Your Child Doesn’t Need An Autism Dog (Probably)

Posted on May 14, 2021May 14, 2021Categories Assistance Dog Skills, Common Mistakes Owners Make, Kids and Pets, Please ShareTags , , ,

Why have a Child With AUTISM

When you could have a

Child With An AUTISM DOG?

According to People On The Internet, who, as you know, are never wrong*, if your child is autistic, a magic dog can fix them.

*Sarcasm. People on the Internet can be wrong. 

Autism Dogs can be great. After a dozen years of training assistance dogs for other people, I’m finally training my own Autism Dog.

But you probably don’t need one.

Some parents put a lot of weight on getting an autism dog for their child. It seems to be the newest accessory.

When I ask them what they want the dog to do for the child, they often aren’t sure. They just heard that autism dogs can help, and sometimes they’re truly desperate for help.

So it’s really important to understand – a dog can’t fix autism.

A dog can’t rewire our brains.

A dog can’t make your apraxic child capable of speech.

A dog can’t make the world quieter, the lights in the grocery store dimmer, or help us when we panic at Subway because they forgot one of the sandwiches we ordered and now we have to either go home without a sandwich and go hungry for dinner or speak up.**

**I went home without my sandwich.

They definitely can’t help us when we try to navigate downtown without Siri and accidentally turn the wrong way on a one way street.***

***If any police officers are reading this I'm joking!!! HAAHAHAHAHA.****
****No seriously it was scary but no one got hurt and now I will always always have Siri on. I learned my lesson. I'm too autistic for downtown*****. 
 *****As per the preferences of the majority of autistic people polled, including myself, a genuine Autistic Person, I don't usually refer to autism as if it is an awkward accessory - I call myself autistic.  

An Autism Dog is not a substitute for an AAC device, an Occupational Therapist, or acceptance in the community.

So What CAN an Autism Dog Do?

Well… some things…

Safety Sense

Dogs can be trained to stop automatically at curbs, preventing the child from wandering or bolting into the road.

Behavior Interruption

Dogs can be taught to interrupt self-harmful behaviors like skin picking or head banging.

Social Support

Dogs make for great conversation greasers. As an autistic person, I can vouch for how easy social interactions are when you have a dog. People always ask the same questions, and I’ve got the scripts for the answers down pat. Then people start talking to me about their dog and I just nod and smile and coo over pictures. It’s easy!

Sensory Support

Is there anything more soothing than the feeling of soft ears between my fingers? And a firm handle to hold is so steadying when I’m feeling lost and overwhelmed. A tug of a guiding dog with a handle can even help me overcome autistic inertia.

Unconditional Love

When you’re autistic, people tend to look at you strangely.

A lot.

Because we process the world differently, we experience the world differently which means that quite frankly we inhabit a slightly different reality from the people around us. That can get lonely. But do you know who doesn’t care whether I made a faux pas at a party?

Dogs. They love me anyway.

I guess those benefits sound pretty great to parents, because we field a lot of emails from people looking to make their autistic child into a Child-With-Autism-Dog. They just adopted a puppy, or are planning to buy a puppy, and they want the pup to become their child’s loyal Autism Dog.

Sometimes, working with an autistic kid and their dog is the highlight of my day. I love my clients, and they love their dogs.

Just the other day I got a text from a client.

It said:

“[My child] refused to go to a dentist appointment and I didn’t think I was ever going to get them in the car, but then I suggested the dog come with us and he changed his mind and agreed to come. They both rocked it!”

(paraphrase to protect client privacy)

That’s the beauty of an Autism Dog. Sometimes that furry companionship is exactly what an autistic child needs to help them face the challenging of daily life.

Sometimes a handle to hold can mean the difference between getting a child from the car and to the school calmly safely… versus yet another eloping incident involving a bolting five year old and a busy road.

Some of the most impressive and skilled dog handlers on my client list are autistic teenagers who train their dogs themselves.

When people come to me looking for help training an Autism Dog, I can be delighted and honoured to help them on this journey.

But more often… I tell them it’s not a great idea.

