Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

Career Change!

“Career Change” is a term used in the working dog world to reference when a dog has ultimately chosen a different career path.  For instance, some service dogs in training find that they are better suited for explosives detection, therapy work, or even the pet life.

If you’ve followed along on Pinella’s journey thus far, you already know that, just shy of her first birthday, she chose to pursue the pet life.  It was her choice.  She told us through her behaviors and temperament that she preferred to live a calming, playful, and relaxing pet life.  Although it was heartbreaking for her to be discharged from service work, I now have the clarity to recognize that this was a necessary component of her journey.

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Pinella on an “outing” practicing her cues and gaining socialization.

Following her release from Susquehanna Service Dogs, our training efforts naturally decreased.  Through this experience, however, I became attuned to a key quality of Pinella — She loves to work!  Pinella demonstrated excitement at the sight of her clicker and treats.  She seemed to really enjoy the mental stimulation she gained from practicing her cues in pet-friendly stores and getting treated for loose leash leisure walks.  Her companionship was second to none and something I truly wished more people had an opportunity to experience.  I observed these traits for a year or so and did my very best to give her a healthy combination of “pet life” and “working life/training.”

Pet Therapy at a Glance

Pet Therapy is an animal-assisted intervention that I’ve always had a keen interest in.  Much of this interest derived from my own experiences with the healing power of the human-animal bond.  If you’ve ever had a pet, you, too, have likely experienced the therapeutic role that interacting with an animal can have.  While pet therapy can be as informal as interacting with your pet, it also involves more formal, structured interactions.

“Animal-assisted interventions are goal oriented and structured interventions that intentionally incorporate animals in health, education and human service for the purpose of therapeutic gains and improved health and wellness.”
(Pet Partners, 2020)

Pet Partners (2020) acknowledges pet therapy as an animal-assisted intervention aimed at providing comfort and healing to individuals in a variety of settings.  Examples include, but are not limited to, hospitals, advocacy centers, schools/universities, assisted-living facilities, mental health facilities, as well as libraries.  Pet therapy affords people with an opportunity to focus on the animal/animal’s handler as opposed to the ongoing stressors that might be occurring in their life.  This might take the form of petting the animal and talking to the animal’s handler, for example. It has also been suggested that therapy dogs can aide in improving children’s literacy skills by having them read to the nonjudgmental dog.  Lastly, therapy dogs are often involved in crisis response and have served on the frontlines during national crises, such as 9/11, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting, and even the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Rewind:  October 2019 

Reflecting back on Pinella’s desire to live the pet life, coupled with her innate love for working, I anticipated that pet therapy would be a suitable fit for her.  It was also encouraging to know that Pinella’s sister, Syrah, had already made the transition from service-dog-in-training to therapy dog.  In October 2019, I reached out to Syrah’s handler and asked for mentorship and guidance through navigating the pet therapy world.  Together, we did several pet therapy trial visits at a local nursing home.  Much of our experience at the nursing home involved allowing residents to pet Pinella while simultaneously reminiscing with them about pets they’ve owned throughout their lifetime.  It was a unique and memorable experience to watch Pinella work side-by-side with her sister to learn how to be a comforting companion and eager therapy dog.

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Pinella with her sister, Syrah, following her first pet therapy visit! 

Following these trial visits, it was important to have her undergo formal evaluation and observation to ensure that she met the necessary qualifications to be a therapy dog (i.e., a calm temperament, obedience skills, behavioral training).  We pursued certification through Alliance of Therapy Dogs, which involved an initial oral examination as well as three tests/observations of Pinella.  She demonstrated excellence throughout these observations and gained official certification as a therapy dog in January 2020!  In addition to accruing a certification, she was also accepted into a local airport therapy dog program!  Here, she visits with nervous passengers awaiting their flights and works to calm their anxieties merely with her presence.

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Therapy Dog Pinella posing outside of her new “workplace.” 

We have had to put a pause on therapy visits due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; however, we are eager to resume once it is deemed safe to do so!  This new career as a therapy dog appears to satisfy Pinella’s desires to not only be a pet, but also work.  It seemed appropriate to announce Pinella’s newly-granted certification as a therapy dog today in honor of National Therapy Animal Day!

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Happy National Therapy Animal Day to Pinella, Syrah, and all therapy dog teams nationwide! 

Pet therapy is a fulfilling volunteer experience that I recommend to anyone who feels their pet might be a suitable match for therapy work.  I’ve included resources below from well-known, reputable therapy animal organizations.  If you’re interested in learning more about the handler and animal qualifications necessary to pursue pet therapy, these are great resources to start with.  Just as Syrah’s handler did for me, I am happy to answer any questions you may have and help guide you through the process if/when you ever feel like this might be an appropriate endeavor for you and your furry companion!

  1. Pet Partners:  https://petpartners.org/
  2. Therapy Dogs International:  https://tdi-dog.org/default.aspx
  3. Alliance of Therapy Dogs:  https://www.therapydogs.com/

 

Until next time,

-T.


References

Pet Partners.  (2020).  How our program is different.  Pet Partners.  https://petpartners.org/about-us/our-programs-different/

Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

Dear Anxiety

I find myself in a strange home.  Unfamiliar scents.  Unfamiliar sights.  I find comfort in her presence and get scared when she leaves.  I know the signs.  She’s putting on her shoes.  Please don’t grab your coat.  Won’t you stay a little longer?  I can tell she’s in a hurry.  I notice her brows are furrowed, and the outline of her lips are facing down, not up like they usually are.  Is she scared too?  I’m worried about her.  My breathing gets heavier, so she looks into my scared eyes and comforts me.  She tells me she’ll be back soon, but I’m afraid.  She turns the TV on, so I won’t feel so alone.  She grabs her key — a surefire sign she’ll soon be walking out the door.  First, she puts me in my crate which is somewhere I feel safe.  Her T-shirt she left with me gives me comfort as I await her return.  What’s that?  The door unlocks, and a familiar sight unfolds.  There she is.  My person.  I’m safe now.


