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Discussion Starter #1
Hello All,

I'm in need of some information, I've been looking into Airedales as candidates to become my service dog. I understand that generally service dogs aren't chosen by breed as much as temperament and we currently have a Westie so we also understand Terrier temperament to some degree. In my case due to the costs with service dogs and since this isn't my first rodeo in regards to training I've decided to train the dog myself with the help of a professional trainer as well.

So some of the reasons I believe the Airedales would make a great candidate are due to it's intelligence, friendly nature, short hair (my son has allergies), loyalty, and general disposition. That said, yes I understand that as a terrier and a hunting dog their nature is to chase prey but I believe that with the right training this can be tempered. All that said please understand that in a worst case scenario if the dog doesn't make the cut, I would still keep them as a highly trained pet. My situation isn't that bad and believe that a well trained pet (CGC) as well as a few specifics may suffice.

SO, the reason I'm writing is more in regards to a concern my wife has with friends and extended family. We met an Airedale breeder today and he mentioned that they make excellent guard dogs and that a stranger would not be able to enter the house, etc. So, we frequently have family from over seas that comes to visit and they may sometimes come inside unattended or another scenario is that we may get a friend to come by to let the dog out, etc. Thus, the question is would the dog become aggressive if someone they didn't know well attempted to enter the house. In addition what about a baby sitter, etc? In short what we are trying to understand is how to accustom the dog to someone new and how long that might take etc? It should also be noted that as part of training a service dog we would be taking the dog to many, many social situations such as stores, fairs, etc. However, in those scenarios the dog will always be accompanied by myself or my wife, thus it changes the dynamics a bit.

Thanks ahead for your input....
Just as an aside Airedales aren't the only breed I'm looking at but they are currently my preferred.

Thanks
Makwa
 

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It will depend somewhat on what type of service dog you are looking to have (not asking you to share, but to consider for your own purposes)... those selecting guide dogs for visually impaired people tend to favor very steady, non-reactive, relatively "low drive" (in the sense that people looking for a sport traditional working dog might consider drive, since many guide dogs will work happily day in a day out without fail) dogs, as those dogs tend to be the safest and best suited for that type of work. I

If you need a dog who can make good decisions on their own regarding how to react when amidst a chaotic public situation, those sort of "steady eddie" dogs are really probably the ideal, rather than the traditional terrier temperament (and airedales also have some history of being used for police/guard work as well, so some may have a streak of defensive behavior toward people in the right situation). If you need a dog to follow directions and help you do various things while under direction from you, a terrier is probably a more feasible possibility, though there is still the risk of dog intolerance, reactivity, and prey drive making them less than ideal public access candidates.

If you are strongly considering getting one for a service dog, it would be an excellent idea to contact the national breed club and inquire as to whether anyone within it is currently using/breeding dogs for that sort of work. They may have breed specific insight on what sort of dogs may or may not work, and may even be able to refer you to someone who is breeding successful service airdales.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks busannie, I don't mind sharing why I need the dog since it may help in the decission process and since this is my nick name anyway. In short I've discovered I have PTSD and mild depression. The dog is a way to get my head in the game so to speak and keep me occupied. Without knowing my Siberian Husky did this for me to some extent before I ever knew my condition or that there were service dogs for such situations. The Airedale actually reminds me a lot of my Seberian, they are clowns with lots of energy but incredibly intelligent. I believe this combination of characteristics along with some training would make a great fit for me. As I write this I was thinking that Airedales remind me of that movie with Robin WIlliams (Patch Adams) and I may have just picked a name for my soon to be companion "Patch". (Heh, I like it). Anyway, as much as I loved my Siberian their are some things about the Airedale's that I believe would make it a better service dog. I know they have been used in many capacities, from war dogs, to therapy dogs and their have been a few instances where I've found mention of a service dog.

As for reaching out to an Airedale organization, I had reached out to my local Airedale resuce organization and wasn't all that impressed with the response. Briefly they stated "We've been asked this question before and service dogs are selected on temperment not breed." While I understand the logic, I don't totally agree. I know of someone that soley uses Briards as autism dogs because of their natural herding instincts. I've also seen other service dog locations that seem to have preferences towards a breed or two.

In anycase, as I mentioned my condition is mild and believe that even if I'm unable to achieve my goal of making the dog into a service dog if he becomes a highly trained companion it will probably be enough.

Thanks & looking forward to hearing opinions...

