Before you seriously consider getting a service dog, there are a lot of things
you need to think about. Service dogs require a lot of money for their upkeep, a
lot of time for initial and ongoing training, and will drastically change your
life for the many years they are with you.
The following items are paraphrased from an article by Kea Grace in Anything
Pawsable, an online magazine for Service and Working Dog owners, and give great
insight into how your life will change if you get a service dog:
- Service Dogs Are Not Pets
Service Dogs possess highly specialized skills meant to aid you in your day to day life. They are not meant to merely trot along after you or to help you present an image.
- Service Dogs Mean You Will Never Be Alone
Are you prepared to have a dog within two to six feet of you for the rest of your/its natural life? In order to perform their tasks, most Service Dogs have to remain in close proximity with their handler. When you move, they’ll usually move. They’ll follow you from room to room. They’ll sleep under your desk or at your feet while you work or watch a movie.
- Service Dogs Require Daily Maintenance and Care
Service Dogs, like any dog, are living creatures. They require daily nutrition, exercise, relief breaks, and mental stimulation. They need to be groomed regularly, and they must have their emotional needs met. There are no days off from this.
- Service Dogs Aren’t Easy to Get
Getting a Service Dog is far from easy. You can’t just go down to the Service Dog tree and pick the perfect one. Whether you decide to get a Service Dog from a program or to owner-train your own Service Dog, it’s a long, hard, and quite often, expensive road. And frequently, there are long, hard waits, for either the program to train your dog, or for the right dog to come to you so you can train your dog.
- Service Dogs Mean You Will Have to Talk and Talk and Talk
You will never, ever, ever be invisible ever again. Going anywhere with a Service Dog means you’ll have to stop and answer (the same 4) questions for most adults you pass, and almost anyone with a child. You will have to educate shop owners and big box store managers. You'll be used as a teaching opportunity for toddlers and elementary schoolers. You'll be asked over and over and over again about your dog, your medical history, your disability, and other private details about your life.
- Service Dogs Require Lots of Ongoing Training
You have to maintain a sort of professional relationship with your Service Dog, and that means continuously upholding your dog’s training and skill sets.
- Service Dogs Need You to Be Assertive
When you have a Service Dog, you and you alone are responsible for standing up for both yourself AND your dog. You will have to tell people they can’t pet your dog. You will have to ask them to not make noises at or otherwise interact with your dog. You’re going to have to learn how to say “no” to a lot of people.
- Service Dogs Necessitate a Sense of Humor
People are going to say and do the strangest things to you, to your dog, and/or around you or your dog. Your Service Dog will do some pretty groan-inducing things at least once or twice.
- Service Dogs Mean You Will Be Ignored
Coming after the first point which can be summed up with, “You’re never going to be invisible again,” this one sounds a little strange. However, it simply means that you, the person, the human half of this Service Dog team, are going to be ignored on a routine and regular basis.
- Service Dogs Mean “Spontaneous” is No Longer a Thing
You are never going to be able to just pick up and go somewhere or do something ever again. Having a Service Dog is akin to having a toddler. Where’s the treat pouch? Where’s the Gentle Leader? The regular collar? Is the right tag on the collar? Where’s the vest?