You might recall from my previous post that a service dog can be a dependable helper, a tool to maintaining or regaining independence, and in some cases the lifesaver that you have so desperately needed. If you were intrigued by the variety of tasks that service dogs can perform, you might even be wondering if a service dog is right for you, your child, or your family. In this post, I want to talk about a few questions that you should reflect on before going any further in your service dog journey.
- Do you have any health issues such as, dog allergies, that would prevent you from being around a dog 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year?
- Does anyone in your household have any above mentioned allergies or health concerns?
- Do you or does anyone in your house have any dog phobias?
- How do you really feel about dogs? Honestly, service dogs are amazing and can be trained to perform a seemingly endless list of tasks, but at the end of the day they have doggy hair, doggy breath, doggy odor, etc. because hero or not they are still a dog.
- While we are on the subject of dogs, how do you feel about routine? Although they don’t have to have a precise clock maintained, dogs do need to be fed twice a day at approximately the same time, wake up at the same time regardless if it is your day to sleep in or not, and need to go outside regardless of the weather.
- Can you afford a dog? Although there are some tax deductions that you can look into in the United States, you are still going to have a lot of monthly bills to pay upfront including premium dog food, grooming, heart worm medications, flea/tick preventative medications, supplies, and of course vet bills. I’d suggest you call your local vet to get a reasonable idea of how much this is going to cost you given that it varies from location to location. Oh, and don’t forget to call City Hall and inquire about the yearly dog license fee.
- Do you have a space and time to exercise the dog? If you have a fenced yard, perfect, but if not, you’ll need to find a safe space to let the service dog just be a dog for a part of each day.
- If you are frequently in the hospital or unable to get out of bed, do you have someone who can feed, walk, and care for the dog?
- When you think about your greatest needs, are they tasks that dogs can reliably be trained to perform?
- How do you feel about confrontation and knowing the law and your rights if you are confronted by a restaurant or store owner who doesn’t know the protections offered by the Americans with Disabilities Act?
- Are you willing to commit the time, energy, and money to maintaining the dog’s training as well as meeting their mental and physical health needs?
- How much of the time will you realistically have the service dog with you? Service dogs need as much interaction with their person as possible. For example, a dog that is crated all day isn’t going to be able to alert to subtle medical changes or even larger ones reliably because the canine-companion bond simply won’t be as strong.
- Are you most comfortable with smaller or larger dogs? A particular breed? A particular color or hair texture?
I would ask, even beg, for you to think long and hard about the questions that I have posed. If you still feel a service dog is right for you, in my next post I will discuss how to select an agency and proceed.