There it is.  It’s loud and thunderous like a battlefield.  It echoes like a child screaming into a cave.  Echo, echo, echo.  It looms high, bright, and beautiful in the sky for just a moment.  Boom.  There goes another one.  They light up the night sky.  I run and hide into my safe place under the bed.  I shake.  My breathing gets heavier as I await another inevitable boom.  The boom of each firework shakes me to my core.  When will it end?


This is anxiety.  More specifically, this is anxiety through the eyes of Pinella.  Throughout her days as a service-dog-in-training, Pinella underwent observations which ultimately deemed her too anxious for service dog work.  Some of my very first recollections of life with Pinella involved preparing her for situations, wherein we had to be separated.  Screenshot_2016-06-27-16-34-22[3233]As a young puppy, goodbyes were often accompanied by fear and distress.  My heart ached to witness her feeling emotionally uneasy.  We practiced goodbyes, slowly increasing the duration of time spent away from one another.  First, it was a few seconds.  We very gradually moved from minutes to hours.  Reunions were coupled with praise and positive reinforcement for desirable behaviors she displayed upon being separated and while apart (i.e., no destructive chewing, urinating, defecating, barking, et cetera).  It is often suggested that the root origin of separation anxiety in dogs is linked to fear of abandonment.  It took many test runs of leaving and returning, leaving and returning, and leaving and returning for Pinella to understand that separation was temporary.  Together, we mitigated her anxiety by creating an exciting, enjoyable goodbye ritual.  She learned that, while goodbyes are necessary, they aren’t to occur without the accompaniment of a peanut butter snack or, more recently, treats in her tricky treat ball.  

Separation anxiety is suggested to affect 14 percent of our nation’s pets (Kriss, 2019).  It is my personal speculation, however, that this number is highly underestimated as separation anxiety is often overlooked and ascribed to a dog who “misbehaves” or “has bad manners.”  It is not the dog’s responsibility to “wise up” and “fix” their problematic behaviors.  Rather, it begins with responsible dog owners whose duty it is to become familiar with their pet’s body language, cues, and signals.   Kriss (2019) suggests that signs of anxiety in dogs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Tense body posture
  • Lip smacking
  • Trembling
  • Hypersensitivity to sights or sounds (i.e., alertness to the possible sound of their owner’s return)
  • Barking, growling, howling
  • Defecation, urination
  • Aggression
  • Drooling
  • Depression
  • Destructive chewing
  • Pacing and restlessness
  • Panting
  • Repetitive or compulsive behaviors

Familiarity with your pet’s body language, cues, and signals begins with first understanding the context in which their problematic behaviors occur.  As such, examine whether or not your dog displays any of the aforementioned signs upon your departure from the home.  For example, does the dog begin pacing and panting when you go to the closet and grab your coat and shoes?  If so, this may be an indication of separation anxiety.  If these kinds of behaviors occur across many different contexts, there may be a larger issue at hand aside from separation anxiety.

While some anxiety is healthy and normal, it can become problematic when the dog’s response is disproportionate to that which is average.  The latter has been repeatedly exemplified with Pinella’s fear of fireworks.  This specific fear, also referred to as a phobia, developed while on a walk one evening.  Neighbors were setting off fireworks, and we inconveniently found ourselves in the crossfire.  She froze, unable to move.  Shaken to the core, she looked at me with fear in her eyes.  There existed no amount of praise or treats that would have enticed her and reassured her that she was safe to keep walking.

Since that incident, I have done extensive desensitization training and counterconditioning work with Pinella to help mitigate her symptomology.  While she has demonstrated decreased anxiety symptoms, holidays, such as Independence Day and Memorial Day, continue to be most challenging.  What is most frustrating, however, is the unpredictable nature of firework displays.  I fully support pre-planned displays at Snapchat-3127400465369969040[3234]previously determined locations.  I think it’s wonderful that we, as a society, can come together and celebrate our nation, its freedom, and the veterans who fought for it.  What I find problematic, however, are the displays we see in neighborhoods — those that are unpredictable, unplanned, and unbeknownst to all until it’s essentially too late.  We owe it to our nation’s veterans, anxious pets, and all individuals with exaggerated startle responses to be mindful of how unpredictable firework displays can worsen psychological symptomology.

When Pinella developed a fear of fireworks, we immediately began working together to create an environment where she would feel safe, comfortable, and confident.  As holidays, such as the aforementioned, approach I find myself with a freezer filled with peanut butter Kongs and marrow bones filled with organic pumpkin.  At the sound of the first firework, she will retreat to her safe space under my bed where she has free access to her treats.  The curtains are drawn.  The television and fans are turned on to provide ambient background noise.  Through studying and assessing her body language, I have learned that, while she enjoys my company, constant comfort and too much invasion on her personal space results in increased anxiety.  For that reason, I often find myself staying in the same room as her while allowing her to check-in with me when she needs to.  When you have an anxious pet, it’s important to know what triggers them as well as what comforts them.  Here are some tips to help you in developing a plan to care for and comfort your beloved fur friend:

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Infographic Credit:  That Fish Place – That Pet Place

The aforementioned information highlights the debilitating and unnerving experiences that are commonplace to many of our four-legged companions.  The prevalence of anxiety-related issues in pets is alarming.   As responsible pet owners, it is our duty and moral obligation to understand what our pets are communicating to us and, in turn, identify sensible solutions to make them more calm, confident, and comfortable!


Thanks for taking time out of your day to read another Sit, Stay, Blog post!  Don’t forget to Like and Follow us on Facebook, Twitter,and Instagram! If you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to see your pet featured on Pets on the Net!, leave a comment below or submit your information on Sit, Stay, Blog’s Contact page! 🙂

Until next time,

-T.


References      

Casey, R. (n.d.).  How common is separation anxiety?  Retrieved from https://www.dogstrustdogschool.org.uk/behaviour/separation-anxiety/how-common-is-separation-anxiety/.

Kriss, R. (2019).  Understanding, preventing, and treating dog anxiety.  Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/treating-dog-anxiety/.

Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

When You: Just Want What’s Best for Them!

