Service dogs require dogs with “the right stuff”. The right stuff is bred from those sires and dams with proven working (and particularly service) dogs in their pedigrees. Great breeders have great demand for their puppies, yet those are the puppies that are most likely to succeed as a veteran’s specialized service dog or as the sire or dam of future service dogs.
Having a reliable source of dogs with the most suitable temperaments flattens the learning curve, maximizes training efforts and shortens wait time for the veterans.
The most successful dogs are those that are actually bred for service work and possess low reactivity to stimuli (not too much prey drive), have no sound sensitivity or resource guarding tendencies in their line, are naturally cooperative with humans, are started early in puppyhood learning how to learn and do not spend their formative months rehearsing bad behaviors or ignoring humans, are of sound structure and temperament, come from healthy stock and are free of problematic allergies or other health conditions.
Why This Able Veteran? Will our puppies be in good hands?
Breeders who may offer puppies to This Able Veteran likewise have questions about the care and welfare of the pups that might be accepted into the program. Where do they go? Who raises them? How are they trained?
Selected puppies go to Carbondale, IL, where they are raised and trained by This Able Veteran’s training staff in their own homes.An experienced veterinarian provides routine care and is available 24 hours a day in case of an emergency.
The dogs’ early training starts with learning a verbal marker system, house training, socialization, developing eye contact, motivational obedience training and learning to ignore distractions. As training progresses, the dogs learn to open/close doors/drawers, retrieve objects, brace for balance and/or pull wheel chairs (age permitting), turn lights on/off, and recognize and alert to anxiety responses. Additional, individualized skills needed by a particular veteran are incorporated with the more advanced training. After extensive training, successful dogs are placed with their veteran at 12 to18 months of age. This Able Veteran follows up with the dog and veteran monthly for the first year and quarterly thereafter.
If you are an experienced professional breeder who produces genetically sound, highly trainable dogs with the character qualities that build a successful service dog, please contact This Able Veteran to learn how you can help our veterans recover from their unseen wounds and come home again to those who love them.
The puppies from selectively bred litters should be further tested at the age of eight weeks to gauge aptitude for service work. Comprehensive puppy tests, such as the C.A.R.A.T. test designed by Suzanne Clothier, are particularly useful tools to compare all the puppies in a litter against a broad spectrum of traits. These tests produce a profile of each puppy’s strengths in one snapshot of time. Taken in conjunction with the breeder’s observations of the litter, the test can expose potential problems early. The “tester” should be someone the puppies have never seen before, and the test may be administered by anyone properly trained in the testing protocol. Ideally, these puppy tests should be recorded and the videos made available for the This Able Veteran trainers to review.
Sire and Dam Considerations
Selectively bred puppies from solid genetics stack the deck in the trainer’s favor and dramatically reduce the risk of fully trained service dogs failing prematurely due to common health issues. The following clearances are needed to manage risk:
- PennHip X-rays and/or OFA Hip certifications
- OFA Elbow Clearances
- OFA Cardiac Clearances (ideally by a board certified veterinary cardiologist)
- Eye exams by board certified veterinary ophthalmologists participating in the CERF (now OFA) program
- DNA Testing for PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)
- DNA Testing for EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse) for Labradors
- DNA Testing for CNM (Centronuclear Myopathy) in Labradors
The sires and dams themselves should exemplify the qualities of temperament and character desired in their offspring. They should be intensely loyal dogs that are eager to please and have a solid work ethic. They should be low to medium energy dogs, confident and approachable. They should function as social icebreakers.