A guide dog. Oh, boy, what have I gotten myself into?

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A guide dog. Oh, boy, what have I gotten myself into?

Post by OddFoxx » Mon Oct 06, 2014 3:23 am

Since my Belgian puppy was 3 months old, I knew I wanted a second dog, both to keep him company and to have twice the doggy love and activity partners. Sariel’s now 18 months and I’ve started looking at puppies and breeders and breeds to decide now on what to get when he’s closer to 2 1/2 or 3 since that’s a pretty good age to get a dog a puppy. I know to get a female to counter-balance having a male, and preferably one that’s more submissive to make sure there aren’t any dominance fights along the way. Waiting until Sariel’s that old will ensure he feels secure with his place in my home and life, and his training will already be pretty solid. As he is now, he’s pretty good. He could use some obedience refreshers since he’s now an annoying teenager, and I’d like to get him in on doing agility training to give him something new and exciting to do.

While staying here I turned my mother onto a few new breeds that are large, smart, and very well-suited to being trained as therapy dogs for work in her clinic, but today I was posed with a new challenge: raise a puppy FOR my mother, and train it up as a guide dog. Much as she fights it and fights to keep her driver’s license, my mother is going blind. Her eyes are fine, but the nerves don’t communicate to her brain, and so she can see less and less. She’s been pretty graceful about going blind, but I do know it scares her. Today she asked about getting a guide dog to help her since she knows I won’t be with her forever and am most likely moving back to Texas, but she doesn’t want to lose her independence.

I was planning to get a puppy in another year or two for myself, but her mentioning wanting one for herself and needing it as a service dog… At first I offered to simply buy two puppies and raise one for her, but depending on my finances, I may just buy the one and raise that one just for her. I’m going to need help, though. I trained Sariel to be MY helper, yes, but there’s a huuuuuuge difference between being an ESA therapy dog who also alerts me to the stuff I can’t really hear (since I'm hard of hearing) than raising a puppy as a guide dog. I know that guide dog puppies are fostered in homes of “puppy raisers” who love, care for, and give them general obedience and puppy training for the first two years, and then they’re given to the guide dog schools. But the waiting list for a guide dog at any of the schools is long, expensive, and then there’s a lot of complicated assessment things to pair you to your guide dog and see if you even need one. That’s fine and well, but I KNOW my mother will need one. If not just for her fading sight, then for her comfort as her sight goes.

The dogs she was considering are not your standard Labrador/golden retriever used most commonly for service dogs, and we’re having trouble finding a German shepherd rescue dog that has the right personality (or gets along with cats). So she wants a puppy, so it can be raised with cats and other animals, and trained up the way she needs. Dandy. Since I introduced her to the breed, she’s wanting either a Tamaskan Dog from a breeder here on the TDR, or a NAID/NAS/GID from Happy Bend. She likes how both look, and how smart either sound. My friend has a NAS, so I’ve seen how smart and sweet they can be, but I know it varies from dog to dog. Whatever it is, I said I’d pay for it for her. My only real reservation is making sure the breeder will assess the puppy’s personality to make sure it’s a mellow, calm puppy that would be RIGHT for being a guide dog. They’re all pretty breeds, and smart breeds, but if I’m left to choose for her, I want the one that will be the calm, sweet, mild puppy that’s right for an almost 60-year-old woman. Last thing I need is to pick one based on looks and get the one that’s a little hell-beast.

Just.... *sigh* It seems like such a simple request, and at the same time, such a huge thing. Raising a puppy I can do; raised two, and was planning on a Tamaskan puppy for myself anyway, and we're active enough that it'll have a pretty good time of things. But it's surprisingly difficult to find schools that will take your personal dog to train as a guide dog, especially since they'd need to teach me all 90 commands, which I'll have to teach to my mother upon bringing it to her. I know a few Tamaskans have been trained to be SAR, and a few for therapy, but does anyone have any experience with Tamaskan Dogs as guide dogs? Or any helpful input (other than I've lost all my marbles, I know this completely //_-)? Sorry about the long ramble, it's just kind of a huge thing that's sinking in and I don't even know where to begin to raise up a Tam guide dog for her, the only real plus side being that I'd have a few years to have the money to do so and to train it.
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Re: A guide dog. Oh, boy, what have I gotten myself into?

