"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Service Dogs

– Posted in: Columns

Hello John;

I have been doing a lot of new research on training puppies as I have the opportunity to get a Husky/Malamute puppy. I have home trained my last 3 assistance dogs. My present dog is an absolutely wonderful Husky/Malamute/Labrador. She is aging and it is time to begin training another dog. Do you believe that with proper early training (encouraging what we wish, discouraging what we don’t and channelling the prey drive into something useful + socialization and obedience of course, a person could successfully reduce these breed’s prey drive – if any, into manageable or low levels? I love a lot of the Malamute temperament – the independence and calm confidence, cuddliness not to mention the size and strength.

E.

Dear E.

I have to say I think your question is moot. Unless the service you’re looking at having the dog provide is eating fish and pulling a sled I’d say you’re looking at the wrong breed. A Husky or a Malamute are to the service dog world what a Golden Retriever is to the sled dog world. Your current dog is most likely drawing on the Lab genes to perform its duties. I don’t know of any true service dog training organization that even considers Huskies or Malamutes.

Yours is a topic I’ve been giving some thought to lately. It seems if you can sew up a vest and say it’s a service dog nobody says anything. I was at a conference this year where a “service” dog spent the weekend rifling through people’s bags agitating other dogs, wandering away at every opportunity. This was not an isolated experience. I’ve seen biting, growling, snapping, running away etc. by “service” dogs. I’m seeing more and more dogs without the temperament or the training of a legitimate service dog being called service dogs by people unqualified to say so, let alone select and train one.

The whole service animal situation is getting out of hand. I’m not sure where and who should be drawing the line but somebody needs to. Generally speaking, we’re seeing dogs of questionable temperament, “certified” by ill qualified dog trainers, rather then approved associations, demanding access to places their dog has no business being. No one speaks up, probably out of fear of having the politically correct crowd twisting “I don’t want an unqualified animal in my place of business” to “I hate the disabled.” or “I hate animals.”

I don’t hate animals or the disabled or disabled animals or disabled people that behave like animals. I do however hate the abandonment of common sense particularly when it jeopardizes the legitimacy of true service animals. A while back I saw a news piece about a woman that insisted proximity to her horse was necessary to maintain her mental equilibrium and she rode it everywhere, even into the grocery store. I’m sure she has legitimate issues but I have issues too. One is I become emotionally fragile when a flatulent horse walks through the aisle I buy my salad ingredients.

A proper service animal’s purpose is to contribute to the safety and health of the owner. However not at the expense of the general public. Service dog candidates need to be selected by a specialized professional. “Many are called, few are chosen” applies. Their obedience training must include a minimum standard that isn’t so minimum. A service dog should not mean, “I own a dog, I have a need and I’ve found someone that has trained a few dogs in an unrelated discipline to “certify” my dog. True service dogs are very important and this airy-fairy definition of service or assistance dog is sooner or later going to reflect poorly on legitimate service dogs, service dog trainers and owners.

John Wade

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