Whenever I tell someone that I've just started training a service dog, the first I always hear in response is, "Oh wow! That's so cool!" Followed quickly by, "So, as a service dog, what does he know how to do?" At this point in the conversation I'm always a little embarrassed and respond a bit sheepishly that Sawyer's still a puppy, so we're really just trying to teach him some good manners right now. Once they've heard that my dog can't really do anything extraordinary (yet, that is) they tend to lose interest.
However, I started thinking about this recently and I realized that even though Sawyer doesn't know how to answer the door for me or get me a coke, he's doing some pretty cool things already. Taking account of the fact that he's only about three months old, it's pretty great that he already will watch me like there's no tomorrow, sit on cue and come when called (in a fairly distraction-less area anyway). In addition, he's just recently perfected putting on his service dog pack when it's held out to him, going into the kennel on his own and, on occasion, stick his nose into his gentle leader.
These things might not seem like much on paper, but I would venture to say that Sawyer's already a lot better trained than some of the full-grown dogs I know. This has truly made me appreciate the Helping Paws program, because not only am I training Sawyer, they're training me to be a good dog owner. And that's something that I'll take with me for the rest of my life!
Photo taken by Kristin Schaack
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