That’s right. I, an autistic person who gains immense comfort and support from dogs, don’t think most people should get an autism dog for their child.

As great and useful as an Autism Dog can be, most families should not be getting one for their autistic child.

Autism Dogs Can Be A Terrible Idea.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Reason 1:

The child doesn’t even like dogs.

If you’re an autistic kid and dogs are your special interest, then a dog is the best present your parents will ever get you.

But a lot of people believe that all autistic children just naturally tend to bond with dogs, and that’s incorrect. The fact is that the majority of autistic children, from verbal to non verbal, from apraxic to non-apraxic, with or without intellectual disability, do not enjoy dogs.

Dogs are slimy. Dogs are smelly. Dogs love eye contact. Dogs poop and drool and chew and make loud unexpected noises.

Autistic people are cat people more than dog people. Horses tend to be good. Rabbits. Guinea pigs. Doves, maybe. Not hairy, shedding, stinking, drooling, noisy dogs.

Quite frankly I can’t even explain why I like them, because I dislike basically everything I mentioned above. If I didn’t have this sweeping obsession with animals I’d probably hate dogs too.

Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Reason 2:

The parent wants the dog to accompany the child to school.

Children under the age of 10 or so tend not to have the ability to handle a dog – even a well trained one – on their own. Autistic kids also tend to struggle with reaction time and physical coordination, which are necessary for skilled dog handling.

I learned it, but it took me a long time.

The parent, not the child, usually handles the Autism Dog. So unless your child’s care aid or BI is willing to handle the dog for you when you aren’t around, or your child is old enough and capable enough to manage the dog, the dog cannot accompany your child to school.

Are there exceptions? Of course! Some of my most skilled handlers are autistic teens. But if you have a young child, you should probably forget it.

Photo by Daniël Maas on Unsplash

Reason 3:

Autism and puppies don’t mix.

Most of the people who contact me are getting a puppy and want to train it up themselves. It sounds good on paper but if often doesn’t work well in reality.

Puppies are terrible. They make disgusting messes. They jump up. They have VERY sharp teeth which they like to embed in our sensitive skin. They’re a TON of work. They chew up your favourite toys, mess up your beautfully lined up objects, and then leave a poop in the middle of your bedroom floor.

Oh and they yip and want constant interaction and it’s terrible and your child will probably hate it.

Yes, even if your child loves dogs.

Yes, even if your child desperately wants a dog.

Parents continually underestimate how much chaos a puppy will bring into their child’s carefully ordered life.

You should not leave your autistic child – or even your neurotypical child – unattended with a puppy. I don’t care how sweet and gentle your child is, or how much empathy they show to animals. When a puppy is sinking needle-like teeth into their pinky toe, there is an excellent chance the child will defend themselves by hitting or kicking the puppy. It’s a reflex. They won’t be able to stop themselves.

I have seen this happen in families where the parent was 100% positive that their child would never hurt a dog.

The parent was probably right in thinking their child wouldn’t hurt a DOG. But a PUPPY is another story. Puppies are really, really obnoxious.

Reason 4:

The child can get violent during meltdowns.

Every autistic person melts down at times.

While some of us elope and scream, or collapse on the floor, some of us can hit and throw things. No, we can’t control it. I’m a grown up woman, married, a parent, and running my own business, and I still can’t control myself during a meltdown so you absolutely cannot expect that of a child.

Thankfully I’m a run-screaming-down-the-side-of-the-highway kind of autistic, not a hits-people-or-dogs kind of autistic but that’s just luck of the draw. It all comes down to how your nervous system reacts to a red alert.

If a child sometimes throws things, or hits and punches people they love when they are upset or melting down, they likely cannot have a service dog. The dog could end up getting punched, kicked, hit, or – in one memorable incident – thrown against a wall.

…I’m pretty sure Amelia is still recovering from that training appointment.

No matter how much benefit a dog could bring to your child, we do not have the right to put a dog in harm’s way.

I do have a client whose child can throw a solid punch when they’re worked up, but they are always pulled out of the meltdown by the dog and have never aggressed on the dog.

