Partnering with a Service Dog or ESD

Woof!

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This thread is being started for people who have Service Dog partners and for those who have Service Dog or ESD (Emotional Support Dog) questions. (There is a big difference between SDs and ESDs, and all breeds of dogs aren't suitable for either.)

My own situation: The great majority of perfumes and scents leave me super-sick, and one immediate symptom is vertigo (others are Sjogren's Syndrome, nausea and migraines). For this reason, for most of the past 2 decades, my traveling partner has been my Vertigo Assistance Service Dog (3 different Dobermans over the years, coast-to-coast and in 2 countries).

* Side note: Dobes are the best breed for vertigo work because they are velcro dogs who excel at having a job to do, and when their ears haven't been docked - yuck! - you don't have ill-informed people asking if your SD is your "guard" dog.

A highly-trained Vertigo Dog does several things, but one of the most important things his/her presence does is help the public take my need to avoid all fragrances seriously.

My Service partner:
- helps me maneuver away from people wearing scented perfumes, lotions and detergents
- helps me maintain momentum when going up short flights of steps
- helps me balance when going down short flights of steps (note: I DO NOT lean on him; supporting my weight is never his job)
- helps people understand that my less-steady condition is medical (and no, I'm not drunk)

Different dog breeds/breed mixes excel at different tasks. For example,
- Accessibility dogs...think retrievers
- Vertigo dogs...think Dobermans
- Hearing ear dogs...think small terriers
- ESDs...don't think Dobermans (they tend to mirror the energy around them, for better or worse). Calm pitties can be very good for this (tho' public perception is always an issue)

If anyone here is thinking about getting a Service Dog (or ESD) partner, let me emphasize that last word - partner. Partnering with a Service Dog or ESD is a two-way street. In order for a dog to meet your needs, you must be willing and able to meet his needs first, both physically and psychologically, and those needs vary with the breed of the dog and the kind of work you want your dog to do. That, in turn, requires an enthusiasm for training - human training (as opposed to simply dog training).

Happy to help with any questions you might have...
 

wabi-sabi

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I am quite curious about this topic. On the one hand, I am far too ill to care for a dog. My houseplants are struggling!

I can completely see that a service dog would help other humans understand that you are sick. But what do they do with the vertigo if you don't lean on them for support? I use a wheelchair for this.

How does the dog help you with avoiding scents? I know they have better noses, but how do you get away from a scent when they tend to be so pervasive? And what does the extra sensitivity gain of the dog nose gain you? As far as I can tell, if I can't smell the terrible perfume, it can't hurt me in the way that a bright light shining in the next room doesn't trigger my light sensitivity. If I can't smell it, but the dog can, it's by definition, too small a stimulus to affect me.
 

Woof!

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Wabi: my dog doesn't smell scents for me. I'm the one who senses a problematic fragrance and she (close to my side and at my direction) helps me to quickly move away. And rather than 'hold me up,' she provides gentle guiding pressure to the side of my leg that helps to stabilize me. This is why a dog the size of a Doberman is important for this job (though bigger would be problematic for plane, train and bus travel). The shoulders of a smaller dog couldn't reach much up my leg and therefore wouldn't provide that real stabilization.

Further stabilization also comes from my hold on her harness (my new girl prefers a leash-hold on a ring on her chest; her much-beloved predecessor preferred our connection to be via an elongated loop on the top of his Service Harness).
 
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* Side note: Dobes are the best breed for vertigo work because they are velcro dogs who excel at having a job to do, and when their ears haven't been docked - yuck! - you don't have ill-informed people asking if your SD is your "guard" dog.
Your so funny!

I am the type to stroll up to a Doberman in the back of a pick up, and start petting.

I still hope the U.S. will ban these docking and mutilating procedures. Doberman's have beautiful ears. Leave them alone.
 

Woof!

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My first two SD partners were rescue Dobies. They both came to me as adults with docked ears and docked tails. When my most recent superstar Dobie passed after our 11.5 years together, I purposely looked for a dog with natural ears and a natural (undocked) tail because I hope to one day visit Europe, and I didn't want to get glared at by people who didn't know I would never have a dog docked myself. Also because there is so much anti-breed legislation in Germany and part of Switzerland (sigh).

Traveling with a SD outside of the US can be quite the experience. For instance, in Canada, Toronto is excellent for SDs, as is the VIA rail system (which requires your dog to have his own ticket, unlike Amtrak which doesn't). Montreal is horrible (their Metro is horrible for all handicapped purposes), and Vancouver is just plain weird (their laws require documentation that is close to impossible and expensive to get...I hope this changes soon).