Service Dogs Alabama (SDA) is the largest and oldest Service Dog training organization in Alabama that trains Service Dogs for children with disabilities.
Published: August 31, 2018
By: Frances McGowin
Author Website: Click to Visit
If you are thinking of getting a Service Dog for your child, there are many things to consider:
Does your child really need a Service Dog?
Service dogs can be life-changing for children and families who really need them. However, they are not appropriate for some lifestyles.
A service dog is not a pet. He does his job over everything. A service dog is focused on one person and expects to be with that person 24/7. They require continued training. So if you don’t have the extra time or energy to devote to having a service dog around all of the time, maybe an “at home use only” emotional support dog trained for tasks but not public access would be a better option for you.
Other things to consider: Do you have toddlers in the house who drop food on the floor all the time? Are there toys everywhere? Do you travel all the time? Do you have a fenced yard? Can you afford high-quality dog food, flea and heartworm preventative medicine, and veterinary visits? Can your child bathe a dog weekly and keep him clean?
Does your child want a service dog? Is he/she able to manage a service dog on his own and make safety decisions regarding the dog’s well-being (such as what to do if a fire alarm goes off OR know if the dog is getting too hot), etc.?
Where will you get your dog?
Best advice, do extensive research! Everybody can talk a good game, name drop trainers and training techniques, and promise whatever you want to hear, but you need to talk directly to several families who have your child’s same disability who have received a service dog from the organization that you are considering. Make sure they have a history and experience placing fully-trained service dogs.
Is there a 100 percent guarantee? What do you get for your money?
If an organization is selling service dogs or requiring fundraising, you want to make sure that your investment has a lifetime guarantee.
Do they provide/require continued training for the service dog and child, or does that stop once the dog is placed with your child?
Children need consistent reinforcements. Without continued training, it is likely that the once-trained service dog may be on the road to becoming a pet.
Is the service dog organization available to help problem solve with public access and tasks, especially with schools and hospitals?
Does the organization know the American Disabilities Act (ADA Law) and all that it entails?
Does the organization know public access protocols and provide this training for dog and recipient? Are they experienced service dog “educators” or do they threaten anyone who questions a service dog’s legitimacy?
Is this the right time to bring a service dog into your child’s life?
Consider your child’s age and abilities and needs compared to what they will be in another year or two. If you can pinpoint exactly what the dog should be trained to do and where the child will be taking his/her service dog for the next few years, it may be a good time.
If his/her diagnosis is changing or unstable and your family may be relocating, you may want to wait so you will know exactly what your child needs and how your family will accommodate a service dog.
Your research has to start somewhere. Service Dogs Alabama (a non-profit organization) has a wealth of information on their website: www.ServiceDogsAlabama.org, and they are available to answer questions.
Service dogs are life-changers for children who need them. Make a checklist of pros and cons, talk to your child and your family, and above all, DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
Acquiring a service dog should not be an emotional decision, but a well-thought-out treatment plan that requires a long-term commitment from your child and your family.
Service Dogs Alabama (SDA) was founded in 2010 by Frances McGowin and Ashley Taylor. They are the largest and oldest Service Dog training organization in Alabama that trains Service Dogs for children with disabilities. SDA is an accepted Apprentice member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the international gold standard for service dog training.