Posts Tagged ‘Service Dogs’

What Types Of Service Dogs Can You Adopt?

Gemma | January 17th, 2009
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If you’re lucky enough to be purchasing a dog that was trained to provide a service for people, or a least adopting a dog that was accepted for such training but did not make it for some reason, you are in for a special treat. Most people aren’t even aware that such dogs exist.

What type of pets are we talking about? Any dog that was trained for or actually worked a career by leading the blind and helping other disabled people is a prime example.

You Have 3 Choices Of Service Dogs To Choose From

When looking to adopt a professionally trained career dog, your choices come in three different forms: dogs that are retired from being guides, career changing dogs, and finally, there are the canines that for some reason did not make it through the training program, or simply put – flunkies.

Guide Dogs No More

Just like people, service dogs cannot work their jobs forever. As these animals get older, they become slower and are no longer effective in helping their owners. The average amount of time that a service dog can work is approximately 8 years. At this point they become prime candidates for adoption by people like you and me.

Dogs That Had Multiple Careers

Many dogs can be taken out of one service job and then trained for another. The reasons for this can vary. It may be because of temperament issues, medical concerns, or perhaps a dog was just not a suitable match for its owner. For example, a dog may be retired from guide service and then prepared and transferred to work at a rehabilitation hospital or a nursery home. Sometimes these types of animals are even assigned to children’s homeless centers in order to play with the kids.

Just Didn’t Make The Cut

Finally, we have our flunkies. Now before you consider a flunky to be a negative thing, reconsider that notion because quite the opposite is true. Thousands of dogs are trained every year by organizations which lead them into service jobs.

Not all of these dogs make the cut and move on to work with people. They are considered flunkies for whatever reason, whether it is from temperament problems, health problems, or perhaps were a little too excitable for service work. However, the important aspect to remember here is that these dogs are still a cut above any other pet you may find elsewhere.

Just to get accepted into these types of programs for training preparation means they already had natural first-class qualities and characteristics which made them ideal candidates. These dogs are typically between the ages of one and two years old. Most are very gentle and loving and have had some type of extensive obedience training during the beginning of the program.

Is The Labrador Retriever The New Rising Hero? – Part 2

Kate | June 2nd, 2008
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Labrador Retriever dogs are quickly becoming America’s top choice service animals when it comes to detection of bombs, narcotics, currency, and any other item that needs to be tracked.

Not only are these dogs genetically bred to pick up a scent and bring back a specific item from miles away, their work ethic and desire for human companionship completes them as the total package when a true hero is needed to do the job.

Bad House Pets Can Make Great Service Dogs

Another reason that Labrador Retrievers make excellent service dogs is because of their high energy levels and spectacular endurance. These characteristics are what make a reliable working scent dog. Ironically enough, some of the best, all-around, highly trained service dogs were given up from owners because their energy levels were just too much to keep up with.

A perfect example of a real-life situation is a group of Labrador Retrievers which were donated by several families because they were too high strung and acted out in severely destructive ways. When these same dogs were looked at by professional trainers, it was immediately obvious that they would make great working dogs.

And great working dogs they became! Two of them were taken in and trained to work for the DAD program (Dogs Against Drugs) of the Children’s Crisis Prevention Network Inc. in Texas. They now spend their days contributing to society by inspecting for alcohol, drugs, and guns in local schools.

Saving Time & Money

Using Labrador Retrievers as service dogs is also a better investment than using other dogs. This is because most dog breeds will only train and work effectively with one handler. Labs, on the other hand, can work with more than one handler if necessary, and still produce the same results.

Labs are also some of the most approachable of dog breeds. They appear friendly and are generally accepted as nonthreatening to the public. Consider the fact that many bomb threats and other potentially dangerous problems occur in public places such as airports, bus stations, and schools. A service dog must be able to work in and around crowds without alarming anyone. Labrador Retrievers are considered to be public friendly and do not intimidate people like other detection dogs, such as the imposing German Shepherd.

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Is The Labrador Retriever The New Rising Hero? – Part 1

Kate | May 31st, 2008
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When you hear somebody speak of a true life hero that reacted in a moment of bravery and did something courageous, regardless of the risks involved, a dog rarely comes to mind. But some of the most amazing feats of bravery and accomplishments are done by service-trained dogs each and every day.

After the disastrous terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in 2001, the need for highly skilled working dogs to detect bombs, narcotics, chemicals, and explosives skyrocketed. In addition, more search and rescue dogs (SAR) were in demand as well.

In the past, working breeds such as the Belgian Malinois and, more commonly, the German Shepherd, took over these types of roles. But today, the Labrador Retriever is gaining huge popularity as the breed of choice for these demanding and potentially dangerous situations.

In fact, the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs, and the Auburn University’s Canine Detection Training Center have all initiated detection-dog breeding programs that are 100% exclusive to the Labrador Retriever.