Post by HiTenshi16 » Mon Oct 06, 2014 3:56 am

The best thing to do is contact each breeder individually, tell them your situation, and find out about their dogs and what kind of temperaments they have, or if they even can recommend you to a more suitable breeder.
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Re: A guide dog. Oh, boy, what have I gotten myself into?

Post by Taz » Mon Oct 06, 2014 1:53 pm

You will need to find a dog with the desire to work close with a person, but with the ability to learn to act on there own initiative. It's not just enough to choose a breed because they're supposed to be inteligent, and there's a reason guide dog organisations breed there own, and more importantly why they often stick to a handful of breeds and their crosses. My personal preference is for shepherd, sheepdog or shepherd, sheepdog, Gundog crosses.
What happens if the dog doesn't make the grade? Which is always a possibility.
Perhaps contact some guide dog organisations and see if any would be willing to assist you and your chosen breeder(when you find them)on selecting the most likely candidate in a litter. Hard decision to place on a breeder, especially if they've no experience of guide dogs.
Good luck.☺️
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Re: A guide dog. Oh, boy, what have I gotten myself into?

Post by Tiantai » Mon Oct 06, 2014 7:44 pm

Quite the dilemma but I agree with Taz here. Just curiously, how many people within your area do you have who are/will be capable of assisting you or look after your dog just in case something happens while at work and you cannot be home with the dog?
While staying here I turned my mother onto a few new breeds that are large, smart, and very well-suited to being trained as therapy dogs for work in her clinic, but today I was posed with a new challenge: raise a puppy FOR my mother, and train it up as a guide dog. Much as she fights it and fights to keep her driver’s license, my mother is going blind. Her eyes are fine, but the nerves don’t communicate to her brain, and so she can see less and less. She’s been pretty graceful about going blind, but I do know it scares her. Today she asked about getting a guide dog to help her since she knows I won’t be with her forever and am most likely moving back to Texas, but she doesn’t want to lose her independence.
Is there anyone else in your family, relatives, or close friends who will be able to accompany her when you move that you know of at this moment?
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Re: A guide dog. Oh, boy, what have I gotten myself into?

Post by Taz » Mon Oct 06, 2014 10:46 pm

You're looking at 2 years hard work, the dog has to be capable of going anywhere, exposed to everything you can think of, objects, people, places, has to be able to handle public transport, behave itself in restaurants etc. Its a full time Job, with no guarantee of success, and if they don't have what it takes, you've gotta start all over again with another puppy.
You also need to take into account that if her sight is deteriorating, the responsibility placed on the dog will change. Someone with partial sight may be able to support their dog in its job more easily, than someone with no sight/light perception only. You need to train for the worst case, not many dogs can handle it.
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I know more than I say.
Think more than I speak.
And notice more than you realize".
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But you are not free
From the consequence of
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Re: A guide dog. Oh, boy, what have I gotten myself into?

Post by sharil » Mon Oct 06, 2014 11:20 pm

I am 6 months into the process of training a tamaskan as a service dog now. A few things are paramount. First is to work with a breeder who knows their litters and is willing to have them temperament tested beyond just the routine puppy temperament test. My dog has been evaluated 3 times by professional behaviorists and is a high potential candidate for service work. Only 25% of dogs who start the training for public access are able to complete it, so I would have a plan in case the puppy you choose isn't able to work in public (could still be an effective service dog at home, just not in public but then you would need another plan for public access.) Second would be to work with a professional trainer willing to help you train your own service dog. They will see habits beginning before you will even notice them working with your dog every day. I meet with a trainer for 15-20 minutes once or twice a week. He trains me to work with my dog. It's not too expensive this way, and it really is worth the investment. Third, have a plan for the first few months with your pup. Tams can have issues with separation anxiety which can work to your advantage once they are beyond basic obedience, and is very challenging at first before they are ready to be with you all the time. Finally (for this message), it is a huge commitment to train your own service dog. You need to have the dog with you, at your side 24/7 once they are through the basic obedience training. It is a huge lifestyle change if you aren't used to that (imagine a 3 year old tethered to your hip all day every day) and is absolutely necessary to get a dog through the public access test in any reasonable time. If you only work with your dog 2 or 3 times a day, it could take 3+ years to complete the program (it may actually be quicker to go through the process to get a trained dog from a service).

I hope this is helpful information. Good luck! I'd love to hear what you decide and how it goes for you and your Mom.

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