Service animals may look no different than the four-legged companion in your home, only these angel’s wear wings in the form of a vest. The service vest that only trained canine guardians can get their paws on is a symbol of protection for those in need.
Even in the dog realm, heroes aren’t born they’re made. We talked to Brian Daugherty from Arizona Goldens LLC who told us all about what it takes to raise, train and own service dogs.
What breeds of dogs are best to become service dogs?
In addition to goldens, we also work with German shepherds and golden doodles. These breeds have an ability to learn, adapt and apply concepts quickly. They also posess a faster maturing process both socially as well as physically when it comes to joints and bone structure.
How long does it take for a puppy to be trained before going to an owner?
A dog is not placed with an owner until they are about 1-1/2 to 2 years old. In addition to thorough training, the dogs must be physically and emotionally ready for placement.
What is the first command they learn?
Sit, stay, down, shake and all the basics begin as early as three weeks old.
How are service dogs treated?
With love and only positive reinforcement, meaning lots of belly rubs for a job well done.
Can you get your own dog certified as a service dog?
It is not likely. Our service dogs have been specifically bred to guarantee the highest quality of health. Additionally, training begins as early as three weeks with more than 20 commands learned by eight weeks.
What types of tasks can a service dog be trained to do?
Just about anything. We can even teach our dogs how to read!
What types of disabilities can service dogs be trained to help?
Our service dogs are trained to help with autism, cerebral palsy and hearing and are able to act as a wheelchair guide and seizure alert service. Our dogs are trained in more than 50,000 commands and are capable of handling a variety of situations and environments.
What is the hardest skill you have to train them in?
How to relax! These dogs are hard workers and forget they need to take a break every now and then.
How long is the wait list to get a dog?
I typically say it takes two years to get a dog, at the most. Not only do we have to make sure our service dogs are fully trained, but we also assess the needs, lifestyle and personalities of each client to ensure a proper partnership.
How much do they cost and what kind of assistance is given to those who can’t afford one?
It varies depending on each client’s needs but on average, it can cost between $17,000 and $18,000. In addition to annual payment plans, we provide clients with guidance on fundraisers and offer suggestions on the best ways to run them.
Is it hard to give up a puppy after training them?
It is always hard to give up a puppy. Seeing the difference they make in someone’s life makes it all worthwhile.
When do service dogs retire and where do go?
When a service dog cannot work anymore due to health issues, the dog can remain as a pet dog of the client. If the client cannot afford or physically care for the retired service dog, we have caring volunteers who will take over.