So far I have covered the fun parts of Service Dog ownership but it isn’t always easy-going. All through Riley’s training I have been enduring kidney stones that had torn up my tubes so scar tissue has started to block tubes in my kidney which cause the kidney to swell and become blocked. In February of this year I underwent surgery to correct this. They had to cut my tubes our and create new tubes by stretching up pieces of my bladder and re attach them to my kidney and bladder. I came home and was unable to work with Riley for a time.
While I was healing Riley had to be crated when I wandered down from my room for some exercise and my husband Jim was in charge of taking her for walks and caring for her until I had healed enough to start training again. ..
Now I can’t stress this enough if you have a service dog you should teach it crate training.
The reason I stress this is because if something happens and you are too sick to look after your dog or you have an operation you have already taught the dog that if it is not with you the crate is a safe spot so your dog can relax quietly while your on the mend. Service dogs that have not been crate trained can be destructive when their owners disappear to get medical procedures done because of the stress of being without its owner. This can happen even if you have someone else living and looking after the dog while you are sick.
The other reason crate training is important because we teach our dogs to open doors and open cupboards and the fridge in an effort to help us. While you are training and the pup/dog is learning these traits they don’t always know what the training is for. All the dog knows is this is a great game to play and the dog still wants to play it long after you want to stop. So take Riley for instance her favorite game is fetch if she is on the lead she will happily pick up what ever you want and she will bring it back as long as she is on the leash. When she is loose and picks something up she will bring it to me and dash away in attempt to play her most favorite game fetch up and then chase. Untill Riley really understands the command fetch up means to give it to me and the game is over she will spend the whole day stealing things and getting into way more mischief than an ordinary dog trying to get me to chase her. In order to avoid this when I can’t be around to watch what she is doing I crate her so I know that she is not going to take something that might hurt her if I was not around to stop her.
Riley managed to pull in the blanket Indy laid on. When Jim crated her before he went to work he did not think she could reach the blanket and pull it in with her. I was upstairs sleeping on pain killers and did not hear a thing. she also ripped up the plastic tray that she pushed out side of the crate. This was done out of boredom. She was used to going out with me everyday before the surgery as well as regular training exercises. After this Jim made sure he took her out for an hour of play before he left to tire her out. Imagine what my house would have looked like if she was not crated. Riley had also learned to open the door by pulling on a strap and she soon learned to let herself outside the door and into the cold porch to eat the cats food. As soon as we seen this her training on opening the door was phased out for a while.
Now if I was just training the family dog you would scold or discipline them in a way they understood that they should not pick up things up or not to open that door but this is where service dog training gets hard. I want Riley to pick up things up and in order for her to be effective in training she not only has to understand the game she has to love to want to play that game so if I started scolding her I could turn her off the game and she might refuse to pick up things. I could give her a harsh command and that would stop from going out the door but it would also stop her wanting to open the door when I commanded her to. So I use the crate as a control untill Riley really understands all the commands and teach what her boundaries are.
Riley also has a gift for looking really guilty and sorrowful at the same time but I can assure you this all goes away the second I open the door and let her out.
Another part of training a service dog is always being in the public eye. somedays when Riley is being good and doing what she is told it feels great to have a service dogs. On days when you don’t feel so good and your service dog is not listening it can be very stressful.
When in a very crowed mall where children are running wild and left unattended and the aisles are full of people not watching were they are walking it sometimes feels like your navigating your dog through a mine field. You have to constantly watch your dog to make sure they are healing and unstressed, you somehow have to keep looking ahead to see what is coming and be aware of the cart you have behind you in case they are not watching where they are going .Sometimes it can be a great day and others you just can’t wait to be out of the store as fast as possible.
I know people for the most part are fascinating with Service dogs and they don’t mean to cause you trouble when they croon her puppy puppy. Or when they barge up and start petting your dog even though you have please don’t pet all over her harness. I am always polite and I always make the effort to explain that just talking to a medic alert dog could distract him from his owner long enough to miss a signal that a epileptic seizure is going to occur and that person could be hurt. I don’t believe the majority of the people do it on purpose they just don’t realize the outcome of their actions can prove detrimental to a person with seizures.
The kind of people who drive me the most crazy are the ones that watch you and they have just seen you put the dog on a down stay and they wander over and stand right in front of the dog and try to make the dog break his stay. Suddenly their hands will become cold and they will feel the need to clap them . Or they suddenly discover while standing in front of your dog that there leg has gone to sleep and they feel the need to stamp their foot alot lol.
But I think the actual worse person to run into is the kind of person who thinks they know it all and has a service dog of their own and they just decide that it becomes their job to police your service dog and you must prove to them that you are legit and not fake. They are usually very loud and overbearing people who will demand to see your id and scream the halls down because they just love a scene. After that they will follow you all over the store trying to make your dog break by letting their dog run up the back of you or dropping items to scare the dog. Please know this is harassment it is not your job to convince the public that you have a legitimate service dog. If you have shown the management your paperwork than you do not have to produce it to anyone else that asks. If the person starts following you around the store I would go to management and ask management to ask them to leave because they are harassing you in a public place. These people actually post on the service board that they did these things and they feel proud of harassing an individual. I actually love it when they post it on-line and are kind enough to mention the store and where it is so people can avoid them in the future.
If you suffer from anxiety training a service dog can be a daunting task but not impossible, because you are dealing with the general public who forget to be kind sometimes. If you start to feel anxious stop with your dog and do deep pressure therapy if that doesn’t help I would just call it a day and go home and give it a try some other time. If your anxiety does often overwhelm you in pubic than a dog that is already trained as a service dog might be the way to go.
Riley riding in the back of the truck on our way to Walmart.
You will find there are days when you think you just dont have enough energy to deal with shopping and taking the dog but I always push myself past these days. Alot of times it is just anxiety talking and I go on to have a much better day because she was there
Being a Christian on the day that I go out it doesn’t hurt to say a prayer before we go its a way of inviting the Lord into your day. Actually I had involved the Lord to help me pick Riley out of the litter. I figured there was no one more qualified than the Lord to help me pick a pup since he made her mother and all creation was his in the beginning. And even with all the up and downs in our journey I still think she is the best dog for me.