Welcome, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!  This blog post is for pet owners everywhere who are inundated with information about the care and well-being of their pets.  With advancements in medicine and technology, we have become a society equipped to deal with nuisances such as fleas and ticks, diseases such as heartworm, as well as devastating cancer diagnoses.  As more and more research rolls out, however, we are left to decipher the controversial information pertaining to the health and wellness of our pets.  One veterinarian screams “Yay, heartworm preventatives for all,” while another advises pet owners to take precautionary measures before considering such products.  This controversy invites feelings of confusion and misguidance in pet lovers, and it ultimately becomes our mission to determine right from wrong when it comes to making health conscious choices for our furry friends.
***Disclaimer:  None of the information contained herein is presented to serve as veterinarian or medical advice.  Always consult with a trusted veterinarian about the health, wellness, and medical needs of your pets!


Story Time:

In the recent months, Pinella and I have had a variety of experiences that have left me feeling as described above — confused and misguided.  This all began in August when I discovered…let’s just say…something that did not belong in her bag of kibble.  I called the company, immediately expressed my experience and relevant feelings, and, as a token of their sorrow, was sent coupons…for their food.  Now, I consider myself to be a very reasonable individual, and I understand that strange things can happen between the production and distribution of food products.  However, I had been contemplating transitioning Pinella to a higher quality food, and this particular experience confirmed my decision that it was, indeed, time.  The next step:  Researching pet foods.  Cue the inundation of conflicting, controversial information.  Want to feed raw?   Beware of potential bacteria contained in raw meat (Lee, n.d.).  Considering a grain-free diet?  Make sure you brush up on your reading about the Food and Drug Administration’s investigation into the possible link to grain-free diets and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (Food and Drug Administration, 2018).  What is a “high quality” dog food anyway?  Watch the documentary Pet Fooled on Netflix, and you tell me!

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Pinella recently took a trip to the store as inspiration to write about health conscious food choices!

In addition to grappling with which pet food to transition Pinella to, I had another concern on my mind:  vaccinations.  Now, to set the record straight, I am in NO WAY against vaccinating dogs (or humans).  However, I have done a great deal of reading about the differences between core and non-core vaccines and, again, feel misguided and confused.  Core vaccines, such as rabies and distemper, help prevent fatal diseases and are not only recommended but required by law in some states (PetMD, n.d.).  Non-core vaccines include those for Lyme disease, canine influenza, and kennel cough (Bordetella) which are reportedly only recommended depending on the dog’s lifestyle and living environment (i.e. tick-prone exposure, frequent boarding) (PetMD, n.d.).

As I looked toward Pinella’s yearly checkup appointment last month, I reviewed her vaccination list and read the following:  Rabies, Bordetella, Canine Influenza, and Lyme.  Previously, her veterinarian and I decided against Bordetella and Canine Influenza as boarding for her is nonexistent, and exposure to other dogs is limited.  That left me to question, is the Lyme vaccine core?  Is it a non-core vaccine?  While I was not surprised to discover it is a non-core vaccination, I was surprised to learn that the jury is still out regarding whether or not its benefits outweigh its risks.  Most surprisingly, administration of the vaccine for Lyme disease is suggested to be controversial and debated by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (PedMD, n.d.).  Through further investigation about this controversy, I discovered a report based on research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, wherein it was discovered that 95 percent of dogs exposed to the Lyme disease bacteria, B. burgdorferi, never experienced or displayed sickness from the bacteria (Becker, 2017).  In drawing my own conclusions, it appears that the Lyme vaccine, similar to the vaccines for kennel cough and canine influenza, truly is lifestyle-dependent.

So, again, the question arises:  Why are these vaccines being repeatedly administered without any investigation into whether or not the pet’s lifestyle warrants a need?  The best consensus on the internet points to the fact that vaccines serve as a steady source of income for veterinarians.  Thus, decreasing the quantity of vaccines administered leads to decreased income.  Ultimately, the burden is placed on the pet owner to piece apart this controversial information and make informed decisions about the animal’s welfare.

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Exercise is our favorite way to promote health and wellness!
Next comes my struggle with flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives.  You can do a Google search on any of these products and uncover a plethora of conflicting evidence.  Keywords like “carcinogen,” “flea resistance to topical products,” and “side effect of seizures” will pop up.  In fact, I did a search for “Flea and tick preventatives – risks and benefits” and discovered a list of alarming news posts (see below).  By means of speculation, one can argue the benefits of using these products include reduced risk of contact with fleas, ticks, and heartworm, decreased chance of flea infestation, lessened risk of contracting parasites and other illnesses, et cetera. However, as demonstrated below, there exists research indicating that the chemicals contained in these products may be to blame for various adverse effects.  As a pet owner, I remain conflicted yet again, not only with whether or not to use these products but also with the products’ mechanisms of action.  For instance, if a flea and tick preventative is not a repelling agent (which many are not), the flea and/or tick can still come in contact with the animal and, therefore, bite and cause irritation and infection.  Sure, the chemicals in the preventative will kill the insects eventually (usually within 12 hours of contact), but couldn’t one also argue that by applying these products, we are using the animal as a way to prevent infestation in our own homes (No judgement zone for those who do.  I’m guilty of it too!)?  Possibly.  However, one thing remains consistent throughout:  The evidence is conflicting.

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As I have reiterated throughout, I am in no way asserting that one care approach for your pet is better than the other because, quite frankly, the research points in both directions.  What I am saying is that no matter how many hours you spend digging through scholarly research articles, anecdotal evidence, news postings, and veterinarian blog sites, there are no clear-cut answers.  What is of most importance is that you, the pet owner, educate yourself.  Watch documentaries.  Read scholarly research supported by empirical evidence.  Ask your veterinarian questions about their methods of care.  Consult with other veterinarians, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.  Most importantly, advocate for your pet by making informed decisions about their care.  After all, we only want what’s best for our pets, and if you’re anything like myself, you’ll go to great odds to get the best.

