The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Ex. Paralysis or other mobility impairment, blind, hearing impaired, PTSD, or traumatic brain injury.
Even though a Service Dog is here to assist you, you still must be capable of caring for the dog's physical and mental needs: feeding, mental & physical activity, and to be able to financially afford ongoing care (food, supplies, medical bills, etc).
Our program acquires pups from breeders or rescues that are then home-raised with a professional trainer. Our pups enjoy a wonderful puppyhood in Aspen while developing important life skills early on. Puppyhood is a balance of training and fun, so we end up with a dog that loves to work and play (besides, work is play anyway!) Being raised with a trainer sets our pups up for greater success in all areas of life and minimizes training time while maximizing results. As the pup matures, we discover what tasks the dog enjoys and develop their skills to tailor to our applicant's needs. Due to our unique process, we are usually able to place dogs with their handler at a younger age then most large organizations. Since we serve locals, our applicants can get involved in our training process (handling puppies during training classes, exposing pups to medical equipment, bathing pups and cleaning kennels...) This also gives us the opportunity to learn more about our applicants so we can choose the best partner for them. This is just part of the secret sauce that increases the success rate for our dogs and handlers!
Raising & training a Service Dog can be a very costly endeavor. EPSD's goal is to make Service Dogs accessible for those in need with scholarships and sliding scale pricing, which allows us to provide low to no cost Service Dogs to income qualified individuals. During your interview, we will discuss financial feasibility and determine a reasonable, non-burdensome cost for your Service Dog. These funds could come out-of-pocket and you can have the option of raising funds through tax deductible donations. We never want the cost of a Service Dog to be a burden! We are happy to help you with this!
Service Dog Breeds: “TRIED-AND-TRUE” or “IF/THEN”?
by Martha Hoffman
When considering the breed of your next Service Dog, there are some “TRIED- AND-TRUE” breeds, and some “IF/THEN” breeds. Your skill as a trainer may allow you to choose just about any dog, but the amount of work you have to do, and the time it takes to train the SD fully can depend a lot on the breed and its basic temperament. If you are looking at mixed breed dogs, their predominant breed can give you some clues.
Many experienced SD trainers will recommend well-bred Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Poodles, or carefully purpose-bred SD-function Doodle-type mixes between Labs, Goldens, English Cockers, English Working Cockers, and Poodles. I think it has been proven that our chances of success are far better with these. The key is “well-bred”. Greater success is possible from breeders who specifically select for Service Dog temperament. The primary features of this temperament are:
1) low fearfulness
2) low aggression
3) empathetic social interactivity.
Very few breeds combine these essential traits.
But some of us want our childhood dream-dog breed. I dreamed of Dingos as a kid. If you look online, you’ll find photos of the only successful “Dingo Hearing Dog” in the world. You can start to believe that if one Karelian Bear Dog or Anatolian Shepherd Dog can be someone’s successful Service Dog, why not get one and train it?
So, why do all the experts advise you NOT to try out your favorite?
The answer lies in “IF/THEN”. The more “IFs” there are, then the greater your chances of success. Evaluate your chances before you make a decision.
A dog of the breeds not traditionally used as SDs might be successful IF all these “IF”s are present:
IF well bred for health and a SD type temperament: (low fear, low aggression, medium empathetic social interactivity) THEN success is possible.
IF raised properly by the breeder until 8-12 weeks, THEN success is possible.
IF tested/selected by a professional, THEN success is possible.
IF raised by someone with (breed) knowledge or professional trainer help, THEN success is possible.
IF training and socializing are carefully progressed according to the pups’ temperament, THEN success is possible.
IF the owner avoids trauma from negative experiences such as dogs terrifying the pup, THEN success is possible.
IF no breed-specific health issues arise, THEN success is possible.
IF the SD is still successful when it is two or three years old, THEN success is possible. This is the Heartbreak Age, the age at which many non-traditional breeds start to show territorial aggression to strangers, dog-aggression, aggression to the owner, or intensified fearfulness.
IF you are incredibly lucky and fate smiles on you, and you completely accidentally get a wonderful suitable one of your dream breed,
You have a great and wonderful IF/THEN” Breed SD. Treasure this unique dog dearly, because you might never find another of that breed that could make it as your SD!