Is an assistance dog right for me?

Regardless of where your dog has come from, your past or current dog training or your situation, every prospective client is required to fill out an application form including payment.  This business is not a charity organisation. You will be charged per session via card tap & go or invoiced monthly for training sessions. Please make sure you are financially equipped to take on this commitment or have a funding body behind you.

Before embarking on this fulfilling journey, I ask you to please consider the many aspects of training and owning a service dog. It is NOT an easy or quick fix path.

Do you have a realistic expectation of your lifestyle with an Assistance Dog?  

Having a service dog with you 24/7 is a serious commitment and not to be taken lightly.  Talk to your friends and family about what it will mean to have a dog by your side at all times.   Dogs attract other adults and children, which is not always desirable for the handler when out in public.  Are you prepared to ‘out’ yourself to the public as having a disability? Having a dog by your side attracts much-unwanted attention and random questions from the public.

What are you already doing to mitigate your disability?

Can you articulate how a dog would do a better job of intervening with your symptoms than a carer, friends or family or a traditional disability aid?  Write this down.

It is a good idea to write down what you would like your dog to do for you.  Some of these things may be realistic and some may not. Your trainer will work through the list with you.

Are you ready for all the public attention you will receive due to your dog?

An Assistance Dog (AD) attracts attention to both you and your dog whether you like it or not.  An AD openly acknowledges you, the handler as someone with a disability. Other people and children will want to talk to you and touch your dog.  It is most annoying when all you want to do is go out and get your shopping and leave. Even if you have patches and labels on your dog’s jacket e.g. ‘Do not touch’, other people just don’t read or care.  You will need to rehearse an appropriate phrase you can verbally deliver to the public and the responses to the various questions others ask about you and your dog. You may even tell them that you are training the dog for an organisation.  Your trainer will have ‘do not distract’ cards for you to politely give out and walk away.

Do you have a disability that will not negatively impact the raising and training of your dog?

People with certain types and levels of anxieties may not be good candidates for raising their own assistance dogs. You create the environment your pup lives in. Dogs model what they see in their environment. If you are anxious, the pup may become anxious and it is difficult to train the dog to respond to anxiety attacks has been normalized for them. Sadly, many people fail due to this fact alone. 

Are you able to work with your dog 1-2 hours per day 5 days a week for minimum 6 to 12 months?

This equates to approximately 120 to 540 hours. Most people need 12 to 18 months and beyond.

The Dog.

  • You need to have an affiliation towards dogs, have lived with or been around dogs before.
  • Understand basic dog biology, needs and what’s normal behaviour for a dog.
  • A dogs life stages

– Puppyhood

– Fear periods

– Adolescence (more fear periods)

– Adulthood

– Maintenance training

  • Understand when a dog is physically, emotionally and socially mature to take on assistance dog work.
  • Learn about common health issues for your breed of dog.
  • Know how to read and respond to early signs of stress in your dog.
  • Understand that dogs are very different to humans. Do NOT anthropomorphise situations or emotional labels on your dog (attribute human characteristics or behaviour onto a dog or other animal).
  • Observe your own expectations of your assistance dog. Dogs are not the answer to everything and cannot be expected to understand everything us humans go through.
  • Choosing a socially accepted breed such as: Labrador retriever, Golden retriever, Poodle mix, working dog mix, will greatly reduce the amount of unwanted interaction from members of the public.
  • Choose a dog that is physically AND emotionally capable of doing the tasks you require of it. It’s not good getting a fox terrier for mobility support!
  • The first 18 months of your dogs life is the time in which the dog should be a dog! Learn to interact with family members and friends, different environments, sounds, smells, people, clothing, objects on wheels and most of all VERY good obedience.

Common complaints with owner-trained Assistance Dogs.

  • “The training process is a lot more difficult and time consuming than I thought”.
  • “This is way more expensive than I budgeted for”.
  • “Why can’t I take my dog out with me everywhere right away?”
  • “The dog knows what to do, but won’t do it”. Reply: NO IT DOESN’T !!!
  • “Maybe I chose the wrong dog for AD work”.
  • Dog has to be ‘washed’ from the AD training program and is unsuitable.
  • “Do I keep my half trained dog as a pet or do I get a new dog?”
  • “My disability won’t allow me to train my dog, I thought I would be fine”.
  • “I’m so sick of the attention I get when out with my dog”
  • “I’m constantly educating others about Assistance Dog laws”.
  • “I can’t keep up with the training notes and record keeping”.
  • “My dog is developing anxiety behaviours and now I can’t take him into public places to train anymore”.

Can you handle all these pressures of owner training?

Training your dog.

  • It is a long and ongoing process that is never really finished
  • If everything goes well, expect to spend up to 2 years at least (from a puppy) to train your dog to Assistance Dog (AD) standard. There are many many factors involved.

– Dogs are generally not mature enough to cope with the stress of AD tasks until at least 2years of age.

– You, the handler, need to learn how to train your dog. You will be training your dog within your own daily routine.

– Complications from your own disability can impact the training regime.

  • You will go through levels of training

– Basic skills

– Advanced skills

– Task training

– Public access.

– Public Access Test (PAT).

  • Refrain from rushing to take your dog out to public places where pet dogs cannot go. It is important to PREPARE and train your dog for such situations as much as possible.

– Ignoring distractions

– Adding distractions, distance, duration into training

– Settle down and relax

– Generalising behaviours in different locations.

This can all be trained in pet friendly environments such as a park, pet shop, Bunnings,local shopping strip and your local obedience classes.

  • Once you have completed your Public Access Test (PAT), you will need to keep up the maintenance training. Book in with your trainer every few months to stay on top of unwanted behaviours that may creep in from both you and or your dog.
During Stage 4 lockdown, we continue to operate at reduced capacity. If you need a face-to-face training session, you will require a short letter from your GP or specialist stating the importance of this essential service to your health and well-being and will need to cover your travel across Melbourne and or Victoria. We continue to deliver online sessions - contact us for more information. Visit https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus for the latest from the Victorian Government.
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