A trainer’s perspective for choosing a rescue to be a service dog

I want to start off explaining why I choose to classify the service dog (tested and approved) and rescue service dog differently. Genetics and temperament are something that can make or break a service dog’s success or completion of a training program. The work that a service dog faces is very heavy every day. If a dog is not mentally sound, the dog will break. Getting a rescue means that you don’t know what lines the dogs come from and it boils down to luck when getting a rescue if they are going to make it through. My PTSD SD came from the shelter and it wasn’t always a fun time because of ‘baggage’. With that being said, you aren’t in the free and clear should you choose to go through a breeder. Not all breeders are created equal, so do your research.

When people pick dogs out of the shelter, they are going by what is appealing to them. It is rare to find a person testing these dogs to be their owner trained service dogs. The task requirements to accomplish occasionally require the dog to be a certain size, so it is a shot in the dark if you don’t know the breed of the dog that you brought home. A bunch of the dogs that come from the shelter typically have a colorful past. It is imperative to address these issues before any new training starts.

There are things you can do to increase the chances of success when it comes to a rescue service dog. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

-I would strongly recommend to look at the dogs that the rescues have. Since the dog is coming from a ‘home’ environment, you will have a better idea of what to expect behaviorally.

-Some shelters are high volume, chaotic, revolving door of people, without a play area so you don’t have an accurate idea if the dog is good with other dogs, people and change. This puts the public’s safety at risk. Talk to the shelter, let them know what you are looking for.

-If you are dead set on getting a dog from a shelter instead of a rescue, find a service dog trainer to come and help you look at them.

-If you found a dog that you like in the shelter, visit the dog a few times, don’t be impulsive in your choices.

-Understand that if the dog that you chose doesn’t work, it is your obligation to wash the dog (remove from the training program)

-While looking at shelter dogs, take the listed breed with a grain of salt. My dog’s breed was listed as a “lab mix”, dna test says there is no lab in her. (This is just one example.)

-Educate yourself on the laws set in place by by the ADA as well as the ACAA.

Please take care in choosing your future service dog, it can turn into a disaster if you don’t. I can’t tell you how many times I have been lunged at by another service dog.

Sarah Gill

Owner of Total K9 Focus

Cell 214-699-8525

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