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Pinella celebrated her 3rd birthday on 9/21!  Show her some love in the comments below! 🙂
As always, thank you for reading.  Don’t forget to “Like,” “Share,” and “Follow” Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter!

Until next time! 🙂

-T.


References

Becker, K. (2017). Lyme disease:  Should you be concerned?  Retrieved from https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2017/04/05/canine-lyme-disease-prevention-tips.aspx

Lee, E. (n.d.).  Raw dog food diet:  Dietary concerns, benefits, and risks.  Retrieved from https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/raw-dog-food-dietary-concerns-benefits-and-risks#1

PetMD.  (n.d.)  Dog vaccinations:  A schedule for every life stage.  Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/dog-vaccinations-for-every-lifestage

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (n.d.).  FDA investigating potential connection between diet and cases of canine heart disease.  Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm613305.html

Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

Hot Dog! Something’s Gotta Change! What It Means To: Leave a Dog in an Unattended Car

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!

The lazy dog days of summer are upon us!  With warmer weather, it is a normalcy to see an increase in people and their canine companions taking part in fun outdoor activities.  Fido gets to go on more car rides during a family ice cream outing, to go hiking, or to go splish-splash in a nearby lake.   Although I say this without 100 percent certainty due to a lack of relevant statistics, it is my observations that this warmer weather also appears to bring an uptick in the number of dogs left unattended in their owners’ cars.  I wanted to utilize this platform as a way to educate others about the dangers of this behavior and how passersby can safely and appropriately intervene.


Story Time:

Last summer, Alex and I made a quick trip to the store.  Upon arrival, we noticed a Saint Bernard puppy (Note:  Dogs of all ages and sizes are puppies here at Sit, Stay, & Blog!) pacing back and forth in his owner’s truck.  He shifted in the driver’s seat, hopped to the back seat, moved back up to the driver’s seat, and waited.  He waited anxiously for his owner’s arrival.  We stood by the truck brainstorming what to do and how to respond.  The window was rolled halfway down, but that isn’t even excusable for a brisk 60-degree day, let alone this near 90-degree summer sweat box of a day.   We made a very classic mistake of excusing his owner’s poor behavior and saying to ourselves “Maybe his owner ran in quick and will be out soon.”

We proceeded to make our rounds through the store, pacing up and down the necessary aisles so that we could get back out to the dog.  We checked out in what was probably record timing for a Tiana and Alex trip to the store and hurried back outside.  To our dismay, the Saint Bernard was still there, owner-less and panting.  Here sat this helpless, loyal companion who was so invested in his human partner, he couldn’t divert his attention toward anything but the direction his owner presumably headed last (the storefront).

Still unsure what exactly to do next, we spotted a security officer parked in the store’s parking lot.  We had hope that surely this was the answer we were looking for!  So, next, Alex approached the security officer while I stayed with the dog, tried to console him, and did my best to provide any source of comfort that his owner was haphazardly neglecting.  Now, what is worse than leaving your dog in a hot car?  Reporting said dog in a hot car and getting nothing but sheer disappointment.  Alex’s conversation with the officer went something to this effect:

–Alex:  “This dog has been in that truck for a pretty long time, and it is really hot outside for him to be in there.”
–Officer:  “Are the windows down?”
–Alex:  “Yes, but it is too hot out, and that isn’t helping.”
–Officer:  “I’m sure he’ll be fine.” (**proceeds to roll up the window to his air-conditioned patrol car)

We were still relatively new to this state, and although I could recite many of the animal rights related laws in our home state, this was new territory.  We took the best course of action we knew at the time.  Unfortunately, it failed us, and it failed Fido.  When we got home, I began looking up what to do in these types of situations, what was legal, and what our options were in becoming more than “helpless” bystanders.


Leaving Fido in a Hot Car:  The Dangers

According to The Humane Society of the United States (2018) and further supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)(2018), the temperature inside a vehicle can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit in mere minutes.  As an example, an exterior temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit will yield a vehicle interior temperature of 94 degrees Fahrenheit in ten minutes (AVMA, 2018).  It gets worse:  On a 90-degree day, it only takes 30 minutes to reach 124 degrees Fahrenheit inside the vehicle (AVMA, 2018)!

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Dogs abandoned in these types of conditions can be subject to the following (The Humane Society of the United States, 2018)(AVMA, 2018)(ASPCA, 2018):

  • Brain damage
  • Heat stroke (symptoms of overheating can include difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor, collapse, seizures, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, elevated body temperature)(ASPCA, 2018)
  • Heat stress (heavy panting, glazed eyes, deep red or purple tongue, vomiting, staggering gait, rapid pulse, unsteadiness)(The Humane Society of the United States, 2018)
  • Suffocation
  • Irreparable organ damage
  • Stress and anxiety
  • DEATH!
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Source:  That Fish Place – That Pet Place (2018)

Saving Fido:  What To Do

When you find yourself in this passerby role, it can feel out of your control, scary, and intimidating.  Here are steps you can take to gain control of the situation and help get Fido to safety:

  • If you’re in a store parking lot, for example, you can:
    • Take down the make, model, and license plate # of the vehicle
    • Notify a manager or security guard and ask them to make an announcement over their intercom system to locate the vehicle owner
  • If an owner cannot be found, the following steps can be taken:
    • Call a non-emergency police phone number, the local police, or your local animal control
    • Wait by the car for contacted individual(s) to arrive
    • Refer to Wisch’s (2018) Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Cars for more information about whether or not laws exist in your state that prohibit leaving animals unattended in vehicles in dangerous conditions as well as what protections from being sued, if any, exist for rescuing a distressed animal
  • If you’re employed in law enforcement and/or wish to read more about how law enforcement may proceed in intervening in this type of situation, refer to Investigating Heat-Related Illness and Death: A Guide for Law Enforcement (The Humane Society of the United States, 2018).
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Source:  ASPCA (2018)

 

Conclusion

After researching this subject matter, everything appeared so logical, so sensical.   Yet, news stories are published each year about dogs (and kids) dying after being left in unattended vehicles in dangerous weather conditions.  To that I say:  Do something.  Be the change.  If you report it and the report isn’t taken seriously (as was the case for Alex and I), don’t stop there.  Call again, be persistent, and don’t give up! If you’re someone who is easily forgetful, take action by leaving the dog’s leash or a reminder note on your passenger’s seat, and make the “look before you lock” mantra habitual.