So can it be okay? Yes. But I find this is very much the exception, NOT the rule, and parents must always remain vigilant and be ready and able to protect the dog from the child if necessary.

We have a duty to provide these animals with safe and loving surroundings. If we cannot guarantee that, then we cannot put the animal in harm’s way.

Reason 5:

The dog is a chore.

A lot of parents want their child to have a dog because they want the child to get outdoors and get active more.

It won’t work.

Most autistic kids are struggling with meeting basic daily challenges like getting dressed, going to school, and maybe putting their laundry away. Adding a dependant living thing to their to-do list is usually too much for the kid.

Even when the child adores the dog, they usually won’t put their video games down to go for long walks on the beach with their beloved companion. They’re more likely to complain that the dog gets in the way of the X-box controller.

Now, I’m not saying your child can’t be responsible for the dog. I have clients whose kids love to walk the dog. I know kids who even pick up the dogs’ poop.

So I’m not telling you what your child can and can’t do.

But I do want you to seriously consider these things because I frequently find that the parent’s expectations of the child are disappointed. In fact sometimes I see the child turned off of the dog because it represents more work and more things for parents to nag about.

Reasons 6-10,000:

When People See You, They See Dollar Signs.

Whether you hire someone like us, or get a pre-trained dog, expect to spend a lot of money, and watch out for people who want to prey off of you.

There are a lot of vultures out there looking to get money from parents who are trying to help their child. Selling you an “Autism Dog” is a popular scam.

Note: I’m not referring to accredited charities such as BC Guide Dogs. Look for accreditation through Assistance Dog International when searching for a trustworthy organization.

Unfortunately, since ADI accredited charities contend with massive wait-lists, and since they screen their applicants carefully, many families either don’t qualify (likely for good reason – see above). Others qualify but do not want to wait years for their dog.

This opens you up to predatory Autism Dog programs who will often charge thousands for poorly trained and sometimes even aggressive dogs. These are the same people who push Autism Dogs so hard in the first place.

Yes, this happens.

Quite often actually.

Yes, in Canada too.

Yes, here in Vancouver.

Want to know how to spot a service dog scam? Here are some signs.

So please, before you fork out thousands of dollars to breeders/service dog scams or to private service dog trainers (including us!) ask yourself if your child will really benefit.

And if you don’t… we will, because we don’t believe in charging people money in order to waste their time.

How To Spot Assistance Dog Scams

Posted on May 14, 2021May 14, 2021Categories Assistance Dog Skills, Featured, Please ShareTags , , ,

Everyone knows about fake service dogs – dogs who have a vest that says “service dog” but pull on the leash, bark, and generally act like your average pet.

But what people don’t know is how often the person holding the leash is the victim of a scam, and they don’t even know that their service dog is not legitimate.

Sometimes people contact us after they realize they’ve been scammed, and they are looking for help.

Sometimes we have to gently break it to people when we realize they have been scammed.

It’s never fun.

It makes me angry that there are people willing to prey on disabled people who are looking for help. I hope this article helps save a few people from these common scams.

Scam #1: Fake Service Dog Registration.

If I google “service dog registration canada” I come up with a long list of scam sites. They urge you to pay them money now to “register” your dog in return for fake IDs, fake letters from fake doctors etc. But of course they don’t say that it’s all fake. They make themselves look as legitimate as possible.

My personal favourite is the one which clearly displays its address in the USA while urging me to choose them because they’re based in Canada.

hope you don't fall for this!

So, how do you spot these sites?

It’s easy.

If it isn’t a government website, then they have no right to make any kind of declaration about whether or not your dog is registered or certified in your area.

If no one has asked you for a doctor’s note and checked to see if your dog behaves itself, then they have absolutely no authority whatsoever.

If they’re asking you for money, be suspicious.

It is important to understand that random organizations on the internet have no authority over whether your dog is a real service dog.

While service dog laws vary from province to province, here is a summary of the laws here in British Columbia:

Scam #2: Selling You A Fake Service Dog

leash manners are just the beginning...

