Selecting a Service Dog
Service Dog Training » Selecting a Service Dog
What is a Service Dog?
Service dogs are specially trained dogs who accompany patients with various problems, around the house and in public places. These medical conditions range from blindness, mental challenges to physical challenges and heart and sugar problems. The service dogs, according to the AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy), help in the mobility and healing processes of the patient, together with performing many patient welfare duties.
Any dog, with a proper training, can go on to become a service dog. But, as is a fact that every breed comes with certain innate qualities of its own, they are chosen according to the duties that they are to be entrusted with.
The Selection Procedure
There exists a detailed selection procedure for testing the puppies around various aspects and determining which ones are fit for the job. Let's take a look at what exactly this process includes.
The ideal puppy age for conducting the tests and for training is 49 days; this is the time when it develops its mental abilities to learn and incorporate new habits. The test is conducted on the basis of what kind of dog is required. It may be required for search and rescue service, diabetic service, physiatrist service, playmate for children, or as a guide for its master.
These tests date back to 1930's, when, initially, they were conducted to recruit guide dogs to assist blind patients. Here, they were studied for their behavioral patterns- their behavior when subjected to different situations. All these tests were carried out to find the most friendly and hard-working dogs. They were also successful in influencing the future behavior of such dogs. But, these tests had to be done within the first 49 days of the puppy's birth due to the above stated fact.
Coming back to the tests, a comprehensive program was developed- Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test (PAT), which consisted of a series of 10 tests with a scoring scale of 1-6. These tests are today, conducted in an orderly manner and evaluated by professional trainers. The order in which these tests are conducted is as follows:
- Social adaptability- The puppies are tested for their reaction to new people and places. Things like their behavior and actions, under such circumstances, are observed and noted. The level of restlessness or, in contrast, their calm and composed behavior play a key role in their selection. Of course, they could react in all sorts of ways, but trainability is the factor that is judged here.
- Attitude to follow- Is the puppy willing to follow its handler or it has a mind of its own, this trait is observed here. Some dogs with attitude issues are very hard to train. Ease and comfort are the primary factors associated with the usage of a service training dog.
- Restraining behavior- The level of their restraining abilities are checked here, when subjected to various conditions. A canine with very inquisitive nature will not be easy to train and would require the trainers to work hard on it.
- Level of obedience- The puppies are tested for the level of their obedience. We definitely require an absolutely obedient service dog around a patient. It should listen and obey all the commands, whether at home , or at a social gathering. It is not the patient, but his/her pet that needs to take care of the patient. Bearing this in mind, puppies are evaluated here.
- Elevation- This test judges the pup's behavior when under restrain at a veterinarian's clinic.
- Retrieving ability- The pup is scored for its willingness and the speed for retrieving an object. This is a vital function as in the hour of need, when the patient loses his mobility, the service dog has to run and retrieve the medication for him.
- Sensitivity to touch- This test governs the choice of training equipment required for the particular dog. Breeds with less touch-sensitivity are preferred when it comes to domesticating them.
- Hearing Sensitivity- A dog that is less sensitive to loud cracker noise and other such disturbances is preferred here.
- Sight sensitivity- How much and in what manner does a dog react on seeing moving vehicles, running children, etc, is a matter of concern. On seeing such things, it shouldn't get overly excited and start running after them, leaving the patient behind.
- Overall stability- In this round, a pup's overall behavioral sensitivity is judged.
So, based on the scores of all these ten tests, puppies are judged and their future behavior, in adulthood, predicted by the trainers. The puppies that score in the range of 3's and 4's will usually, be easy to train. The trainers will have to do some hard work on the rest of the puppies.
This is a detailed account of how these service-training dogs are selected and trained at training centers.