I’ll be the first to admit, Alex and I made many mistakes that day (initially leaving the dog’s side, not making a second report to store managers, not calling the local police department, etc.), but I refuse to wallow in self-blame as it was the owner’s ultimate decision to leave their dog in the car in 90-degree weather.  I firmly believe that life hands us these situations as a way to learn from them and educate others about the experiences and knowledge we’ve gained, and from this situation, I’ve undoubtedly enhanced my knowledge base regarding bystander intervention strategies.  In the end, it’s important to remember:  Our animal friends are essentially helpless, yet full of hope that we’ll be their saving grace.  Don’t let a lack of education, fear, or the thought that “someone else will handle it” stop you from being that saving grace!

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Pinella enjoying some sun-time, fun-time!

If you enjoyed this read, be sure to “Follow” Sit, Stay, and Blog by entering your email address (to the right of this post) to receive email notifications each time we upload!  We’re also on Facebook and Twitter too!

Until next time, stay cool! 🙂

-T.


References

American Veterinary Medical Association.  (2018).  Pets in vehicles.  Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/pets-in-vehicles.aspx

ASPCA (2017, August 4).  Pets left in hot cars is everyone’s problem.  Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/blog/pets-left-hot-cars-everyones-problem

That Fish Place – That Pet Place. (2018, June 29).  Heat stroke:  know the signs.  Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/thatfishplacethatpetplace/photos/a.566441863382908.148542.150584764968622/2254502841243460/?type=3&theater

The Humane Society of the United States. (2018).  What to do if you see a dog in a parked car.  Retrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/help-dog-in-hot-car.html#outside

The Humane Society of the United States.  (2018).  Keep pets safe in the heatRetrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_safe_heat_wave.html?credit=web_id527761502

Wisch, R.F. (2018).  Table of state laws that protect animals left in parked cars. Retrieved from https://www.animallaw.info/topic/table-state-laws-protect-animals-left-parked-vehicles

Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

“What It Means To: Impersonate a Service Dog”

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!

Impersonate a service dog?  Unfathomable!  You might not do it, but some individuals do, and this causes a plethora of problems for service dog handlers, working dogs, and puppy raisers.  As a disclaimer, much of this post is written from the perspective of a service dog raiser/trainer because that is where my experience with fake service dogs emanates from.

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Pinella on her first day in training with me!

Fake Service Dogs and the Problems They Pose:

Injuries: 
Service dogs undergo approximately 18-24 months of training through which they become highly socialized to other people, animals, sounds, etc.  Through training and socialization activities, they learn how to ignore dogs who are barking, lunging, playful, and/or misbehaving.  When fake, untrained service dogs encounter working service dogs in public, several problems can arise including, but not limited to, injuries.  In this  PBS News Hour article, Earle (a working service dog) experienced injuries after being bitten by a poodle whose owner was posing him as a service dog.

“My dog never moved, never retaliated, never barked. He did nothing. That is the way a service dog is trained”

Ollove, Michael (2017) cites Slavin, Chris, Earle’s handler.

Too Many Dogs:
Read closely as this is the only time my dog-loving self will ever type this:  There can exist such a thing as too many dogs.  As the use of legitimate service dogs becomes a more widely recognized and accepted practice in society, the number of dogs in public will undoubtedly increase.  What is problematic, however, is when the number of untrained and/or under-trained dogs in public increases.  Many of us possess a desire to take our dogs everywhere we go, but in reality, this is simply not practical.  Further, it is our duty as dog owners to reserve those public access rights for legitimate working service dogs and their handlers!

Public Access Denial:
Restaurants, stores, airport personnel, and other business establishment owners face the unnecessary challenge of figuring out how to navigate a situation in which they suspect a dog is being posed as a fake service dog.  By law and pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), only two questions are permissible to ask upon determining the legitimacy of a service dog:

1.  Is the dog required because of a disability?
2.  What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Business owners often must weigh the outcomes of two possible decisions:  1.  The costs associated with being sued for denying a legitimate service dog team their public access rights and 2.  The costs and dangers of admitting a fake service dog into their establishment.  Unfortunately, protecting the integrity of the establishment sometimes results in the denial of public access rights for deserving individuals and their working service dogs.  This undoubtedly poses unnecessary obstacles for individuals whose physical and/or mental disabilities already present with a host of accompanying challenges.

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An important job of a service dog and service dog in-training is having good attention on their handler  as Pinella demonstrates here!

Reputation Wreckers:
One negative encounter with a fake service dog is often enough justification for people to deem service dogs as “ill-behaved,” “not worthy of being in public,” “mean,” “dumb,” “aggressive,” etc.  This is harmful because the years of training these dogs undergo with their dedicated trainers is often negated and disregarded.  Although I have no concrete evidence to support this claim, it is my opinion that service dog handlers’ reputations could additionally be affected.  I speculate that others may deem them as “irresponsible,” “unable to control their animals,” “incapable,” “lazy,” etc. as a result of the actions of dog owners who pose their pets as fake service dogs.

Stress:
You log onto your computer, do a general search for service dog vest, click purchase, and within a few days a $20 service dog vest is delivered to your doorstep.  Convenience, right?  Wrong!  For your pet who has never been in a public establishment, you are about to expose them to what will likely be an overwhelming, anxiety-producing, and stressful experience.  Are you and your $20 fake service dog vest equipped to deal with that?

Dogs need practice in social environments which entails a great deal of socialization. This may first require starting off small (perhaps standing outside of a mall) before working up to more complex outings (walking in a grocery store next to a shopping cart or performing a long down stay in a good-smelling restaurant).  In essence, a non-working dog cannot be introduced to a public space and be expected to automatically respond positively to it.  Without adequate training, proper socialization, and exposure, the dog may be subject to stress and become fearful.  Your previously non-aggressive, “wouldn’t hurt a fly” dog may start to exhibit behavioral issues such as aggression toward a passerby.

