Getting a service dog is one of the biggest blessings in life for those of us who have disabilities. The benefits of having a partner, like my dog Justice, can be life changing. However, that does not mean that service dogs do not come without their own set of challenges. Here are 4 things you should know before you get a service dog:

Getting a Service Dog is a Big Commitment – What Should You Know?

Service Dogs Require a Lot of Training!

That is worth repeating: Service dogs require a lot of training! It does not matter when you get the dog, they must be trained to meet your needs. A handler can expect a minimum of six weeks, all the way up to 6 months of additional training. Training is a never ending process of identifying how you will both work together. 

Here’s a few things you will need to train your dog: 

  • Commands
  • Your schedule 
  • Communicating when the dog isn’t feeling well
  • Specific Tasks around your disability
  • New situations, as they arise

Daily, Routine Care is Not Optional

Your service dog will require daily care, just like you do. This goes beyond the routine of eating, walking, pooping, and peeing. Service dogs require just much care as all other dogs do. 

There are many ways you have to care for your dog that you wouldn’t expect:

  • Grooming
  • Vet Care
  • Travelling to Different Climates (Dogs must wear shoes in hot climates!)
  • New beds, leashes, and dog dishes for home and travel

 There is a lot that goes into keeping a service dog happy and healthy, which leads me to my next point.

Things Take More Time With a Service Dog

Activities take more time once you have a service dog. You have to be sure the dog has what it needs, whether the activity is routine or not. For the most part, with a little bit of planning, routine activities are slowed only slightly. 

But, like anything in life, you should be prepared to exit your routine. Here are some things I do to be prepared:

  • Carry a water dish
  • Always bring water along
  • Bring dog shoes (Cold in the winter and heat in the summer is bad for a dog’s feet)
  • If their is going to be loud sounds, bring headphones for your dog. 
  • And more…

I always have my “Doggy Daycare Bag” on or near me, just incase the dog needs something.

Keeping Your Dog Healthy Is Good For You and Your Dog

My former dog, Shanti, lived to be 19 years old. My vet told me the reason that my dogs do so well is because I take rigorous care of my pets. Keeping your dog healthy not only benefits your dog, it also benefits you. Keep in mind, the success of you and your dog are deeply intertwined. 

Here are things that you can do to keep your dog in good shape:

  • Health Checkups
  • Heartworm and other regular exams
  • Yearly Teeth Cleaning
  • Healthy Diet
  • Not over-doing Treats
  • Regular Exercise 

Remember: Your Voice Matters!

Education about the rights, responsibilities and benefits of owning a service animal can be life changing for the people who need it most. Sharing this article helps get the word out – So tell a friend, a family member, and anyone you know!

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