Training a Service Dog

Calvin Reinholtz, Reporter

There are many types of service dogs, some help detect allergens for people with life threatening allergies, some serve as mobility service dogs; which can bring things to people such as push buttons and serve as a brace for someone who can’t do it themselves whether they are in a wheelchair or have other mobility issues. There is also a service dog that acts as a guide dog for people who have seeing problems.

Kate Shipp (9) is training one such dog. Zeus is training to be a guide dog; Shipp has had him since March she keeps him from the age of 8 weeks all the way till he is one year then she will give him back to the organization which will complete his formal guide dog training and certify him. “The common misconception is that guide dogs are always working,” Shipp said, “but, they only work about 30% of the time.” Guide dogs are only working when they have their vests on. When a guide dog is working you should not pet, speak to, or acknowledge their presence in any way, the biggest compliment you can give to someone with a service dog is, “Oh I didn’t even notice them there,” Wyatt Shipp said (11), Kate Shipp’s older brother. “When at home and the vest comes off, he is just a really well-behaved dog he eats, sleeps, cuddles, and plays just like any other dog,” Shipp said.

One of the biggest differences that Wyatt has noticed is, “He adjusts to others around him instead of others adjusting to his presence like they would with a non-service dog.” Zeus is doing very well, and Shipp thinks he will make it through the program. “It is a very selective program some reasons dogs can flunk out are crate anxiety, barking, whining, separation anxiety, not listening well, looking for attention from people, counter surfing, or anything else that will prevent or hinder them from doing their job,” Shipp said. If a dog doesn’t make it there are many options, they could be given to a person younger than 16. “To have a guide dog you have to be 16 or older, so if  a dog does make it part way then fails they can be given to someone under 16. They don’t have the same rights as a fully certified service dog and you can’t take them into places but it is a good bonding experience and helps to prepare kids who might get one when they do turn 16,” Shipp said.

Some other things they can do is they can be trained as a different type of service dog that requires less strict training or they can become an emotional therapy dog, if all else fails they are put up for adoption. Shipp also says she has learned a lot about discipline and perseverance for herself and for Zeus, “I have to always think about what is best for him and always do what’s in his best interest instead of what I want to do sometimes,” Shipp said. All in all, she notes that it is super fun and she encouraged more people to do it, “It’s a great way to give back and you get to hang out with a dog for a year.”