Aside from experience in public settings, dogs often need exposure to wearing a vest.  Halfway through training Pinella for service dog work, she experienced harness sensitivity.  Putting on the vest was sometimes anxiety-provoking for her, and she would refuse to respond to cues.  However, through additional training and positive associations, we were able to overcome it.  This example serves as yet another testament to the nature of the work that is required to produce legitimate service dogs — it is not as simple as putting on a vest and strolling into public!

Untrained and Under-trained:
As mentioned throughout this post, fake service dogs are often untrained or under-trained.  Without the adequate training, their “service dog” life is unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory.  They are unsure of how to respond and behave.  I equate it to an accountant, for example, walking into an operating room to perform open-heart surgery.  That would be uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and rather unfair to expose that individual to that type of situation without proper training — the same goes for service dogs!

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As a service dog  in-training, Pinella accompanied me at work & classes!

Irresponsible Dog Ownership:
When I think about the act of faking one’s pet as a legitimate service dog, I often question the motive.  Is this an individual who has little respect and regard for the rights of others?  Perhaps this is someone who would be an ideal candidate for a service dog but lacks education about problems that impersonating service dogs can pose?  Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of dog owners to become better educated about the potential dangers that impersonating a service dog can pose to you, your pet, service dog handlers, working dogs, and the general public.

In addition, individuals with legitimate service dogs are required at all times to accompany and maintain control of their service dog when in public.  Otherwise, they are lawfully allowed to be asked to leave the establishment.  This emphasizes that the Americans with Disabilities Act upholds service dogs and their handlers to high standards, thereby setting the stage for responsible dog ownership.

Legal Obstacles and General Challenges:
In writing this post, I utilized numerous articles to clarify exactly what the laws are regarding misrepresentation of service dogs.  Here is where a dilemma arose:  Via an internet search using key terms such as fake service dogs and crime, many articles indicate that the ADA warrants impersonating a service dog as a federal crime.  In assessing the provisions of the ADA itself, I was unable to locate any information regarding the like.  However, the American Bar Association indicated that, while the ADA has no such provisions, individual states have associated misrepresentation of a service dog as a misdemeanor (Goren, 2014).    In addition to this conundrum, there does not exist a national registry for service dogs that is recognized by the Department of Justice.  Service dogs are also not required to be harnessed in a vest or wear an identification badge, and covered entities are not permitted to request documentation from the handler that confirms the dog has been trained, certified, or licensed (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015).

…’Ruff’ stuff, am I right?


  Conclusion:

Since becoming involved in the service dog community, I have heard various stories about the independence that service dogs provide to their partners.  For example, prior to having a service dog, some individuals are unable to leave their residences and enter public spaces (due to physical constraints, mental limitations, etc.).  Service dogs essentially assist in mitigating those types of challenges.  When fake service dogs are introduced, problems arise on many levels.

Taking Pinella into public is undoubtedly the thing I miss the most about her service dog training.  However, as her responsible pet owner, I recognize that it is my moral and civic obligation to respect the rights of working dogs, their handlers, and their former hard-working raisers/trainers.  As an alternative, we now opt for outings to pet-friendly establishments such as PetSmart and Lowe’s (while still keeping in mind that we must leave or relocate upon seeing a working or in-training service dog)!

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If you are someone who truly believes that having a dog in public would assist you in gaining independence and mitigating challenges that accompany your physical and/or mental disability, then I urge you to do your research!  Find the nearest service dog organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International and inquire!  If cost becomes an issue, get creative with fundraising, look for organizations that provide dogs for free, or inquire about possible payment plan options.  Always remember, there are thousands of individuals like myself who dedicate their time, energy, and money to reputable service dog organizations  in an effort to simplify the process for deserving individuals to obtain a highly trained service dog!  If you need help, please feel free to reach out to me via my Contact page! 🙂

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I hope you enjoyed this rather lengthy, yet informative post!  As you can tell, this is a topic that sparks a never-ending passion in me!  Don’t forget to follow and like Sit, Stay, & Blog on Twitter and Facebook, and stay tuned for next week’s post!  🙂

 


References

Goren, W.D. (2014).  Service dogs and the rights of the disabled.  In March/April 2014:  Disability law.  Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2014/march_april/service_dogs_and_rights_the_disabled.html

Ollove, Michael. (2017, October 16).  These 19 states are cracking down on fake service dogs.  Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/19-states-cracking-fake-service-dogs

U.S. Department of Justice.  (2015, July 20).  Frequently asked questions about service animals and the ADA.  Retrieved from https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

 

 

 

Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

“Dog Gift Buying Guide”

Hello, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!  In light of the holiday season, please enjoy this gift buying guide of Pinella’s favorite items for those of you doing any last minute holiday shopping, for your pet’s upcoming birthday, or just to provide a fun and special surprise to your four-legged friends! 🙂 


TOYS:

Benebones:  Pinella’s personal favorite, Benebone offers three different types of chew toys, Wishbone, Dental Chew, and Pawplexer.  They are long-lasting and especially great for pups of all sizes who are avid chewers!  They come in bacon, peanut, and chicken flavors and are sold at various retail stores.

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Her Benebone is never far from her side!

Kong Toys:  Kong rubber toys have been a game-changer for Pinella, especially those that can be filled and frozen with Xylitol-free peanut butter, organic pumpkin, or treats!  Doing so has actually helped with her separation anxiety too.  Instead of whimpering and crying about me leaving, she now gets excited as she anticipates the Kong toy stuffed with her favorites! 

Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball:   Offered in small, medium, and large, this toy is designed to keep your pet occupied and entertained.  After loading it with treats, they are dispensed as your pet pushes the ball across the floor!  Shh…nobody tell Pinella that this is one of her holiday gifts! 😉

Buster Food Cube:  I recently stumbled across this toy as I was pursuing Amazon.  Much like the Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball, this toy is designed to keep your pet mentally engaged as they roll the ball around in an effort to dispense treats!   

