Click here to read part one of “Maia and Me Living with PD”.
Choosing a dog requires careful consideration to make sure you and your future canine companion can meet each other’s mental and physical needs. Keep in mind that puppies may be cute and fun at the animal shelter, but once at home they will require lots of house-breaking and much basic training. Someone with Parkinson’s needs to be very careful not to trip; a rambunctious puppy is likely to be a hazard for tripping. A good choice is a one to two year old dog that is not skittish. Some key characteristics include:
- Calm demeanor and not easily frightened
- Smart learner breed
- Able to go in public areas easily and listen to commands
- In public must have four paws on the ground at all times
- Good around both young children and adults, other pets in public
- Consider other animals in the home with a service dog
- Be sure to care for your Service or Therapy dog. You have to walk, feed, groom, meet their medical needs, and be sure they are a well behaved dog if you’re mobility-impaired.
- Your dog must behave with good manners always, show good training behavior always in public. That’s means no jumping up, barking, snap at others, licking, begging and be able to get away from aggressive persons or other dogs without confrontation.
- No yelling at the dog to do things
Training and care
- Has mastered basic training (sit, stay, come, no, heel, etc.)
- Be trained to go in or on public areas and transportation
- Have all proper vet continued care and all training papers
- The team should always be like the dog is not there always; good training shows
- Voice commands must be met quickly and quietly
- The dog should know not to pull on the lead
- Has gone through AKC training for therapy skills or medical service dog skills, meet the federal ADA laws
- Be certified by the state license trainers and given certificate AKC as a service dog (Note: As of 2015, the State of Florida and Michigan require Service dog certificate by law living in said state. Four other state as of 2016 are now asking to have the same laws: VA, MO, NJ, NY
- International laws require proper certificates and medical letters
- Be able to listen to commands and do them easy with out any distractions
- Can the dog listen to a task command and do it
- Is an appropriate size for Parkinson’s needs
- It is also wise to consider the characteristics of your home as they relate to the dog. For example, some dogs drool, which could cause hazardous slippery patches on a wood or laminate floor
- Consider all weather conditions to work well with you
- Be able to assist in safety of PD person needs
Before choosing your dog, please consider what your current needs are and what you expect your long-term needs to be. Do you see your dog as always being only a Therapy or a Medical Service need dog? As your Parkinson’s changes over time, will you want to expand your dog’s training to that of a Service Dog? Are you or anyone in the home allergic to dogs? Have you spoken to your Parkinson’s medical team about owning and training for a PD service dog on your own? Can you afford the cost of training as your PD changes, your walk changes, voice command changes and your health care changes with the animal? You may want to consider working with a certified trainer for the life of the dog and getting a Service Dog right from the beginning.
Please think fairly and think hard before putting on any fake therapy or fake service vests on any dog stating it is a medical or therapy dog; it is not legal. In the court of law, you can get charged for this. This is not fair to others that have taken the careful time and gone through properly trained and certified service medical dog programs. Please note that TOO many house hold pets with fake service, therapy dogs vest on are out there today, with poor training or no training at all causing issues and harm. Do not take the chance!
In the last part of this series, I will speak about other special considerations to think about before owning a service dog for Parkinson’s.