What Makes The Labrador Retriever So Qualified?

Research studies have shown that most dogs (in general) have the ability to detect infinitesimal amounts of scent, estimated to be lower than 400 parts per trillion. This ability alone makes dogs more reliable than any mechanical detection device available. In addition, dogs also have the ability to hold onto an odor and trace that scent directly to its source.

These skills are common with dogs in general, so when you consider that field and hunting Labradors are genetically favored to locate game when a hunter sends them out to retrieve fallen foul, this alone adds more power and ability to a Lab’s detection ability. When hunting, all a hunter has to do is give the Lab a general area of where the bird fell, and the dog does the rest, picks up the scent and brings back its prey.

In addition to having to rely on only an area of land to track down a particular bird, these Labrador Retrievers must also have the ability to block out every other scent that comes along the way. He must be able to discriminate against these other odors in order to be successful. These outside odors can often be so powerful that other dogs would not be able to concentrate and follow the direct target line like the Labrador Retriever can.

Another reason why Labrador Retrievers make excellent detection dogs is due to its work ethic. These dogs are highly intelligent and seem to have an endless drive to learn. And Labs are always begging for something to do. They enjoy working with people as opposed to other hunting breeds that prefer to act independently. This human-canine comradery is essential when facing a dangerous situation that has the potential to kill human beings.

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Scent Dogs: How These Amazing Animals Are trained – Part 3

Janet | May 26th, 2008
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Watch any special on television about scent-detector service dogs and you will see these amazing canines brave after some of the most dangerous work in the world uncovering drugs, finding fugitives and locating explosive devices.

The dogs that make it through the training are the cream of the crop, so to speak, but not every dog has what it takes. In fact, some estimates say as few as 1 out of 100 dogs shows potential, and of these dogs more than half will fail somewhere in their initial imprinting of odors or even before.

So Where Do These Super Sniffers Come From?

The dogs come from many different sources, including shelters, personal pets, and specially selected and bred German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers.

Adoption

Traditionally, trainers would scour shelters and pounds for candidates with potential for scent-detection work, and adopt those they felt had the right mix of drives to be successful. The breeds could be purebreds but were often mixes, too.

Typically, selected dogs were those that had driven previous owners batty with their high activity levels and persistence in wanting to play ball or retrieve. Many trainers still search shelters for detection-dog candidates and a significant portion of the dogs you see working today may be discarded pets turned heroes.

Donations

Some agencies accept dogs donated from private individuals, as well as breeders. Auburn University’s Canine Detection Center Training facility, for example, has a detection-dog breeding program but the demand for trained dogs is so great at times that it must supplement its own stock with additional dogs. Often, potential donations don’t have the right kinds of drives to be good detection dogs; however, others do.

Green-Trained Dogs

The country is now dotted with those who offer started or green-trained detection dogs for sale to government agencies and private-sector companies. These dogs have been trained to alert specific odors, but have not had the repetition, continued training and working experience to be considered a finished dog.

The dogs come from a variety of sources, including overseas breeders and trainers. Often, if an agency that needs a scent detector dog has a trainer on board, it will purchase green-trained dogs and have their trainer finish the dogs.

Breeding Programs

And finally, dedicated breeding programs have been created to provide highly-qualified scent detection dogs. For example, the Australian Customs Service Detector Dog Program began its own Labrador Retriever breeding program during the 1990s to improve the odds of finding dogs with the correct drives, temperament, work ethic and soundness to make outstanding detection dogs.

In 10 years, their program bred down a lot of the Lab’s problems hip and elbow dysplasia, eye problems, etc. In addition, the dogs were bred specifically for endless energy, strong play and hunting drives all the right kind of traits for the job.

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Scent Dogs: How These Amazing Animals Are trained – Part 2

Janet | May 23rd, 2008
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Though every trainer may teach the actual scent-detection training a bit differently, the basics are very much the same whether the dog is learning to detect chemicals, drugs, alcohol, gunpowder, explosives, or even large amounts of currency.

The dog is first taught to recognize an odor by introducing it to a scent-soaked ball or toy and using retrieval exercises to establish scent association. When the dog successfully retrieves the scented article, it is immediately rewarded, so it associates the odor with something extremely fun.

The next step is to add the response portion to the scent detection. The response or action of the dog must be swift, clear and decisive so the handler knows that the dog has detected the odor. Passive responses (a sit or a down) are always used in the case of explosives detection; aggressive responses (scratching, barking) are sometimes used to indicate drugs.

Teaching the response requires a lot of repetition. Steven Sharp, a professional trainer for canine scent detection dogs, says, You get the dog to smell the location where the substance is. While the dog is sniffing, you tell it to ‘sit’ and the dog is immediately rewarded with a toy or food, then the handler gives the dog verbal and physical praise. This is done over until the dog starts to indicate on its own.

