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Return to Dog [PART 2]

DV SpookyCat      Sunday, March 17, 2019

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Evaluating A Used Dog”

     How much do you know about evaluating a rescued dog to be a service dog? To appreciate the purpose and reason for the evaluation, you should probably know what a service dog must deal with, almost every time they leave the house. I’ve read about it. I’ve watched the videos. I’ve even seen it happen, but until I was holding the leash and saw my vision narrow to a pin point, as I got surrounded, and my dog had to disperse the crowd and get me to safety, I didn’t really “get it”.
     First, there’s the cooing, baby talk, and touchers. They all but jump out from behind obstacles to accost handlers and working dogs. Their favorite line is “I know I can’t talk to you cause you're working….” As they talk to the working dog with their hand grazing his face. Frustrating is what they are. Then, there’s the historians. They have a story about a dog that looks like whatever, but they wish they could bring their dog every where too. Those are fairly benign on their own. It adds up and it does impact us negatively, but they’re just too caught up in themselves to see the effect they have on our calm. They’re idiots. The malignant public is really the reason we must test as extensively as we do.
     The malignant ones are the ones that see dog teams as spectacles and annoyances. They try to get us kicked out of places, antagonize our dogs and handlers, and even resort to screaming at or striking our dogs. I’ve had people stare down and growl at my dog. I’ve had them scream and call me names. One guy kept bumping my dog with his cart. Another laid on his horn as he passed us in a parking lot. It was an after-market train horn. I’m gonna do something controversial and lump parents and their screaming kids in this group. It’s not intentional, but by merit of inaction and poor management, when your kid materializes with his hands around a dog’s throat and has to be torn away screaming, I want you to know, you should work on that... Now… I’ll wait... Sorry, not sorry.
     Anyhow, our dogs go through a TON of training to get in public, *BUT* they must have good bones first. They have to have something that cannot be taught. Resiliency. This is where that evaluation in the foster or shelter comes into play. It’s great that this dog is mellow and has a treat drive or responds to praise. It’s great that they’re dog and cat friendly, house broken, and don’t mind kids. None of those really tell the whole story though. By the time we get to public access, we’ve invested hundreds of hours of training and probably a significant amount of money in this dog. Even with a “free” dog and free training from TADSAW, my last dog cost me a couple grand in vet visits, clothes, and equipment by week 20.
     There’s also the emotional factor. When we bring this dog home, we don’t integrate them like a normal pet. We go through what I call the porkchop phase. You know that joke about the parents tying the porkchop around a kid’s neck, so the family dog will play with them? That’s what it’s like. We encourage the dog to bond, irreparably, and solely to the handler by ensuring that the handler is the only source of attention, food, and affection they know. This bond is strong. It’s the kind of strong that will destroy an unstable or unfit dog, if separated from their handler.
     Unfortunately, the evaluations are not perfect. Dogs still wash out. Dogs still snap. Dogs still come down with illnesses or injuries that cannot be fixed. My last dog was in the latter. While the financial blow was significant, the emotional blow of watching this dog that loved and trusted me, deeply, die… that’s a deal breaker. Most handlers, that are forced to wash a dog from training, quit after that. I am on the fence, and what happened this week is going to play a huge role in that. The washout rate would be a million times higher, and the damage to veterans like me, would be a million times worse if we didn’t evaluate as extensively as we do.
     The evaluation covers the basic tolerances for different kinds of touch and exposure to animals. It also requires us to get the dog frustrated and see where his tolerance for agitation is. Here’s the thing. They’re allowed to react. What we’re trying to weed out are the dogs that react with fear, aggression, or that cannot be redirected or recover. We’re looking at how they handle loud noises, new situations, and frustration. If they respond with a startle, then jump right back into what they were doing with a wagging tail or look to the handler for the thumbs up that everything is fine, they pass. If they cower, growl, go bucking bronco trying to escape, or cannot be redirected, they fail. We’re looking for that bold and resilient dog that has no time for bullshit because he has dog things to do. It seems so simple, right?
     I wish.

Click Here For Part 1

Click Here For Part 3

Article written by: DV SpookyCat; She doesn't purr but she will tell you if you're an asshole.

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