Welcome to my first (as promised) tail-wagging dog blog! This blog post topic will be written as a series because, if there’s anything you know (or will soon know) about me, it’s that I LOVE to talk service dogs! I envision that this post will give you a sneak peak into the many aspects of being a service dog raiser/trainer (Note: These terms will be used interchangeably).
But, first, story time: In the Fall of 2015, I began interning with Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD) where I learned about the various types of service dogs and how they can assist individuals with mental and/or physical disabilities lead more independent lives. As the internship neared an end, I decided to volunteer to raise a service dog in-training — SSD Pinella! While living with me in my Millersville University residence hall room, SSD Pinella and I quickly grew accustomed to one another and began engaging in our routine training sessions and public outings. As is the case with many service dogs in-training (approximately 40-50%), SSD Pinella decided that life as a working dog was simply not suitable for her due to her high stress and anxiety levels. I have since adopted Pinella from Susquehanna Service Dogs, and we continue to train together and even return to Millersville University from time-to-time to advocate for college student raisers and educate students about service dogs and the roles of their trainers!
So what exactly does it mean to raise a service dog? This answer will undoubtedly vary, but here’s what it means to me:
–Being committed to the greater goal (i.e. training a dog to one day hand off to a deserving individual, volunteerism to serve the community, etc.).
–Being comfortable taking your puppy into any and all public places possible (i.e. grocery stores, malls, your job, public transportation, restaurants, and for me, college classes!)
–Becoming comfortable with all eyes on you and your dog. Although we’re all guilty of getting googly-eyed over a service dog in public, it can become very uncomfortable and cause both the trainer and dog to lose focus!
–Learning to ask for help! Raising Pinella as a college student taught me to become comfortable asking others for help because, believe it or not, it’s okay to just say, “I need help.” Not to mention, all of my family, friends, co-workers, and SSD staff were VERY supportive of my mission.
–Be someone who loves dogs…I mean REALLY loves dogs. This means play with them, be one with them, and give them your whole heart. This is equally as important for working service dogs and pets alike!!
–Get ready to answer questions, including the dreaded, “How are you going to give the dog up?” (By the way, I’ve found that there is no “correct” way to answer this!).
–Being willing to learn new training techniques and attend training classes with your puppy.
–Being willing, ready, and as emotionally prepared as possible to hand over the leash to your service dog’s future handler!
As you can now clearly see, I LOVE talking about service dog training and could bark on and on about it without “paws”! If you were intrigued with this blog topic, stay tuned for future posts in this “What It Means To: Train a Service Dog” series!
As always, thank you for reading! I love reading your comments and am quite inspired by my readers’ kind words! Tune in for my next blog post, “What It Means To: Run a 5K!”, and don’t forget to like/follow Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter 🙂