Even worse than bilking people out of a couple of hundred dollars for a false service dog ID is selling a false service dog. A fully trained service dog can sell for anywhere from $5,000-$15,000. Are they worth that? Absolutely.

…IF they are actually well trained.

Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people out there who will put a head halter on any dog and sell it to you as a service dog.

42 people have filed fraud complaints against one “trainer” in North Carolina.

Another outfit has been sued for selling poorly trained dogs for as high as $30k.

These high profile cases are merely the tip of the iceberg. Fake service dog scams can be found all over the world, including here in Canada.

Hope you know assistance dogs shouldn't do this!

Here’s how you spot a service dog scammer:

They are not on any lists posted by reliable institutions. Self-Regulating organizations such as Assistance Dogs International will list approved members. https://assistancedogsinternational.org/resources/member-search/

Their dogs pull on the leash or require frequent corrections.

A trained service dog should walk next to their handler calmly and on a loose leash. That means the leash should be hanging down in a J or U shape and the handler does not seem to need the leash in order to direct the dog. In fact, the handler should be able to drop the leash and keep walking, and the dog acts just the same.

Their dogs need special equipment.

A well trained service dog behaves the same off leash as on leash. A trained service dog should not require a prong collar, a shock collar, or any other form of extreme control. Some service dogs may wear head halters, because their handler is in a wheelchair or is frail and even an accidental tug on the leash could result in injury. But most fully qualified service dogs only require a simple harness or flat collar.

The dogs do not perform specialized skills.

Service dog scammers don’t know how to train dogs, only control them. You can use scolding and punishment to stop a dog from yanking on the leash, but it takes a lot more skill to train a dog to fetch medications, find a lost possession, or carry their own poop bag and put it in the garbage. Your service dog should be able to perform several advanced skills designed to assist you in daily life.

A dog who can just heel nicely and sit-stay is a well behaved pet, not a service dog. Check the organizations social media channels – skilled trainers delight in showing off what their dogs can do and they’ll have the social media posts to back it up!

They have the dogs’ names on their service dog capes.

There’s a reason that big service dog organizations don’t embroider the dogs’ names on their capes, and it has nothing to do with cost. It would be easy to find a nice volunteer to embroider a special cape for each graduate. No, the reason they don’t do it is because they know that you don’t want the public to know your dogs’ names. Some of my clients even have “stage names” for their dogs that they’ll give the public when someone asks for their dogs’ names. It’s extremely annoying to have people calling your dog from across the room when you’re trying to keep him under your chair in McDonald’s.

So I raise my eyebrows at any organization that does this, because to me it practically screams “lack of experience”.

Their trainers don’t have any certifications.

Experience is not a substitute for education. I have learned immense amounts from my dozen plus years of hands-on experience training dogs, but just as vital has been active pursuit of education on the subject of dog training. A dedicated dog trainer invests in their career, and will be able to list courses or apprenticeships they have taken and certifications they have achieved, and will be happy to refer you to the schools that trained them.

Once again, check their claims at the back end. If they say they are CPDT-KAs, for example, you will find them on the CCPDT website.

They don’t have a good relationship with similar organizations nearby

There’s not much competition in the service dog charity world. The demand far outstrips production, which exactly why these service dog scammers are able to do so well. Service dog schools swap training methods, breeding dogs, and anything else they think will help each other succeed. If the organization you are looking into doesn’t seem to have good affiliations with similar organizations, nearby or abroad, it’s worth calling those other schools to find out why.

They don’t screen applicants carefully.

A true service dog organization wants its dogs to go to good homes and worthy recipients. They will want reports from your doctors, they will check your finances to ensure you can provide food and vet care to the dog, they’ll ask for references, and they may even run a criminal record check on you to make sure you aren’t an animal abuser.

They’ll ask you about your schedule, your pasttimes, your home life, and your recreational activities so they can match the right dog to the right person – they don’t want to pair a slug-dog to someone who does marathons, or hand a canine athlete to someone who rarely leaves the house. Since demand is so high, service dog schools can be very picky about matchmaking to ensure that the paired teams are ideal.

They don’t treat their clients well.