Nylabone:  Nylabone offers various toy options for pets, large and small, in the forms of toys, chews, treats, and dental chews!  

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One of Pinella’s most enjoyed Nylabone products!

Soft Squeaky Toys:  For the more gentle pets like Pinella, squeaky toys are an inexpensive gift option.  Not to mention, they are often irresistibly adorable, and your pet will love them too! (Be sure to throw out any toys that have been ripped as the stuffing can cause intestinal blockage!) 

Tug Toys:  For Pinella, these toys initially had more meaning to them than just being a fun object to tug on!  While in training to be a service dog, they served an essential purpose to teach her how to tug on items so that she could later learn to open doors, drawers, etc. for her future partner, if needed!

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Sometimes she was resourceful and used her tug toy as a pillow!

Treats:

Marrow Bones:  Marrow bones are often sold in your local grocer’s deli.  Most often, they come with the marrow encasing the bone.  Be wary, however, puppies (under the age of 6months-1 year) should not eat the marrow off as it can cause a stomachache.  Also, avoid boiling the marrow off as it can make the bone more susceptible to splinter! (Marrow bones are NOT the same as rawhide bones…Word of caution:  Avoid rawhide bones as they are unsafe for pets!)

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Pinella especially enjoys when peanut butter appears inside her marrow bone!

Bullysticks:  From small to extra large dogs, bully sticks are a tasty, relatively long-lasting treat.  Be on the lookout for all-natural bully sticks from grass-fed bulls.  FDA/USDA approval is an additional bonus! 

Dog Food:  It may not seem like an exciting treat, but kibble from your dog’s normal food can serve as an alternative low calorie treat, especially when training your furry friend! 

Miscellaneous Treats:   Some of Pinella’s favorites include carrots, watermelon, apple slices, bananas in moderation, cantaloupe, strawberries in moderation, and oranges (Comment below if you want to hear a funny story about the first time I fed Pinella oranges!). With all of these treats, be sure to take out any seeds before feeding to your dog!

Remember:  It is always recommended that your pet be supervised when enjoying toys, treats, etc. such as the aforementioned!  🙂


Miscellaneous:

Does your pet already have their fair share of toys and treats?  Read below for some more creative gift ideas! 

  • Collars:  Personalized collars complete with their name, owner’s name, and/or owner’s contact information make great gifts! 
  • Leashes:  A new, stylish leash to match their personalized collar because…why not? 
  • Microchip:  Having your pet micro-chipped is a great way to increase the likelihood that your pet will be reconnected with you should little Fido ever run away! 
  • Water and Food Bowls:  Treat your pet to new food and water bowls!  At the very least, be sure to clean their existing ones weekly to avoid buildup of bacteria!   
  • Photos:  Get photos of your pet to create a scrapbook, photo album, or to hang their portraits on the wall! 
  • Bedding:  Sometimes a new pet bed can make all the difference in your pet’s sleep!  Pinella just got a new orthopedic bed and hasn’t “barked out” any complaints! 
  • Books:  Treat yourself, the dog owner, to a new book about dog behavior, dog language, and/or the significance of the human-animal bond!  Some of my personal favorites are Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation as well as Alexandra Horowitz’s Being a Dog and Inside of a Dog:  What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. 
  • Training Classes:  Training your pet is not only fun and rewarding, but it also makes for a well-behaved pup!
  • Vet checkup:  Although it might not be fun for Fido, you can help to ensure your pet’s health and wellness via a checkup at the vet!

As always, thanks for reading!  If you have any other suggestions for safe, pet-friendly treats, toys, and fun gift ideas, I invite you to leave them in the comment section below! 🙂

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and safe “pawliday!”
-T.

Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

“What It Means To: Have a [Spoiled] Loved Dog!”

This is the story of a girl who cried and whimpered but changed my whole world…

Hey there, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers, and special shout-out to those of you who recognized my rendition of the early 2000s hit, Absolutely (Story of a Girl), by Nine Days!  😉


This is my story of how I spoil love my dog, Pinella, unconditionally.  She is the best friend I didn’t know I needed, and I never could have anticipated the positive impact she’s had on my life!

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Pinella and I just celebrated our second “Happy Gotcha Day” on December 14!

When I volunteered to raise Pinella as a service dog, I was apprehensive about how I would ever afford to house her.  As a college student with a job that paid my residence hall room and board, I worried about whether or not I could provide her with enough toys, dog bedding, or food that was probably more nutritious than my own.  Fortunately, we were heavily and courteously supported.  Family and friends took care of purchasing bedding and puppy food.  A professor of mine provided Pinella and I with training treats.  Graciously, my supervisors even donated toys galore, treats, and a brand new leash (Thank you for your support, Kathy and Sharon.)!  Worriment about material possessions aside, I was certain of one thing:   My love for animals and my passion for the service dog world reassured me that I could provide Pinella with endless, unconditional love.

 

By her first birthday, Pinella had more toys than she knew what to do with.  If you’re a pet parent like myself who cannot resist grabbing your furry friend a new dog toy every time you head to Target, you will likely relate to the following statements:  “What does your dog need another toy for?  He/she is so spoiled!”

Here is my counter-argument:  Define spoiled.  (Really, I’m curious — comment below on how you define what it means to spoil your pet!)

Instead of spoiled, I prefer to think of it as being lovedDisclaimer:  If your pet does not have a stockpile of the cutest and latest squeaky toys, does that mean they are not loved?  Of course not!  If you provide for your pet emotionally, don’t neglect their basic needs, and offer safe shelter, you are doing just fine!  In that scenario, squeaky toys or not, your dog is “spoiled” with your love and attention.

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When she can’t pick one, she picks two!

All of that aside, here are some of the reasons why I continue to “spoil” my pet with material goods:

1.  Toys keep her occupied:  A pup occupied with toys is a pup who doesn’t become occupied with chewing furniture or your favorite shoes when you come to visit.

