Category Archives: Dogs

Training Your Dog to be a Service Animal

photo credit: Ben Fletcher Photography

Service dogs are awesome companions and helpers for people with a variety of disabilities. There are many organizations that raise and train service dogs to assist individuals who are deaf/ hard of hearing, blind/ visually impaired, and physically or emotionally disabled. But did you know it is also possible to train your own dog to be a service animal?

My dog Taden is a black lab/golden retriever mix; she was given to me by a family friend when she was about a year old. I quickly discovered that she was very smart and eager to please, so I thought I might be able to train her to do a few things around the house for me.

The first thing I taught her was to pick up an object I had dropped and bring it to me. This was helpful because I have a hard time bending over to retrieve things. She learned to do the task in just an hour! I was amazed. That’s when I decided to look into what it would take to train her to be a service dog.

What I found out was very surprising. Training your own service dog is easy! In most states, including mine, a service dog does not need to be certified. All they need is be able to follow some basic training standards like not barking, or going to the bathroom in public areas, and perform three tasks that are specifically beneficial to your disability. For example, Taden can pick things up, help me remove my jacket and help pull me in my wheelchair. There are plenty of certification sites out there that lead you to believe you need a piece of paper stating that your dog is a service animal, but they are just looking to make a quick buck.

I decided I was going to try it and purchased two books to help guide me through the process: Teamwork 1 and Teamwork 2 by Stewart Nordensson and Lydia Kelley. These books walk you through some common tasks that service dogs should perform. The books are written by a person with a disability so all the exercises are adapted for people with disabilities. They are great books for basic training as well.

Ultimately, I decided that Taden’s personality wasn’t right to be a true service dog. She loves people and get’s so excited to be pet and have her ears scratched that she gets completely distracted. If I had gotten her as a puppy, training her to focus around a lot of people might have been easier. I could probably still do it, but I have come to love her happy, bubbly personality. She makes everyone she sees smile and I just don’t want to see that go away. She still helps me around the house, and if I ever get another dog I might try again.

If you are looking to train your dog, check out these books; and be sure to check out the rules in your state regarding certification.

Taking Care of Our Furry Friends

I have a confession to make: I am a crazy cat lady. Actually, I am a crazy dog lady too, if you want to get technical. I am that pet owner everyone makes jokes about. I talk to my dog Taden and my four cats as if they were human beings, I use baby voices and give them ridiculous nicknames, I spoil them with gifts and treats and I was thisclose to buying them Halloween costumes last October. Yes, it is safe to say I love my pets, but taking care of them can sometimes be a challenge.

I got my dog Taden from a family friend when she was already about a year old. Although she was a good dog overall, I found that taking care of an excitable, 90 pound lab was a little more than I bargained for. In fact, I almost gave up at least once, but this was a living, breathing creature and I couldn’t just give up on her.

The first order of business was to figure out how I could walk her. She is a Black Lab Golden Retriever mix, and has that boundless energy that is typical of her breed. She needed the exercise not only for her health and happiness, but also for my own sanity. Unfortunately, the previous owner had not leash trained her. The first time I tried to walk her she yanked me out my front door so fast that I fell over, lost the leash and she took off running around the front yard like it was Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July.

I tried classes, but the other dogs distracted her. I tried the choke collar, but she didn’t seem to mind choking, and I absolutely refused to use a shock collar. I finally found a collar called the GentleLeader.  It fits gently over her head and nose, keeps her from pulling. Instantly, she was a completely different dog.she walked calmly next to me. Now walking her is no longer dangerous, and we both enjoy it.

The cats presented their own problems, most notably their poop. Cleaning a litter box is no one’s favorite chore, but getting on the floor to change the litter was not only obnoxious, but also painful for me. Sometimes, I even got stuck. Getting stuck on your hands and knees with your face over a litter box is not an experience you want to have, I assure you.

There are about a million different products out there to help people with a litter box problem. I know many people that swear by those automatic litter boxes, but having four cats, I have be skeptical about whether they could handle the (for lack of a better word) load.

For me, the best solution ended up being the simplest and cheapest.  A scoop with a long handle allows me to quickly clean out the cat boxes without getting down on the ground; which is awesome because needing to be rescued from getting a face full of cat litter sucks.

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

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