Service dog organizations exist to help people, and they are run by people who love people. They should be educated on the nature of your disability, they should not express ableist beliefs, they should demonstrate genuine care and consideration for their clients and their needs, and they should be willing and able to accommodate your disability.

They don’t behave professionally.

Professionals behave like professionals and care how they and their dogs are perceived by the public. They require their clients to behave professionally as well and will coach them in how to handle difficult situations (such as being questioned about their service dog) with grace. They will coach their clients on ways to be discrete with their dog in public and to ensure their dog is not a nuisance to others. They will respect their clients’ privacy and human rights.

It should go without saying that they will not try to take advantage of their clients, or offer you discounts if you recruit more clients for them as if they were Mary Kay.

Their fee for the dog is non-refundable.

Most of the big charities do not charge their clients for the dogs, but instead choose to retain ownership and “loan” the dog out to the client. But some do permit the transfer of ownership for a fair price. Usually the client is expected to fundraise for the dog, rather than pay out of pocket. None of these things are, by themselves, suspicious.

However, if papers you are signing commit you to paying a non-refundable fee, with or without ownership of the dog, please ask more questions. What if the dog isn’t a good fit for you? What if you realize you don’t actually like having a service dog? You should always be able to return the dog without ending up out-of-pocket if things aren’t a good fit.

Some scams will sell a dog to someone, or charge application fees in the thousands, only to give out an aggressive, untrained or otherwise unsuitable dog. When the dog is ultimately returned, they refuse to return the money – usually while deflecting responsibility onto the recipient – then turn around and sell the dog to someone else.

Don’t let this happen to you. Read the fine print on any contracts you sign, and make sure it includes guarantees regarding the dog’s behavior, and allows for refunds if the dog is aggressive or unsuitable.

Buyer Beware

The dog training industry is completely unregulated by the government. While voluntary certifications exist – such as the BC AnimalKind program, and the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers – the government has no legal definition of what constitutes a “dog trainer”, and anyone can go to PetSmart, buy themselves a shock collar, and set up a business training dogs.

We are plagued enough by people who think that punishing a dog into submission is “training” and sell it as such to innocent people and their dogs. It’s ten times worse, though, when a family with a disabled child is faced with the grief of a badly behaved dog who cost them hundreds or even thousands.

When it comes to predatory website scams, our justice system is helpless, as these websites are usually based out of the U.S. and therefore not answerable to British Columbia laws.

Please check things out carefully. Be very wary of buying things online, or getting information about service dog laws online. I’ve lost count of the number of clients who think the American Disability Act rules apply here in Canada.

Be safe out there.

Best of the Barking Butler

Posted on March 19, 2020May 7, 2021Categories Assistance Dog Skills, Great Tricks, Training Methods, Uncategorized, VideosTags , , , , , , , , ,

Have you ever wished your dog could pass your husband that wrench? Or that you could send your dog to the garden with a note for mother? One of the best tricks you can teach your barking butler is to deliver objects to targets. In this article, we will go through the 3 simple steps it takes to teach your dog to deliver an object to another person.

Roscoe learns to deliver an object between 2 people

Teach ‘take it to mom/dad’

Pre-requisite training: Retrieving is required, knowing names is helpful too.

Step 1: Stand 8 ft apart from your partner. The sender has the dog retrieve an easy item like a glove by handing it to them or tossing it on the ground. The sender cues ‘get it,’ but as the dog comes to deliver it, the sender points and says ‘take it to (name).’

Step 2: Now the sender must be quiet and let the receiver do the talking. Sender stands still and stares at the receiver while they ask the dog to ‘bring it here.’ The sender cannot offer any further encouragement, nor should they cue the dog again. This is key. If the sender keeps talking, the dog won’t stop looking at them and go off to the receiver.

Step 3: Fade the hint by waiting 2 full seconds after the sender says “take it to-” before helping. Your dog will already be on their way over most of the time, and will require less and less encouragement from the receiver.

Simple as 1-2-3! Now you can try new objects and locations. Increase distance until the dog can deliver to someone in another room without the receiver helping at all.

