- Service Dog Program
Assistance Dog Program
Service dog charities tend to have long waitlists and tend to focus on certain types of disabilities. If you are, say, an adult with autism, or if your MS has not progressed to the point where you are in a wheelchair, you are unlikely to qualify for a service dog from a reputable training institution.
There are also a lot of service dog scams out there, willing to charge disabled people thousands of dollars for an unsuitable and poorly trained dog.
So, people ask us, "can I train my own?"
Canada recognizes owner-trained service dogs so long as they are, in fact, service dogs and not just pets in capes. The province of BC even has a special law that lets you certify your dog through the Justice Institute of BC to get additional government protection - the BC Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.
Our trainers have been taught by highly respected educators including Bonnie Bergin - the visionary who invented the concept of the wheelchair assistance dog and founded Canine Companions for Independence.
We know the difference between training a pet, and training a dog who is so much more.
Sit. Lie down. Stay. Come.
A good service dog, on the other hand, must use their brain. A service dog should know what to do without being told. Your life is not easier when you're constantly having to spout a string of commands, such as "heel! Sit! Stay! Heel! Leave it! Heel! Stay!"
Say you are a guide dog, and your handler tells you, "forward!". You look ahead, and there is an electric car speeding down the road without its noise emitter on. Your blind handler cannot see it or hear it. They think it is safe to cross the road. If you obey the command "forward!" you will both be killed.
Service dogs are often called upon to disobey a request from their handler, or to do something without having to be told.
If their handler is skin-picking, the dog should know to interrupt them without being told. And if the handler tells the dog to buzz off and leave them alone, the dog should disobey and continue to interrupt the skin picking until they finally sigh and say, "okay, okay. Good dog. Let's get you a treat and I'll find something to keep my hands busy."
We are accept people who:
1. Are disabled - either physically, psychologically, or neurologically. We understand that not all disabilities are visible, but your condition must be impacting your life negatively in a way that a dog can assist you with.
2. Have put serious thought into their choice of dog. What makes you think that this dog is the right dog for the job?
3. Understand that teaching a dog to assist you takes a lot of time, dedication, and effort on your part. It is not a walk in the park - although it often involves many, many walks in parks!
4. Understand that we will not force a dog to assist you. Your dog must help you of their own free will, because of the bond of trust, communication, and positivity that you have built together.
5. Have a teenaged or adult dog who has either graduated our Puppy Prodigy Program or demonstrates comparable skills, socialization, and bond to handler.