Wanishin Makwa - Lost Bear
 

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I will preface this by saying although I am fairly well-educated in regards to service dog law and know some bout breed choice I am still fairly new to the game- I'll actually be spending the next 2 years with various program dogs through my school, which is a school that focuses on the study of dog behavior and a large part of the curriculum is encompassed by learning how to train service dogs; the president of the university is Bonnie Bergin, the woman who pioneered the concept in- I think- the 70's. I've also been looking into a service dog myself.

Just to be clear- you MUST be qualified as being disabled under the ADA definition, meaning you have a condition that interferes with 1 or more major life activities. This is something to confirm with a health provider. This doesn't mean you have to be equally paralyzed all the time by your conditions, but they do need to elevate to the level of debilitating.

Second, (out of curiosity) what was the Husky trained to do for you? It sounds like he may have been a natural alerter to PTSD episodes- keep in mind that the alert is something that may or may not be able to be trained. I've heard people claim that taking saliva samples during an attack can be used to train scent detection (rising cortosol levels due to anxiety), but have also heard a lot of people disagree that that is possible. What you can train is the response to various situations (ie, trained to respond to the various "ticks" you have, interrupt mild self-harming behavior like anxious scratching, as well as behaviors like leading to a safe place, going to find help in the event of an attack, clearing rooms, etc).

In terms of your more specific question on breed: There is a school of thought that argues that for dogs specifically trained to mitigate disabilities that stem from anxiety and panic disorders (including PTSD) it is a bad idea to use any breeds with a history of being used as protecors/guard dogs/ any breed likely to respond with a protective nature to the panic response of the handler. Keep in mind, a lot of breeds that can make wonderful service dogs are also breeds that have been selected to pick up on the feelings of a handler and protect them as need with their teeth. Panic disorders are the result of unfounded fear kicking the fight-or-flight response into gear and some people have experienced their view of the world "traveling down the leash" somewhat and making their dogs unfit for public access. Breeds that can be included in this are: Teruvians, Malenois, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rotts, Pitts and Staffies, Mastiffs, to a lesser extent Aussies, Danes, Boxers, and Border Collies.

The breeds most often suggested to people for PSD are Goldens, Labs, and to a lesser extent Poodles and other Gundogs. The base temperament of Goldens and Labs tends to lend itself very well to Service Work. They're cheerful, biddable, happy-go-lucky dogs, with good stamina and able to be bred towards the lower end of the energy spectrum. Poodles are a little more sensitive to their handler, but Gundogs like Retreivers, Shorthair Pointers, Viszlas, and Weims know how to work closely with a person without seeming to become an extension of the person like some Herding and Guardian breeds.

Yes, any individual of any breed can have the right temperament for Service Work. I am considering getting my Boston Terrier pup evaluated as a prospect for myself, actually. I consider her to have an appropriate temperament, decent drive to work, great drive to please, and she is very smart and very tolerant of loud noises/people doing drive-by-petting, etc. I have had another Boston in the past who I never would have considered, and I would never go searching for a BT to be a service dog, because as a whole the breed does has issues (breathing, size-wise, and some are more bulldog/terrier like in their biddability). That said, I would not immediately think of Airdailes as being a good breed choice if the serious goal for the dog was service work. Honestly, I know very little about the breed specifically, but my impression has always been they're one of the biggest challenges a terrier-loving person can take on. I have heard they tend to be a little "guardy", I have read they can be less than biddable and have noticed a lot of mildly reactive Airdales spoken about online. That is not to say that you will never find one that could work, but more to say your chances of ending up with the right one as a puppy is low. If you were looking for an adolescent dog then I'd be more positive about the outlook.

Remember, most dogs don't make the cut. Tiny things that would be OK for pet dogs would be inappropriate issues with a SD. Bottom line, my feeling is that a service dog is medical equipment first and a dog second. It should be almost un-noticable in public. Tiny things like growling or yelping or snapping when a small child runs up ad tugs on tail or ears of hits their flank (yes I know people who've had this happen), reacting or lunging and growling at even a very aggressive dog, growling very softly as a warning to someone not to touch or some closer- these are common, natural responses of a dog that a service dog must not exhibit.

I would also highly, highly suggest getting a dog from a breeder that purpose breeds dogs to some extent. By this I mean one of their breeding goals is to produce service dog type temperaments, and usually this entails the parents having been evaluated and deemed eligible for training, if not one of the parents being a service dog them self (which is less common).