Troubleshooting

Near the end of the video I left some demonstrations of how to handle setbacks, such as the dog dropping the item either halfway there or just as they deliver it. At one point Roscoe simply trots off without ever getting the item.

The person who is to receive the delivery is the person who needs to encourage the retrieve. The sender must always remain silent after giving the ‘take it to’ cue.

If the dog drops the item, ask them to retrieve it again rather than picking it up yourself.

If the ‘get it’ is a complete fail to begin with (as in the case that they march off with nothing), then the sender will have to call the dog back to start over, but once the dog has the item, the sender must stay silent.

Enjoy your dog’s new skill!

Move over, Lassie, here comes my dog, and he’s got a message for you and my mom! (that he’s the bestest boy there is).

Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs Are Not The Same: A Helpful Guide

Posted on May 21, 2018September 15, 2020Categories Assistance Dog Skills, FeaturedTags , , , , ,

One of the more difficult aspects of our job is trying to identify what people mean when they call us and say they want their dog “certified as a PADS dog”.

Pacific Assistance Dogs Society is a Burnaby-based service dog charity recognized by Assistance Dogs International. They specialize in dogs for the Deaf and disabled, and they also provide facility therapy dogs for organizations like the RCMP, Canuck’s Place Children’s Hospice, and local schools.

Wag the Dog cannot get your dog certified as a PADS dog, because we are not PADS!

Only PADS dogs are certified PADS dogs.

What do people really mean when they say they want their dog to be a PADS dog?

It usually boils down to one of the following:

  • “I want my own dog certified as a service dog for myself or a family member.”
  • “I want my own dog certified as a facility therapy dog for a school or nursing home.”
  • “I want my dog to be certified as “in training” so my landlord can’t evict me.”

I’d like to help clear up the confusion around these three statements. Many clients aren’t really sure what they want or whether it is achievable because they are hazy on the terms and legal definitions regarding service dogs, therapy dogs, and other dogs granted public access.

What is the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog?

A guide or service dog is recognized by the provincial government as your personal support animal. You need this dog due to a medical problem or disability and the government has granted you legal rights to bring the dog wherever you go.

Examples of guide or service dogs are:

  • A Guide Dog for the Blind
  • A Hearing Alert Dog for the Deaf
  • A Mobility Assistance Dog for those in wheelchairs or with balance difficulties.
  • A Psychiatric Support Dog for those with PTSD, severe anxiety, or autism
  • A Diabetic or Seizure Alert Dog for those with diabetes or epilepsy.

Examples of therapy dogs:

  • A dog who visits the local nursing home or hospice to comfort the residents
  • A dog who attends school with a teacher to comfort the students
  • A dog who accompanies first responders to comfort accident and trauma victims.

Guide/Service dogs are legally recognized and come with legal rights and protections.

Therapy dogs do not.

A teacher who wishes to bring a therapy dog into the school must get permission from the school board. A first responder who wishes to use a therapy dog to comfort their patients must get permission from their employer. A dog who visits a care home or hospital must get permission from the facility in question.

A service dog does not.

A service dog is considered your personal medical aid and it is welcomed wherever you are, with the exception of public health hazards such as in the kitchen of a restaurant or the burn ward of a hospital.

A service dog has been through a government certification process to confirm that you genuinely need the dog and that the dog is suitable for service dog work.

There is no government certification process for a therapy dog.

St. John’s Ambulance offers a therapy dog program which is well respected and recognized by most hospitals, schools, and other facilities.

However, a St. John’s Ambulance Dog can still be legally turned away if the hospital or school does not want the dog there.

What about emotional support dogs?

Canada does not recognize emotional support dogs as being different from regular pets. Every dog is an emotional support dog. We can all benefit from the love and companionship of our pets, and that is why we should strive to train them to be well mannered in public, so we can bring them more places and enjoy their company more.

People with a diagnosed psychiatric disability such as PTSD, anxiety disorders, or neurological conditions such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, and autism, often benefit from the assistance of a service dog. These are psychiatric service dogs and they perform trained tasks to actively make the world more accessible to their handlers.

