Friday, March 15, 2013

My rather comical, unfinished, service dog training story

Hey everyone!

So I would just like to say that I have never claimed to be a dog trainer. I never desired to train dogs. I certainly never thought I would train a service dog. Service dog training takes roughly two YEARS to complete. This training comes from experts not horse training farm girls!
Well love will not only make you blind but it also makes you think you can do rather impossible things.  Daniel 'needs' a service dog, I will train a service dog. Simple right? Find a trainer, get them to help me train the dog, tada! It should be easy. Um, no.

So here is my rather comical, unfinished story of service dog training.
I picked out the perfect pup. Bought her the best dog food, which she refused to eat, a big ol comfy bed, which she used as a chew toy, and bought her a chew toy that she was not in the least bit interested in. This should have been my first sign that I didn't have it all figured out.
I went to California for three months and came back to find a full grow dog! Where was the puppy I left? Well she was right in front of me. This dog I came home to acted exactly like the puppy I left. Run by kissings, knocking people over (not realizing she was to big to jump on people now), impossible to walk on a leash, and just crazy. So I quickly signed up for petsmart obedience classes. Of course I checked to make sure they wouldn't interfere with the service dog training I hoped to have her complete. The trainer assured me it wouldn't. So we started those classes.
First class - Chloe tried to play with every dog in the store (which is quite a few). She slobbered the trainer's supplies while she wasn't looking. The other dog in the class tried to eat her. Oh and when the trainer tried working with her she completely zoned out. The trainer couldn't even lure her with a treat.. It was pitiful. Thankfully the next class was better. We slowly improved but the classes really weren't fit for a service dog. Way to laid back in the sense of training, and way to rushed in the sense of getting the dog to understand. It might be perfect for a pet but not for a working dog. I decided we would finish the class and end at that until I found a trainer (who I had been searching for day and night).
We actually missed her graduation... haha! I felt super bad about that but found it a wee bit funny.

I then started REALLY looking for a trainer. One man was had a bad record for stealing dogs and dog fighting, another was 85 years old and in bad health...really wish he would have been able to help though because he sounded perfect for the job. Everyone else simply told me know. What I was asking was unusual, unheard of, and just not allowed in their training programs. Impossible is what they would say. Impossible to train your own service dog, impossible to train a dog to be a service dog if it were not with the disabled person 100% of the time, impossible to work with a 2 year old boy, impossible.

The word impossible is what people often told me about Miracle. My trained, arabian gelding. Impossible to train your own horse, especially a horse like THAT. Haha, well it turns out this task was possible. Possible by a lot of prayer, God's grace, and amazing friends. If I could train my own horse without ever having a lesson before I could train my own service dog.

I still don't have a trainer but I do see God answering my prayers.
Service dogs wear a vest when they are working right? Well when you take this vest off they are off duty. They get to be almost like a normal dog.
I have been working with Chloe on this. Instead of using a vest I have simply been using her harness. Tonight she was running free, causing havoc, being her usual self when she ran by me. Now usually I would put her leash on, tie it around me as fast as possible, and then be dragged through the mud before putting her in her pen. This has been our routine for some time now.
TONIGHT though she ran up to me, let me put the leash on her and then proceeded to calmly walk with me around the farm. Politely greet my father (who she usually tackles), and then walk to her kennel. She finally got it! It was like our light bulb moment. As soon as I took the leash off she started up like her usual self bouncing around her pen as if to say, "I did it!"
To say I am proud of my pup is an understatement. I think we have just had a breakthrough! A miracle!

My tip to the unknowing person who thinks they should train a service dog.
1. Do not go out on a whim to do this. Study the breed of dog and what exactly you want to train the dog to do before trying to find a dog.
2. Do not buy the cutest dog buy the smartest, the one that matches the requirements for your service dog. As a puppy you kind of have to guess a little. My suggestion - don't get the craziest one of the litter!
3. Don't ever take Impossible for an answer. The word itself says, "I'm possible". With God all things are possible. With God an unsuspecting, horse training, farm girl can train a service dog.

So with that I end my unfinished, somewhat comical, service dog training story.
Have a great weekend!
To God be the Glory.
Bethany Joy

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