To sum it up: yes, there are some airdailes out their that would probably be suited to service work, but I don't know that the breed as a whole is likely to be a good choice. The above issues of reactivity, dog selectivity, and prey drive all worry me as being general breed traits, though, and not that much can be gleaned of a dog's adult temperament even through evaluation as a puppy. Personally, I would suggest a purpose-bred puppy from a more readily used breed (because there are reasons those are readily used breeds), simply because it reduces the chance the dog will wash out. Regardless, I would suggest finding a trainer who is willing to help you pick out the puppy and choosing a breeder very carefully- ideally finding someone who has a familiarity with the temperament you need for service work if not has dealt with service dogs before, which seems unlikely in this breed- and have the breeders and trainer assist in picking the individual puppy. Also, I would treat it more like "it will be great if this dog manages to to PA work safely" vs "I can't wait until my dog is done training". I would really decide what is more important to you, though, having a pet of the breed you want or having fully function medical equipment in the shape of a dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Thanks all for the great info, I've been fortunate to be directed to a couple of folks here locally that help find service dogs and train them. It took a bit of digging and homework but I've met these folks, and was impressed. I have an experienced trainer who will be going out with me to look at the Airedale pups and see if one may make a good candidate. I know getting a puppy is a long road in regards to training but in my case I think the bonding will do us good. In addition since I've done some training in the past, I think I will enjoy it and it will give me something to occupy my time. That's not even to mention the price difference; I'm still trying to wrap my brain around why a non-profit requires 15-30K to train a service dog. I understand there are costs in regards to care, feeding, vet, etc. but I find it difficult to imagine these costs being that high. I also came across this site Service Dog Training FAQ: Owner Training, Cost, Basics which estimates the costs at around 5K if you train the dog yourself. Now I'm not trying to take anything away from the legit service dog trainers, they provide a wonderful & needed service. It's just that I would love to see a cost breakdown from one of these guys so I can understand what is the big difference...
 

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Makwa,

I believe the difference in cost is due to labor cost. Just because an organization is a non-profit does not mean that all of its employees are volunteers. These employees (including the trainers) need to get paid for the time they have invested in the dog, which is usually thousands upon thousands of hours.

When you train the dog yourself, you are providing the labor for "free."
 

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Not all programs charge so much. Some will ask for a certain amount of money plus whatever else you can fundraise (one I think I remember charges $2500 outright but asks that you try to raise up to 10K), some will ask that you give as much as you can, and has a set goal. From what I remember, $10,000 is a common price, and $15,000 is a little on the high side but still somewhat common. Usually when people are getting program dogs they're augmenting their own money with fundraisers, so they're not really paying the full cost of the dog out-of-pocket.

Why do these dogs cost so much? Because of the man hours it takes to train and raise them, as well as the cost that must be payed by the foundation or trainer out of their own pocket for the dog as it grows up. This includes equipment (like leashes, harnesses, collars, etc), as well as vet care, vaccines, food, treats, etc. Some programs will also have their own breeding program, focusing on one or two breeds and dedicated to producing dogs with temperaments capable of service work, and that can also factor into the price. And yes, as the above poster said, most people who work for Service Dog organizations are not volunteers- this is one of the primary ways in which they earn their money.

I do like that site for the most part, but there are some things I don't agree with, necessarily.

That site quotes certain figures for things like equipment, medical expenses, and food, but IME some of those are a little skewed (ex: I have spent far more than $750 in vet bills for my nine month old puppy when you factor in the general checkup when we first got her, all her vaccines, her spay, and the single emergency vet incident we had so far).

I also do not agree with their quote on training expenses. Unless you live somewhere that training is very cheap and/or already know most of the information you need to to train (ie, right now can sit down and sketch out a training plan for everything from socialization to task training), do not expect to spend so little. I would say I'm already close to that with a 9 month old dog that has been in only 3 training classes (general puppy obedience, an agility class to build confidence and focus around other dogs, and an intermediate obedience class with several reactive dogs that I used as a chance to build focus around reactive dogs), and probably at or past that if you include the various resources (books, articles, informational videos and tutorial videos/articles) I have purchased to expand my knowledge on a thousand different things that I needed to understand more about.

I also do not agree with their statement that Psychiatric Service Dogs are best when they are owner trained. IMO this is a disappointing view-point among the SD community and a little bit mystical for my taste. You can be paired with a program dog that is able to do it's tasks well even if you have not raised it. A dog is not necessarily going to perform better for you because it has been emotionally bonded to you throughout its training, and for a lot of people owner training can be too much to take on. Yes, it can be a lot more gratifying to know how your dog got to where it is and know you're the one that trained it to do these complex things, but it is not automatically the superior choice. A program dog can be just as bonded to its handler and do its work/tasks just as well if it was properly trained. Service Dogs are not magical beings- they are well behaved and useful as medical equipment because they have been trained extensively.

