How Individuals with Disabilities Can Find the Right Dog for their Homes by Dixie Tenny
There are two possible types of dogs that an individual with a disability might be looking for. One is a pet dog, and the other is a service dog.
All the guidelines in my book "How to Find Your Dream Dog" apply to anyone at all who is looking for the best pet dog for them, whatever their abilities might be. Every person needs to consider the reasons they want a dog, and examine whether those reasons are realistic and workable for both prospective owner and for the dog. Everyone needs to think through the qualities needed to be a wonderful pet dog owner, which are covered in Chapter 2 (hint: topics discussed are time, money, energy, knowledge, patience, and taking the feelings and thoughts of all family members into account). Everyone will benefit from considering the different qualities that different types of dogs bring with them into a family, so that they choose the best fit for themselves. It’s like finding the right piece to a jigsaw puzzle. My book was written to help anyone find her dream dog - if that dog is going to be a pet.
Finding the right service dog is very different. Service dogs absolutely must have particular qualities that include steadiness, reliability, willingness to repeat needed behaviors as often as necessary, the desire to spend as much time as possible with their human companions. This combination of qualities is not commonly found in the pet dog population. Accredited service dog organizations find their dogs either through purpose-breeding them, or by screening many hundreds of candidates in shelters and rescue organizations. Many dogs are not suited to service work with human partners who have disabilities - at least, not yet.
Domestic dogs are a human-made creation. Every breed and type of dog was molded to suit a particular need that humans had at the time. Those needs included help with herding or flock-guarding, different types of help with hunting, pulling sleds, rescuing humans from water or avalanches, guarding property or individuals, controlling vermin around farms (and even in palaces!), serving as household companions, and many more. Selective breeding hard-wired the instincts needed for these jobs into those dogs, and genes carry those instincts to their descendants today. That is why, for example, most Labrador Retrievers love to swim and retrieve, even though it might have been a dozen generations since a particular lab’s ancestors were asked to do those things as their work.
A Labrador’s built-in love of not only retrieving but also working closely with a human (hunter), and willingness to do repetitious work (retrieving bird after bird all day long, with constant enthusiasm) translate beautifully into a dog willing and able to do, for example, wheelchair-assistance work. A highly alert, busy, and vocal Sheltie - and those are all qualities needed for its original job herding sheep - make it a great candidate to train into a hearing-ear dog or any kind of alert dog.
Why not use, say, a Basset hound? While Bassets are charming and companionable, the work their breed was created to do was to hunt using their excellent sense of smell, following a scent to its source without any guidance from the human hunters following behind. A Basset’s bred-in genes for working independently and using scent instead of sight or hearing do not lend themselves to service dog work.
At least, not yet. As we learn more about all the amazing things that dogs can do, the list of tasks covered by the term “service dog” has expanded enormously, and continues to do so. We have discovered that some dogs can sense (scent) many things that we cannot, starting with truffles and drugs but now including hibernating turtles, pornographic tapes, oncoming seizures, some kinds of cancer, and possibly even pregnancy! So the Basset hound’s day as a service dog might be just around the corner.
It may well be that before long, the skills possessed by almost every type of dog will be useful to their human partners, providing a fantastic range of service and giving us all more abilities than we ever dreamt of.
Different breeds of dogs have different temperaments. Most people already know that. But sometimes we forget that we need to choose a pet with a temperament that will compliment their lifestyle. This book is easy to read, and it is full of valuable information for individuals who are looking for their home.
I was reminded that dogs like people have their own personalities. And that personalities don't change that much. She reminds readers that a shy puppy will probably be a shy adult. And a pushy puppy will be a challenging dog. She reminded me that look at the pet's personality. Does it fit what you are looking for, and do you have time for this animal's needs.
If you are looking to introduce a new dog into your life, then you must read this book.
I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but the opinions are all mine.