For example, an autism dog may serve as a guide, providing a comforting handle to hold. A PTSD dog may help lead their handler away from triggers.

These are service dogs, not emotional support dogs.

What about dogs in training to be service dogs? Do they have legal rights?

No. Many people misunderstand a subsection of the BC Guide Dog legislation regarding the certification of dogs in training.

Prior to the updating of this legislation a few years ago, provincially and internationally recognized schools like PADS did not have the legal right to train their dogs in public, despite the necessity of working in public in order to train a service dog.

The new legislation changed this and now grants trainers from certified schools legal rights to train service dogs in public.

This right is not extended to uncertified members of the public who wish to train their own dog. If you have hopes of turning your puppy into your personal, legally-recognized service dog someday, but your landlord wants to evict the dog, you have no legal recourse.

Wag the Dog can not help you. PADS cannot help you.

Your best hope is to find a more understanding landlord, and/or get your dog certified ASAP.

Keep in mind that many public places such as malls and cafes tolerate dogs in training so long as your dog is clearly marked as being “in training” and you are open about the fact that your dog is not yet certified.

Please also keep in mind that if your dog is not certified and you insist on public access you could be subject to prosecution. Be honest about your dog’s certification status always.  

What does certification entail?

In order to get your dog certified as a service dog, your doctor must sign a form certifying your medical need for the dog. Then you and the dog must go through a rigorous 40 item obedience test to demonstrate that you have full verbal control over your dog, that your dog can be calm and unobtrusive in public, and that your dog will stay close to you and ignore other people in public.

Your dog must pass with 100% in order to be certified.

Wag the Dog can help you prepare for this test.

To learn more, visit our Assistance Dog Training page.

Having trouble deciding whether to take the service dog or therapy dog route?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Do you have a medical need for your dog?

If yes, then you want a service dog. If no, then you want a therapy dog.

Do you want your dog to ignore the public and focus on you?

If yes, then you want a service dog. If no, then you want a therapy dog.

I hope this helps clear up the confusion. If you have more questions feel free to contact us at team@wagthedog.ca.

Teach your dog to do ‘laundry’

Posted on June 13, 2016Categories Assistance Dog Skills, Dogs, Great Tricks, Kids and Pets, Please Share, Videos

This article will describe how simple it is to teach your dog to put laundry into a basket, or toys in a box, or trash in a can. If your dog already loves to retrieve, you could teach this trick to your dog within a week, training for just a few minutes a day!

When we teach dogs to retrieve, we begin with soft, easy items like socks, and advance to leather, wood, plastic, and finally metal items. Helping with the laundry is a fun rainy day game that is well suited to novice dogs and their handlers.

Teach your dog to do ‘laundry’

Step 1) Begin by tossing balled socks as though they were toys. After a couple successful retrieves, try again with a basket right in front of you. Use your cue to ‘drop it’ or simply offer them a treat at the right moment to get them to drop the sock into the basket. If the sock lands in the basket, mark with ‘yes!’ and give them a treat. If the sock lands outside the basket, ask them to retrieve it again.

Step 2) Try placing multiple items out to retrieve, beginning with small pieces of clothing like socks and underwear. Your dog might try to retrieve the first item out of the basket. Try to catch their nose with a treat so that they drop the first item again, and then lead them by the nose directly to the next item. Some dogs can be very determined that they should keep retrieving the first item out of the basket, it is adorable, so don’t get frustrated.

Step 3) Give your cue to do ‘laundry’ a few feet away from the basket, stepping toward it if they try to retrieve the item directly to you.

Not only is this trick easy, once you teach them to do retrieve to a target, you have already taught them the basic behaviour chain behind so many other cool tricks like putting trash in can, playing basketball, and putting toys in a box. Your kids will love teaching your dog to clean up their room, and you will be shocked by how soon you’ll have your own barking butler!

 

Teach Your Dog To Dress Themselves

Posted on May 27, 2016November 23, 2020Categories Assistance Dog Skills, Dogs, Great Tricks, VideosTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your dog might not ever be ready to move out and go to college, but teaching this easy trick will make your life a little smoother, on a daily basis, which adds up. Most importantly, giving your dog this responsibility will make their life more pleasant.