Owner training is exciting and fulfilling, but continue to be aware that there is a very good chance that this pup will not succeed as a SD. Also be aware that with a terrier breed, you may face more access issues than with a lab, golden, or German shepherd. Be prepared for a lot of challenges. Be prepared for your dog to let you down sometimes, and realize that it will take a very long time with daily training before it feels like you really have a Service Dog.

Also, VERY IMPORTANT, know your state's and city's laws regarding Service Dogs in Training. A SDiT being owner trained DOES NOT automatically have the same access right as a fully trained Service Dog. Some states/cities will still offer access rights to SDiT (I know NYC does), some will offer access rights only with "qualified/certified" trainers (ie, not to those owner training a dog, only to those working through programs), and some will deny access rights to a SDiT. Also, I would recommend being clear that the dog is still in training- a dog in training will make mistakes, and it helps public perception of SD's if they understand that the dog's mistake is because it is still in training and not because it is a fake or because service dogs do that a lot. For example, a young dog giving a small bark- very common mistake a SDiT will make, but something that a fully trained SD should not be doing more than once in a blue moon on a very off day. Know these laws and have a patch on the dog's vest that says "in training" or something similar.

It's very good you're found a trainer, and good that they're taking a look at the puppies. Honestly, I would try to be as emotionless as possible when picking a puppy. Do not pick one just because it "chose you" or because it's the cutest/lightest/darkest/has a funny marking, or whatever. Pick whichever one displays the most confident temperament, pick one that displays curiosity as the the source of loud or scary noises, pick one with play drive. Let the trainer steer you in the right direction.

Also, if you're on FB I'd suggest joining a few groups- there a some for PSD's, a lot of Owner Trained ones, and various support groups for SD handlers and handlers with invisible disabilities. I've found them to be very helpful after having a less-than-positive experience on an online SD forum.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Moonstream, & SchnauzerGirl,

Thank you for your insights and information. In regards to the cost bit I can understand that it takes money to train the dogs. However, after driving to and speaking with one gentelman that does this work & he assured me he makes no money from it, it's a non-profit and basically told me his expenses were simply from hiring students to walk the dogs & vet costs it made me raise an eyebrow considering he does all the training himself. In anycase that is neither here nor there as I feel confident in my decision to train the dog with the help of these groups that I described. I also do realize that being a terrier this may make the work more challenging and I may not be able to have a SD at the end. I do have to admit that being new to having this condition I'm not certain exactly what it is that I need & don't need. I've talked to several people and definitley see where a SD could be of great help. Moonstream, earlier in the thread you had mentioned that it's only a SD if you are disabled by the terms of the ADA, but I'm not sure I agree with this definition. I've met a few people who use SD for diabetes or peanut allergies and unless they are in a bad situation the dog is there to alert them of potential danger. However, these same people do have alternative means of treating their conditions presuming they are caught in time (i.e. medications, etc). I feel like I also fall into this latter group, the dog would be with me to prevent me from getting into a bad scenario, etc. That said, if this pup doesn't become a SD, I feel confident that I can get her to a therapy dog level which is yet another benefit in that I feel it would help me as well as others in taking the dog to hospitals, schools, and the like and bringing joy to others lives. In short, I'm very enthusiastic and will take this one day at a time, I accept the challenge but also recognize the risks. Hopefully all will work out, if not I'm sure I'll have one of the best companions I could ask for with some limitations of where I can take him/her. Moonstream, if you wouldn't mind sharing what are the Facebook groups which you have found helpful?

Thanks
Makwa

Wanishin Makwa - Lost Bear
 

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(This is not meant to sound preachy or holier-than-thou, nor is it meant to be an attack, hostile in any way, or to disarm you or lower your excitement about the possibility of a SD. My bad experience on a SD forum started much like this- me asking innocent questions and people dumping a whole bunch of knowledge on me in a sort of attack-y way that felt overwhelming largely because there is just so much to know, and there is a definite tendency for people in the community to worry about people outright faking it and worry about people who are not disabled using dogs when they really shouldn't be. It is hard to get tone across over the internet, and it is late so my filter and writing comprehension are not at their best, so I wanted to clarify the tone so you don't misinterpret where I'm coming from.)
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That is not my opinion or my own definition. It is a legal definition and requirement. You must, by law, meet the legal definition of disabled in order to qualify to use a service dog.

