Why don’t you get a program dog?

I am asked this question frequently, as many people are not aware that the disabled can train their own service animals.  There are many, many reasons I choose to owner train (with help), but the overall answer is that I feel owner training is right for my situation.

Finding a program that will accept you for training comes with it’s difficulties.  There’s also finding a program that uses my breed of choice (the German Shepherd Dog).  I know what you’re thinking.  “Doesn’t you freedom matter more than the breed of dog?”

Well….no.  I do not like Goldens and Labradors.  They’re great for the right people, but I do not care for the personality traits of the breed.  This dog is supposed to be my partner for the next 10 years or so….I need to be able to LIKE the dog.  I certainly don’t expect to feel the same way about my next SD as I do Strauss, but I can admit that I do have a distaste for the aforementioned breeds that I cannot get past that wouldn’t allow for a good relationship with the dog.

The waiting lists for service dogs can be very long.  Up to five years for the kind of dog I need (sometimes longer).  In addition to often needing to fund-raise for the animal, many places that offer program dogs are really scam artists who will take your money, and then point out some arbitrary clause in their contract, and go “Too bad, so sad, no dog for you, this money is still ours, though.”

I do not like taking on adult dogs other people have trained.  Thee are certain things I look for in my dogs, and certain things I like to do with my dogs.  I do not subscribe to the mindset that a service dog must be a service dog ONLY, and can’t enjoy certain sports with their handler.  I don’t want to have to fix what I feel somebody else broke.

All that said, even though the above mentioned issues annoy me, this last one is the kicker for me.

Programs often refuse to give a dog to a home that has other animals in it (with a rare exception of a housecat).  Not only will they refuse to place a dog in a home like mine (multiple animals), but in order to get a replacement dog when my SD has retired, I am required to give up the SD I’ve used for years.

I am so beyond not ok with either of those things.  Nobody gets to tell me that my other animals must be rehomed in order to obtain freedom.  I personally feel it promotes irresponsibility on the part of the disabled person, and also piles a LOT of pressure on them.  The desire to be self sufficient is VERY strong in most people, but so is the desire to be faithful to their charges.

I LIKE owner training my dogs.  I LIKE the bonding that occurs while I’m working my dog.  I LIKE knowing where my dog has been, is going, and how it has been handled.  I feel SECURE with the dog I train, and do not worry if training may have fallen short, or if I’m being given a dog that isn’t right for me.

Many programs provide dogs for deserving people, and I am grateful those people can get what they need.

It’s just not for me.

Flail on,
– Classical Spazz

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~ by ClassicalSpazz on January 30, 2012.

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