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Dogs and Special Needs Kids

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I have never had a dog. Have had lots of Burmese cats:001_smile: but I have never had much to do with dogs. I babysat two dogs on occassion, who were the worst trained dogs in the world. (Owners fault - yes but enough to put you off for life.)


However I have a son who adores dogs. William also has a muscle disease and sooner or later will be in a wheelchair etc. I have always thought in the back of my mind that when he is older (and the cats have passed on), that I will get my son a companion/service dog to help make life just that little bit more special (especially in his teen years). I thought that I would have a few years to ponder this over and wrap my head around having a dog. (I dont hate dogs, I just haven't had alot to do with them.)


Then I was thinking about the "tail end" of the equation....the end of the dogs life. If dogs have a general life of 14yrs, assuming that William will be medically able, leaves home at 20 (then that would be difficult enough without having a dog to look after as well)....then I should be thinking about a dog when William is 6yrs old - next year!:001_huh: I cant imagine having a dog now as I have to much on my plate.


There are only a couple of charities that train companion/ service dogs in Australia and they have closed their lists for the next 5 years. So it would be up to myself to do the whole project. Tough order when you know nothing about dogs. I read that the average dog takes 2 years to train to be the standard of a service dog.


So is this viable - could I really train a dog to such a high standard? Would I be better to try and foster (2 yrs?)the dog out to someone to train for me? I do have a BIL who has a dog that is very well trained on the other side of the country.....


What should I look for in a dog?


From general reading I see that they tend to use Labs and Retrievers. However I would think that a shedding coat for someone who will have respiratory distress would be difficult, let alone general grooming etc. So I saw that there is a curly coat terrior....however they mature late.


Any advice for what I should look for, think about, what special things should the dog be trained to do etc.....I can see this will be a long term project, so i'm not about rush it, however any guidence would be greatly assisted.




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I have a friend who uses/breeds Labordoodles (labs and poodles). Her son has CP. She trained her son's dog herself because the organization here that trains therapy dogs doesn't do it for children under 12. The temperment of the parent dogs are VERY important. HTH



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I'd call the organizations that train companion dogs for their recommendations. They might even share the names of their reliable breeders or blood lines that work out well. As a previous poster stated, temperment is key. But as a former terrier owner, though it wasn't a curly coated terrier, I wouldn't think a terrier's temperment would work. Terriers that I've known were too independent and stubborn.

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My first thought would be a german shepherd from a reliable breeder. I guess short haired might be best...although look wise, I like long haired. Also, I'm not sure that you have to have it "dead" by 14 years. Why couldn't your son take him when he moves. Here in the US, at least, places have to let you take service dogs ...anywhere...


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My son has a registered guide dog through National Service Dogs in Canada, and although they use labs and retrievers due to temperment, they have also used standard or giant poodles for those with alergies. The dogs are trained for 2 yrs prior to matching. I have always been around dogs and am quite comfortable training one HOWEVER, I could never assume that I could do as good a job as a trainer. I could do it if I stopped homeschooling and spent 8 hours a day of intense training in the community, and it may take me 5 years to do it. Not worth it, honey. Stick to an organization, they do it all the time. Also, you want full public access beyond the borders, and every country is different, so you want a reputable company, preferably one that is registered and approved by ADI (Assistance Dogs International) as they set the standard of approved dogs globally. They're a good place to start.


Good luck!

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By the way, working dogs are often retired after 8 yrs of service, or earlier if they fail their yearly public access test. A dog who is overly distracted by another dog in public, or one who eats food off the floor in a restaurant would fail. That said, they often remain with the family at the family's discretion as a family pet after that, or if the person requires another service dog, the family could opt to find a home for the first dog, where they would see them again. So, yes, a dog may live for 14 yrs, but they typically only work for 8 yrs, starting at age 2, retired by 10. :001_smile:

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Is it possible to purchase a trained dog from overseas since the organizations where you live don't have any available?

I agree with pp that training yourself, having no experience with dog training, might be a very difficult task. It takes a lot of time working with the animal to teach them to be a service dog.

Another thought would be to find a trainer who might do it outside of an organization. Labs, Goldens and Doodles would be the breeds I would look into. They (the organizations) choose to use these breeds for good reason. They also don't just take any dog - they have to be temperament tested first.

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As far as breeds, the assistance dog society here uses labs, goldens and smooth foxterriers.

I know one long time dog trainer who has trained her own assistance dog - a portuguese water dog. I 'know' (online) someone who's training a border collie to be an assitance dog.


I expect in the next few years there will be some growing movement to internationally standardize requirements for service dogs. We're seeing already people abusing service dog privileges by bringing their yappy purse dogs wherever they go - arguing that they provide a 'service' by keeping the owner happy or fulfilling some other vague psychological need. :001_huh:


Anyway - I think you need to sort out whether you truly need a real 'service' dog or whether you just want a companion who may be very helpful but isn't a true service dog. If you can get by with the 2nd, the options become much wider. First of all, dogs are frequently released from training programs. A released dog didn't meet all their strict criteria but may still be a very good supportive dog for your son.


I'd make contact with advanced clicker trainers in your community. They will usually know someone who's done it/is doing it etc.


Start by contacting Aidan Bindoff. He's in Tasmania, Australia. Tell him Margaret from Canada sent you over :-)




some resources to check out:




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I would hire someone to train a young pup so they can grow together.


But, aren't Burmese, dogs, cant you train the Burmese. They are the best Cat/dogs in the world.


Just had to throw that out there. We have had ours for three yrs and she is my best friend. I will never get any cats, but Burmese from now on.


Too bad they are not bigger and can bark.


Didnt mean to hijack.

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Thank you


Newbie: yes my Burmese are well trained - they even play fetch :D They are 8yrs old and have travelled the world with us (jolly expensive too!!)


Margaret: thank you for that link.....indeed I will say hello for you:001_smile:


I finially found a few more google links last night and had a good read. yes I definitely think having a trained by an organisation dog is the way to go....maybe if I apply now, in 10 years he will be near the top of the list.


Thank you for pointing out that a service dogs life is 8yrs....as I said I know nothing about dogs. I now have the next 10 years to brush up on knowledge and skills.


So once again, thank you.



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