Teach The ‘Dress’ Cue

Ensure your dog’s collar, bandana, harness, or backpack is oriented so that large or dangly parts hang down, rather than looming over your dog’s head, hitting them in the face as they dress.

Step 1)

Reach your hand through the neck hole, place a treat on your dog’s nose, and lure them through. Say ‘Yes!’ and allow them to eat as they ‘dress.’

Step 2)

Hold a treat on the other side of the hole and ask your dog to make the first move, this is sometimes a tricky step because you can’t hold it open wide with one hand as easily, enlist the help of a friend if you are struggling. If your dog is struggling, try holding the treat right in the center of the hole, and luring from there, saying “Yes!” once their entire head is through.

Step 3)

Hold the opening wide with both hands and say ‘dress.’ Mark with “yes!” and reward once they are fully dressed. If they hesitate to go through, show them the treat on the other side again to remind them.

Enjoy your dog’s new trick!

If your dog’s harness is the kind that it would help if they would just stand still on top of it, begin by teaching the ‘stand‘ cue on a pedestal.

 

Teach your dog to retrieve their leash

Posted on April 18, 2016March 21, 2020Categories Assistance Dog Skills, Dogs, Great Tricks

This is one of my favourite tricks! I drop my leash, but my dog doesn’t run away, he politely picks up the leash and places it back in my hand. Nice! Thanks Doug! If your dog already loves to retrieve, you can teach them to fetch their leash in just a few steps.

Teach this trick immediately after a short session of playing fetch with items your dog already loves to retrieve like toys.

Teach ‘Get Your Leash’

Pre-requisite training: Retrieving

1) Tie your leash into a tight ball, tucking and hiding the metal clasp inside.

2) Introduce the leash-ball excitedly, “look who’s got a new toy!” Toss and play tug with it gently, you may need to re-tie the leash ball a few times depending on your dog’s level of enthusiasm.

3) Next, Try tossing the leash half-tied, then un-tied if they are still game to retrieve it.

4) Ask your dog to sit, place the leash a few feet away. Go back to their side and excitedly tell them to retrieve.

5) Now you’re ready to try the big number. Attach the leash to your dog’s collar and toss the end on the ground in front of you, ask them to retrieve and enjoy the fruits of your training!

Depending on your dog’s level of prior training and current enthusiasm, you may speed through these 5 steps in just a few sessions. Most dogs can progress at a rate of 1 step per week if you train at least a few times per week.

If your dog is struggling when learning a new skill, try going back a step and moving forward in smaller, easier increments. It helps to continually return to tasks the dog has mastered to keep their confidence up. Keep training sessions short and fun!

Watch our video: Teach ‘Get Your Leash’ with Roscoe and Douglas:

Roscoe is almost entirely blind, but he still loves to be helpful. I primed him for this session by letting him retrieve my glove, my favourite part of this video is when he tries to keep bringing me the glove again, he was pretty certain I would need my glove!

Bonus: Want your dog to retrieve their leash from a hook on the wall? Try practicing retrieving near the wall or an end table first before making the move to hanging the leash. Hang it loosely so that it can be easily retrieved. Make sure the clip is hanging down so that the metal clip doesn’t fall down and hit them in the head. Remove any poo bag attachment that might pose a similar hazard. Stand right next to the wall or end table at first and move away once they are getting the idea. Say “Yes!” and throw a big treat party, especially the first time the leash falls from the hook or table.

If your dog tries to grab your leash while you walk them, reserve teaching this trick until you’ve taught your dog to ignore the leash. Interrupt leash biting and focus your dog’s energy on obedience commands or perhaps on a game of tug with an appropriate toy. Many dogs like to walk with a toy or stick in their mouths. You can certainly have your cake and eat it too if you can be consistent. I love to use my leash as a reward because I always have it with me when we are out. I can whip the handle back and worth and give him a little tug or toss it to ground and let him retrieve it.