Service Dog in Training: an update

Jul 9, 2019
I hate writing this post.  Like hate it, hate it.  Mostly because  I haven't done any formal training with her in almost a year, so this service dog training update really sucks.  Why do we have a service dog?  Because my son is on the Autism spectrum, and I want to do everything I can to make his life better.   By reading beyond this point, you are agreeing to my updated privacy policy, found here, and my use of commission based links.

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Wearing her vest, and ready for some work!

We got Lolli (short for Lollipop) a few years ago from a foundation called the North Star Foundation.  The program is for an owner-trained dog, and I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.  You can read about our early training here.  For your reference, Lolli is a mini labradoodle (19 lbs), from California.  Her parents had successfully sired an autism service dog for the foundation in the past, and the breeder picked her for her temperament.  If you want to know more about our journey with Autism, and deciding on a service dog, read more here.

The Good News:


Lolli is really smart.  Training her has been pretty easy, because she is so smart.  She is also super intuitive about his emotional needs.  More than anyone in the house, she is attuned to him.  If he is upset, melting down, or if he just hurt himself, she is there in an instant.  She sits next to him and licks him until he calms down.  That was the number one reason why we got her, so we are thrilled with that.  Her sensitivity to him isn't something that we can train; that is just her.  She gets it.  Lolli is also the sweetest dog ever.  She knows no stranger, is sure everyone is there to pet her, and loves life.  I have no fears about having her around anyone, dog, child or adult (we aren't really sure about cats and smaller animals).

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Ry meeting baby Lolly for the first time

The Medium News:


The training.  The training is constant and intense.  Some things that you would allow a regular dog to do, we can't ever let her do.  When she is working, and wearing her vest, she has specific rules.  She isn't allowed to greet any animals, and only humans if we allow it.  This is pretty much Lolli torture, because those are her joys in life.  The training has been on hold since my first surgery.  Not the in-home kind of training, but the formal kind.  It isn't easy to find someone to work with us, since there aren't many dogs of her kind around here.  An Autism service dog is vastly different from one used to cross streets safely or pick things up off of the floor.

The Crappy Bit:


She jumps on everyone if given the chance.  This has been an ongoing problem since she was a pup, and we are at a bit of a loss.  Whatever she is getting from that interaction is incredibly gratifying for her, and she absolutely can not do that.  We talk with everyone when they enter the house (she doesn't do it outside) and tell them what to do.  Our family manages the best we know how, but it has been basically a failure.  The more crappy bit.  Our foundation has given us little support since she was a puppy.  Honestly, it has probably been a year since I have even talked with them.  I will explain a specific scenario with them, and nothing really comes of it.  It is frustrating.  They came highly recommended by our autism clinic, and I couldn't say I would recommend them.  It may be that we are outside of the normal area that they serve. I am really not sure.

The Take Home


Despite that last downer note, Lolli hasn't been a failure. Far from it!  Lolli has been great for Ry. Her intuitive knowledge of what he needs helps us every day.  While the foundation says that she can be used for full access, I am not ever going to be that person who takes her somewhere without her being ready.  Taking advantage of special access with an emotional support animals that misbehave is garbage, and I won't take her out in a situation where she isn't going to be successful.  Nothing makes me crazier that someone lying about their pet being a service animal.  So it's slow for us, but not over.  If you are planning on getting a service animal, I would recommend vetting the foundation thoroughly.  20/20 hindsight is real!

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