2.  Pure joy:  Aside from the happiness Pinella displays when I join her at home after a long day at work, school, etc., nothing beats seeing her joyful, tail-wagging, playful demeanor when she is about to be presented with a new toy (which, by the way, is sometimes as simple as an old water bottle or wrapping paper tube)!

3.  Stimulation:  As a previous service dog in training, it was essential to expose Pinella to various different stimuli.   I have merely chosen to maintain that stimulation and promote mental fitness through toys such as the tricky treat ball!

4.  Health and Exercise:  Leashes and walking harnesses are necessary if you are walking your dog regularly (as you should).  Keeping a few toys on-hand is additionally useful for those rainy days when a rousing game of indoor fetch is warranted!

5.   Comfort:  I am well aware that, simply put, dogs do find comfort in sleeping on the floor.  However, if I can provide a comfortable bed and a spot to call my pet’s own, why shouldn’t I?

In quoting the famous saying, “I work so my dog can have a better life,” it has become my mission to continuously strive to provide Pinella with an enriching quality of life.  To me, pet ownership is about offering unconditional love, providing for them physically and emotionally, and “spoiling” them (as finances allow, of course).

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Thank you for reading!  Be sure to Like and Follow Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter.  Feel free to leave comments below on how you “spoil” your pets!

Stay tuned for a follow-up post coming very soon entitled:  Dog Gift Buying Guide! 🙂

-T.

 

 

Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

“What It Means To: Train a Service Dog (Going Into Public)!”

Welcome back to Sit, Stay, & Blog!  If you’re a new reader, I assure you that your paws clicked on the right page! 🙂

As part of my “What It Means To:  Train a Service Dog” series, I am writing today to provide a little insight into exactly what it means to take both service dogs in-training and pets into public spaces.  When you train a service dog, there’s this general “Rule of 12” in which you should actively expose your dog to 12 new stimuli (people, smells, sounds, etc.) per day which helps with the socialization process.  This of course includes, but is not limited to, introducing your service dog in-training to public places such as  grocery stores, malls, meetings, family reunions, college classes, etc.  When I tell people about my experiences training Pinella, the most common response I get is, “Wow, that must have been great to have a dog with you everywhere in public!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, it IS unbelievably awesome to have a dog with you when you’re strolling down the produce aisle, and if it were up to me, everyday would be take your dog to work day!  However, here’s where reality kicks in:  Taking a dog into public is more than just putting on their leash and harness, getting them in the car, and walking into a store.  Let’s pose some hypothetical scenarios:  Before going into the store, your dog did their business outside.  Did you remember your scented Halloween-themed poop bags?  Your dog got so anxious, they peed…everywhere.  Did you pack the paper towels?  The restaurant manager approaches you about having your furry friend near others’ food.  Did you remember your Public Access forms that grant you and your in-training service dog access to all spaces where the public is allowed?   You see, there is a lot to think about, pack, plan, and remember before even stepping foot into a public space with your service dog.

So what actually happens when you’re in the public venue with a dog?  Do you get stared at?  Absolutely!  Do you get asked a lot of curiosity questions about what you are doing with that clicker in your hand?  No doubt!  How many times do you get asked (or not asked) if you can pet your hardworking dog who is clearly training?  Millions! (Okay, that was an overstatement!).

From my experiences, if you are training a service dog in public (or perhaps your pet in pet-friendly stores such as Lowe’s or PetSmart), it takes a great deal of undivided attention.  Your eyes are fixated on the dog’s every move, making sure you offer a click and a treat (a method of positive reinforcement) at the right moments.  Because of this intense focus, attention, and concentration, I often find that I am oblivious to others around me (Safety tip:  It’s often a good idea to have somebody with you to help stay alert to your surroundings).  This becomes especially problematic when an individual approaches me and my dog and begins petting and distracting the dog without giving any warning or indication to me, the human handler.  Whether the dog is working or in-training, distracting them and their handler can be not only dangerous, but it can also require a lot of follow-up work to regain the dog’s focus and concentration.  This is why in the service dog community we often educate about the importance of speaking only to the human, refraining from distracting the dog on all occasions, and NEVER petting the dog without obtaining permission first (and if you do get permission, always pet near the lower back, below the vest–this allows the dog to keep their eyes focused on the human handler!)

For those of you who are interested in or currently take your dog into pet-friendly stores, please read on:
As businesses become more accepting of pets in their establishments, it will become especially important to be mindful of exactly what taking a dog into public entails.  For example, if your dog exhibits signs of stress (panting, barking, aggression, etc.), it is likely in the dog’s best interest to keep him/her at home.  Additionally, if you are in a pet-friendly business and see an in-training or working service dog, it is your responsibility as a pet owner to respect that working dog’s public access rights and refrain from allowing your dog to distract the working dog from their handler (even if this means leaving the establishment altogether).  Many people do not realize that going into unfamiliar spaces can cause your dog to experience stress because they have not been prepared and socialized to the various sights, smells, sounds, objects, people, other pets, etc. that they are being immersed in.  If your usually well-behaved dog begins exhibiting behaviors that are out of the norm when out in public, this may be an indication that they are experiencing stress and not yet prepared to be in public.  Always keep in mind that, as a dog owner, it is your responsibility to recognize these behaviors and remove your pet from the stress-inducing environment!   Remember:  You always want to set your dog up for success, even if it means a little extra training and socialization before entering a pet-friendly establishment/store.  🙂

DISCLAIMER:  As with all of my blogs, my experiences and opinions may  differ from others.  However, I aim to provide insight into what these experiences were like for ME in a respectful, yet informative manner.

I hope you enjoyed reading my second post in the series, “What It Means To:  Train a Service Dog.”  I certainly enjoyed creating it and absolutely love sharing my passion and imparting my knowledge with you.  Stay tuned for my next blog post, “What It Means To:  Be a Graduate Student.”  As always, thank you for your continued support!  Please feel free to leave me suggestions in the comment box for future post ideas, and don’t forget to “Follow” Sit, Stay, & Blog (SS&B) on Twitter and “Like” the SS&B Facebook page!  🙂

-T.

Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

“What It Means To: Train a Service Dog (Part I)”

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 🙂

-T.