because I have a training style bias doesn't mean others should or that either breed couldn't produce an equally good service dog.

The main issues with owner training aren't about it being tiring or hard work but that the success rate is much higher going with a program.  The speed of getting an actual working dog is also typically higher with a program than with owner training once you factor in not just training time, but also the amount of time to find an appropriate candidate and dealing with the high probability of having to start over one or two times on average with a new candidate when the first washes out.

Would I personally choose to owner train or go with a program?  I have chosen to owner train.  But I'm also an experienced trainer, very much enjoy training, and have particular opinions about how I'd like my dog to work as well as particular opinions about my favorite breed. 

Which choice do I think is likely better for you?  Well, for your first service dog I always advise people to go with a good program.  The first service dog is a steep learning curve and there are a lot of things a good program does to make that more manageable, above and beyond the actual training of the dog.  There's team training and ongoing support after placement.  That first year is typically going to be rough at least in patches.  Having a program who knows your dog inside and out because they chose him (or bred him) and trained him, ready to answer questions and advise and even help with additional training if needed, that's priceless and a significant advantage program clients have over owner-trainers.

For perspective: I was denied from about 30 programs before I found the perfect one. Depending on your disability, finding a program may take some time, effort,and flexibilty.


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