Once a dog has indicated a scent correctly at least 20 times, Steven says the dog knows that odor and you can move on to teaching the next odor. While the dog is learning the new odor, the handler increases the difficulty of the search for the learned odor by lengthening the time the odor has been left out (less-powerful scent) and the depth of the plants (in an open drawer, then in a closed drawer, etc.).

This is done in baby steps, Steven notes, challenging the dog just enough to move forward in its skills, but never so much as to set up a failure.

Odors are added and strengthened in this manner until the dog has learned all of (or almost all of) the odors that the dog’s future handler will require. We don’t ‘finish’ a dog, Steven says, explaining that his organization trains the dogs on most of the odors, but not all of them. The handler teaches the dog the last couple of odors so they not only know how to handle the dog, but also train it.

When a handler knows how to add new odors to the dog’s repertoire, it immediately makes the dog-handler team proactive and a much more powerful tool particularly against the war on terrorism. With terrorism, the response always tends to be reactionary so the dogs need to be several steps ahead.

Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3

Scent Dogs: How These Amazing Animals Are trained – Part 1

Janet | May 18th, 2008
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Early training for service dogs destined to work in some field of scent detection generally involves a lot of socialization, followed with some basic obedience – and in some cases, a little agility.

Canine Detection Training centers first have prospective puppies go to carefully screened foster families with whom the pups will be raised until they are roughly 12 to 18 months of age. The primary role of these foster families (in addition to providing a loving home) is to socialize the dogs.

The families are obligated to take the puppy out at least three times a week to socialize it with all kinds of people and other dogs. Staff from the detection centers will check in with the foster homes once a month and take the puppies out themselves to test their public capabilities.

Interestingly, most of these dogs do not have to have much obedience training to start, or any at all. We try to look at obedience training as an individual thing, says Steven Sharp, staff member from the Auburn University’s Canine Detection Training Center (CDTC), located in Anniston, Alabama.

Steven goes on to say, Some dogs require a little obedience, but too much obedience can take a lot of a dog’s independence away. We want the dog to be able to get out and away from the handler, guiding the handler to the scent.

The agility training most detector dogs receive is not only for fun but also to develop the dog’s sense of balance, as well as accustom the dog to walking on uneven surfaces and high levels of platforms. For example, in an urban disaster situation, the dogs are called on to walk on uneven terrain. There will be wobbly bridges or removable objects they’ll need to cross.

Next, training to identify specific odors is taught using multiple sessions and lots of positive reinforcement. We start with several infrequent, short periods of time for training, Steven says. As the dog progresses, we expand that time, always keeping it fun for the dog. Once the training isn’t fun and the dog isn’t enjoying itself, it stops trying. We want the dog to come to the training area to have fun.

The detection training centers will use toys, food, a tug towel whatever works as the primary reinforcer for the dogs. We like to let the dogs select their own, preferred reward, Steven remarked, And as a second reward, the handlers will use praise.

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The Absolute Best Adult Dog You Could Ever Adopt

Gemma | March 14th, 2007
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When deciding to add a new adult dog to the family, have you considered purchasing one that is actually retired? What is a retired dog? Simply put, most people never consider finding a companion that used to be of service to other people, such as a guide dog.

If you look up the reports provided by the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, you’ll find that there are approximately 8,000 to 9,000 dogs in the United States alone that are employed. These animals are out there providing service to our fellow human beings by guiding blind people, helping the deaf, and offering assistance to other disabled men and women.

However, not all dogs who are bred and raised in order to provide some sort of service is actually out there working. And other dogs have indeed been of use to people during their life but obviously cannot continue working forever. To help these animals find homes, there are guide dog organizations who provide adoption programs as part of their services.

These animals are definitely in high demand. Most of them are completely trained and offer stable companionship from the day they are brought home. The reason for this is because most of these working type dogs spent months and even years going through intensive obedient classes and learning training protocols. This type of training is so extensive that most everyday citizens could not afford to have their pets undergo such training from professionals.

Consider this, it takes a very special and intelligent dog just to get excepted into a program which will train them for a career as a service dog. They must be well adjusted, in good health, and show all the signs necessary to make them good students of whatever particular job the trainers will be preparing them for.

Just these attributes alone, before being trained to work, would make a wonderful pet. Now imagine six months up to two years of additional heavy-duty obedience training and career protocol programs. The result is a dog that anybody would be extremely grateful to have as a house pet.

So before you decide to go to a shelter or any of the usual places to buy or adopt a dog, consider checking out local facilities that specialize in providing dogs that are ex-service oriented, or those canines that for some reason or another did not completely make it through the training. Either way, you are guaranteed to enjoy a high class, first rate quality pet.