This week my little Mavis will be 14 weeks and will have been living with us for 8 weeks! She’s been in training for 2 weeks using Training Your Own Service Dog by Lelah Sullivan and AKA Shana Cohen. For those who don’t know, Mave is my service dog in training and she is doing incredibly well for her age. After we complete Sullivan’s and Cohen’s book, we will be using a training manual from Service Dog Express. Hopefully once both guides are finished, Mave will be in tip top shape. If not, I have local training organizations willing to help out with basic obedience training. Service Dog Express can also provide further training and instruction via webcam. SDE (located in San Antonio) can evaluate Mavis with a final walk through, after her training, to see if she is ready for the Public Access Test and become a Service Dog! I wanted to start a series of posts dedicated to my tiny terror’s (oh the wonderful puppy stages!) training progress. I’m hoping to help others in their journey to training a service dog of their own and how to go about getting started and what options they can choose.
First of all, I am not a liscensed trainer, but I consider myself a dog expert. I have lived with multiple dogs my entire life, worked in the veterinary field for about two years, and continue to work as a dog behavior analyst as a doggy daycare attendant (which is much more hands on then you’d think). Anyways, I know quite a bit about dog behavior and health which has set me up with the perfect platform to training my dog. I have looked into the alternatives of having a service dog pre-trained and ready, but the cons (for me personally) outweighed the pros. First of all the wait is up to a year or more to be matched with a service dog. Furthermore, the price of a trained service dog is anywhere from $1,200-2,000 and upwards. Another reason I didn’t choose this option is because you really have to be hands on when training a psychiatric service dog because they need to get you and your moods. Your ups, your downs, your triggers. This, in itself, takes persistence, time, and a close bond.
We started the intensive training on April 14th, 2016 and have learned Focus (keeping her eyes on me all the time), Touch (hoping that she’ll use this to alert), and are now working on Blanket (having her lie down on a blanket) commands. Technically it was recommended that the Service Dog Express manual begin at 6 months of age, but we are getting a jump start with Sullivan’s and Cohen’s training guide to prepare us.
Locations We Have ‘Worked’ At:
Different locations will allow you to bring a service dog in training (SDiT) into their locations if you ask, but it is your liability should anything happen (potty accidents, etc.). On request if someone asked me to leave a location, I would gladly do so because it is their right, since Mave is not a service dog (yet). These locations I we visited had no problem with me bringing in Mavis, but I only worked on training commands in outer locations since she is so tiny and not completely potty trained yet. Documentation is important! So lots of photos, videos, and a log should be written down, in the case your service dog is questioned or legal action is brought against you.
As we perfect our commands and learn new ones, we hope you will follow our journey.
Cass & Mavis