Autism Service Dogs
We are currently considering a dog for our son too
you can start here
Okay, this is LONG! But we just went through your thought process not three months ago.
Eight weeks ago, we got a nearly two year old Golden Retriever from a rescue organization with the intent to train him as a therapy dog for our son.
I first looked at some of the organizations you saw in the links above.
But then I used the search feature here on the boards, and put the word dog in the string for the topic header. Somebody had BAAAAD things to say about the dog they paid over ten thousand dollars for...from one of these agencies....and they dog was supposed to be fully trained and ready. It was aggressive and bit the wife on the second day in the house. Had to be sent back.
My negative reaction to these groups, although I've read delightful things about many of them are these:
You cannot choose a puppy or dog yourself that will be the best candidate for a service animal. You can try as best you can, but realize that the ultimate results may not nearly be what you want. I have learned this from Joshua, a professional service dog trainer, who sometimes comes onto our site.
Decide this...do you want a Companion, Therapy Animal, or Service Animal.
A companion for your child can offer unconditional love, but you must learn to train the dog and speak to the dog appropriately. The Dog Whisperer Show has scads of companion dogs that have horrendous behavioral issues...all instilled by owners who did not go to obedience classes or learn how to make the animal understand that it does not rule the house. When your puppy hits four months, YOU NEED TO TAKE HIM TO OBEDIENCE CLASSES. And don't do PetSmart...get a private person and do group lessons. In the meantime, get a good dog training book and start basic training yourself.
Do you want a therapy dog that is so well trained off leash and well documented in his training that he can go into your child's school during approved Reading With Rover times? Are you willing to take a year to do lessons and daily practice?
Or do you want to raise the money for a service animal that can open doors, turn on lights, get cokes out of the fridge and open the caps, stop seizures by stimulating your child, and is so highly trained it could probably be in the dern circus? Service animals take years of daily training and practice (by professionals), but can fly in the airplane seat next to your child and go with your child into the hospital to go visit Grandma after gallbladder surgery. A service dog can go into a five star restaurant with your child, go onto a cruise ship with him, and go to the World Series with him.
We decided that Cole has no need for a full bore service dog.
We do think a therapy dog...that can go "retrieve" Cole by the tail of his shirt should he wander off...can be still while Cole reads to him...can be told to stay with Cole and fifteen hours later, he is STILL next to him...having neither eaten or drank or peed...that will stop Cole from going into the street...is truly what we want and what I'm prepared to take time for.
In the meantime, our Riley is a great companion to Cole and his brother. I have taken a HUGE chunk of time to teach him to walk calmly on a leash, not eat our cats, not pee or poop in the house, come on command, sit on command. We have taken two obedience classes so far, and he's learning to heel without a leash...sit and stay without a leash...and to lie down and stay upon command.
Sorry for taking up so much time. I just thought some of you could benefit from the hours of time we've spent online, talking with professional trainers, reading, etc. You can train your own dog, if its personality fits, and you are willing to be precisionlike in your consistency with it...and if you can make the time.
Here's a link to the Golden Retriever rescue group...they have affiliate in the northeast, the Gulf South, and other parts of the country. If you want to skip the puppy chewing, peeing, digging, etc...I highly recommend Golden Retriever rescues as awesome "used dogs". Tell them I sent you!
Cole often asks for Riley to take a bath with he and his brother...here they are! Riley is kissing Cole, who is just tickled pink!
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