Today, many people want to train their own service dog. There are a number of problems with this. First, choosing the right pup for service work is an extremely difficult task even for professionals. In fact, on average only about 48-50 percent of dogs trained by professional organizations to become service dogs actually make it. Second, if that dog or pup comes from a shelter or rescue, a longitudinal study has shown, that one average about 12.5% (1 of 8) make it on to be partnered as a service dog when trained by a professional organization. What is the individual trying to train their own service dog supposed to do the they realize the dog does not have the combination of temperament, intelligence, health and lack of reactivity to work in public? Do they get rid of a dog they’ve developed an emotional attachment to or do they keep it and have to pay all the costs associated with owning it and start over with another? What if the second dog doesn’t make it? You can see this option can and often does become a problem.
Can the risks of training your own Service Dog or Emotional Support Dog be reduced? Yes they can but they can never be completely eliminated. This is why the cost of acquiring the dog and trainer on your own should be a lower cost/shorter wait option – because there is alway a risk that the dog might not make it.
However, the risk associate with this option can be significantly reduced. How?
First start with an organization that has a proven record of breeding puppies that have success at becoming service dogs. Over the years the informal feedback Project2Heal has received from its partner service dog organizations suggests an 80% pass rate for our pups placed in service dog training. Second, don’t acquire a “started service dog” until it has proven its ability to work in public. Training a dog how to perform a task is easy. Public behavior, including the ability to avoid and remain non – reactive to distractions and teaching a dog to remain quiet under a table while eating dinner in public are the time consuming and difficult parts of training a service dog. Third, while a started service dog might be great when it leaves its current training program, placed under the guidance of someone other than a true professional dog trainer can ruin everything that dog has learned in only a couple of weeks. Allow the professionals to interview and find the right trainer to work with you and your stated service dog.
Finally, make sure you know the difference between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Dog. Let the professional you are acquiring your started service dog from given you guidance in this area. The last thing you need to do is invest in a started service dog only to find out that your need does not allow your dog to rise to the level of a Service Dog under the ADA requirements for such an animal.
An Emotional Support Dog is not allowed public access as Service Dogs are. In fact, as more and more people are claiming that the dogs they have with them in public are Service Dogs ( when in fact they are Emotional Support Dogs) business and property owners have learned their legal rights and are asking the proper questions to ensure that only Service Dogs are brought onto their property. These people are right in asking the questions because they don’t want to face the liability associated with problems. If you want to train your own Service Dog make sure your disability rises to the level of needing a dog who can be trained to perform tasks that will definitely mitigate the disability. If it does not then by law you can be removed from properties and places. If what you need is an Emotional Support Dog make sure you don’t get taken by paying more than you need to. An Emotional Support dog can help people with depression and anxiety but they cannot do it in public. An Emotional Support Dog can also help children with a wide range of challenges in and around the home or at places where dogs are welcomed in general. In the end, an Emotional Support Dog is little more then an extremely well trained pet who migrates to a specific family member to provide support for the person without performing active tasks that mitigate the disability such as: alerting to low blood sugar, retrieving dropped items for someone in a wheelchair or blocking and providing pressure among other things for a veteran with PTSD. Simply because a dog calms anxiety or depression does not make a dog a service dog. Such dogs may be termed Emotion Support Dogs or wear vests to show school but that does not grant them the privileges of a service dog and people need to know the difference.
Limited Availability. Price will vary on age and training the dog has received. Started service dogs are typically 10 months or older with prices starting at $6000 at that young age. Emotional Support Dogs might start a few months younger and therefore prices may start lower.
It is highly recommended that anyone acquiring a Project2Heal started service dog work with a trainer that has been interviewed and vetted by Project2Heal.