The tasks I do to help my mom are well-trained behaviors or in some ways just specialized tricks. Have you ever thought about these tasks that a service dog does to help their disabled partner? Many of them look like fancy tricks that a variety of dogs — maybe even your dog — can learn to perform. But there is far more than just these ‘tricks’ that qualify me as a service dog. Remember how I told you, in my Kitchen tasks! post, that a service dog is task trained to mitigate a person’s disability? That is true . . . but there is much more that goes along with the tasks I do!
So what makes a service dog different or stand apart from a well-trained dog who can perform these tricks? The dog’s sound stable temperament and their ability to handle any public access situation the team encounters. Their willingness to always be ready to do their job no matter what else might be happening around them. Their ability to respond to the needed tasks in any situation. And the partnership with their disabled person. Like the partnership that I have with my mom!
A person with a disability is allowed by law to take their service dog with them into any public place. That means I can go with my mom anywhere that the general public can go. I can go to a restaurant, a mall, and a grocery store. I can go on a bus or a train or a plane. And I can go to doctor appointments or to the hospital with my mom. But they won’t let me go in sterile areas like an operating room. So there can be some limitations but mostly I can go wherever my mom goes.
For those of you that have read my book, you know that my breeding was planned and from the beginning, I was destined to be a service dog. When I was 8 weeks old I went to live with my puppy raisers. I will tell you more about my puppy raisers in another post. But for now, I’ll just say that they are very special people who I lived with for 18 months. They gave me a great foundation so I could fulfill that destiny of becoming a service dog.
My puppy raisers prepared me to work in busy environments and be comfortable no matter where we were. They spent many hours exposing me to a variety of situations. They taught me to ignore food on the floor and lay quietly under the table while they ate. And they took me to places like Walt Disney World where there were busses to ride, crowds of people to navigate around, and loud noises to ignore. They took me to stores, restaurants, movies, and so many other places.
During those 18 months, I not only learned how to respond to my basic commands but I also learned the important skills needed to be out in public. The skills that would later be so important for me to know so that I would be able to be a service dog. I did go on to do nine months of advanced training after the 18 months with my puppy raisers. My ‘college’ was with professional trainers but I will tell you more about that another time! For a dog to be allowed to go into the types of places I listed above, they must be quiet, attentive to their handler, and able to perform their tasks no matter what is going on.
Have you ever noticed the loud noises that are happening when the streets are busy with traffic? Or the hustle and bustle of people who are shopping in the grocery store or mall? And the crumbs of food on the floor or under a table in a restaurant? As a service dog, I need to ignore these distractions. It is important for me to keep my focus on mom and not let the loud noises or crowds of people bother me. If she needs my help I need to be ready!
If I were to be disruptive or out of control when I was out in public with my mom we could be asked to leave. I can go with my mom wherever she goes because I am her service dog and I do tasks to mitigate her disability. But being a service dog also means I must be well mannered and under good control. My mom says that we should always model good service dog behavior. I don’t think people would look favorably on us if I were misbehaving!
Back to the tasks that I do and the way they resemble tricks. My mom and I like to compete or perform in a variety of dog sports. Not too long ago we did some Trick Dog testing offered through the American Kennel Club.
The AKC offers the following five Trick Dog titles:
- Novice Trick Dog (TDN)
- Intermediate Trick Dog (TDI)
- Advanced Trick Dog (TDA)
- Trick Dog Performer (TDP)
- Trick Dog Elite Performer (TDE)
For the Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced levels you need to perform 10 tricks in front of an AKC approved evaluator. There are provided lists for each level that you use to choose the tricks you want to perform. For the Performer title, you need to perform a short routine using at least 10 tricks. And for the Elite title, you need to perform10 tricks with at least five props and there must be a story. For Elite you submit a video. You must qualify at each level before moving on to the next one.
My mom and I have earned the Trick Dog Performer title. So that means we passed the Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Performer levels! When we worked on these titles the Performer was the highest level. We needed to submit a video to AKC and telling a story was optional. Now you perform your routine for this level using at least ten tricks in front of an evaluator like you do for the previous levels.
For our Performer title, we submitted the above video to AKC. The story we told was about a day in my life and some of the ways that I help my mom. We had lots of fun creating this. I hope you enjoy!