People get service dogs for many reasons — there’s guide dogs, hearing dogs, diabetic alert dogs, mobility assistance dogs, seizure response dogs, autism support dogs, allergy detection dogs and others for various conditions. But this doesn’t mean one size fits all. Most service dog owners have specific needs that require specific training.
After years of navigating ADHD and more recently chronic pain with doctors and therapists, I started to wonder if a service dog could be trained to help with my daily challenges. For example, my medication causes problems with my sleep cycle and my ADHD makes it difficult to stay on a schedule, even with organizers and reminders. I read that dogs can help you get out of bed in the morning and stay on track throughout the day. Also, dogs can be trained to do “deep pressure therapy” to ease physical pain and soothe depression or anxiety.
I spoke to my doctor about getting a service dog and she agreed that it could be helpful. Getting a doctor’s note started the process of paperwork with my school’s accessibility centre. While I waited for the forms to be approved, I looked into Ontario programs for sourcing a dog. Most programs only tend to guide, hearing, and autism support dogs, so I looked into the private training route. Normally I would rescue a dog, but it’s recommended that you get a service dog from a reputable breeder because they’re easier to train. With rescue dogs, you don’t usually know what you’re going to get and they can have their own issues.
Researching breeders is important. You should make sure that they take back dogs, if necessary, and don’t contribute to overflow at shelters. I decided to go with Cooperslane Kennel, one and a half hours northwest of Toronto, because they’ve worked with many service dog and training organizations. They breed Labrador Retrievers, which make great service dogs because they have predictable temperaments, really like people and are easy to train.
I told the breeder that I’m looking for a service dog prospect and was put on a waitlist. They made sure to match me with a litter that would have a suitable temperament for my needs. I picked her up two weeks ago and she is so adorable and playful. Now, I’m in the processing of training my puppy privately with K9 Lifelines. Every week I work on skills with my dog, and reinforce the exercises throughout the time between sessions. Sometimes I use YouTube videos for advice and tips. Socialization is also important — making sure my puppy has enough exposure to different situations and people.
If you’re thinking about getting a service dog, I would recommend doing a lot of research and making sure you’re doing other things to help your specific situation. Dogs are not a “quick fix,” but they can be another tool in your toolbox.