Service Dogs have public access rights under the ADA, or Americans with Disability Act. That in and of itself can tell you something, lol. In the legal ADA definition: "A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability." (From ADA page on Service Animals)

As it says, a dog is a service dog because 1) it is handled by a legally disabled handler, and 2) it is trained to do work or tasks that help mitigate the handler's disability.

To meet the legal definition of "disabled" under the ADA, you must have a condition that interferes with one or more major life activites. Major life activites include (but are not necessarily limited to) caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. A person using an allergy alert dog would have to have an allergy that rose to the level of disabling, and that allergy most commonly is related to the activity of eating. There are also more abstract examples of conditions that happen in the form of sporadic attacks or episodes that affect a major life activity primarily when they are happening- things like Seizure disorders. Diabetes is another more abstract one. In both of these cases, for those handlers to be legally using those dogs, those conditions must rise to the level of a disability.

There are reasons that pet dogs are not allowed in certain places (ie, restaurants, festivals, etc). Some people have phobias of dogs. Some will struggle to enjoy eating their dinner with a dog present. The reason that service dogs are protected under the ADA is because the benefit to their handler's disability is considered overpower the inconvenience/fear/health concerns that the dog poses or causes to other members of the public. Note that a SD does not need to be the only course of action for the handler's treatment, nor does it mean the hanlder is not on medication for the condition as well.

A diagnosis of a condition affecting one or more of these activities is not enough. It must be disabling. Technically, I believe a judge is the only one able to officially rule whether a person meets the legal definition of a disability, but a medical professional in the field should be able to tell you if you would qualify as meeting the definition. Have you talked with your health care provider (ie, psychiatrist) about a service dog and whether or not you meet the ADA definition of disabled? If not, this is a conversation you should be having before you go start training a dog. Not all doctors understand the concept of service dogs, and you should take the time to make sure they do before accepting any kind of letter from them. In order to fly, a doctor's letter is required, and it may help access issues to bring some kind of training documentation (like a training log) to have on hand. Air lines has variable levels of competence when it comes to PSDs. A doctor's letter is not legally required, but it should be a part of the documentation of any Service Dog's legitimacy should you ever be involved in a court case. I don't think anyone can force you to show a doctors letter save a court (and in the case of PSD, airlines can require one), but in certain situations (landlords, if/when cops are called), it may be helpful (although I recommend mentioning that it is not legally required that you show them so that they don't demand to see it from a handler who is not comfortable showing a doctor's note in that situation).

The two things a business can legally ask you is 1) is that a service dog required because of a disability? and 2) What tasks does the dog do to help you mitigate your disability? You should be able to truthfully answer "yes, it is a service dog that helps me with a diagnosed disability and is supported by my doctors" (or just "yes", depending on what you are more comfortable with, haha), and also to explain on some level what tasks the dog does. This can be "The dog alert/interrupts behaviors related to my disability/my PTSD" or you can say "alerts and/or responds to a medical condition", or describe the tasks in some other way.

Note that anything that you feel can be described as mild likely does not rise to the level of disability, although I do not know the nature and extent of what your experience with PTSD might be, so I do not mean to make it sound as if I am passing judgement.

Also realize that SDs can actually be counter-productive in disorders involving social anxiety, because they will make you the center of attention. People will ask you personal questions and strangers will want to make conversation with you. People may also react negatively to you if you have an invisible disability, I know of at least one handler who had been told outright by a stranger to "give that dog to someone who actually needs it."

Keep in mind, a Psychiatric SD must still perform tasks or work. Part of deciding to use a service dog is understanding how a service dog might help you in regards to your disability. When thinking of how a dog can help you, be weary of "task shopping". Do not research and then pick tasks that sound good or useful. Write a list of what you have trouble with or trouble doing, and then think of how a robot could help you. Remember, emotional support alone is not a task or work. It can be a part of having a PSD, but it is not the whole part. Do you have trouble with crowds and want to have a bubble of space? A robot could help you by circling you or blocking you with its "body". A dog can be trained to do both those things in response to physical stress signals that you must train it to recognize.

Alerting to rising anxiety or interrupting nervous behaviors is also a task. Both usually involve the dog either pawing or nosing some part of the person's body in response to something they do when they are nervous (my intention is to train my dog to respond to biting nails, picking cuticles, tapping feet and fingers, and fiddling with my nose piercing and rings among other things).

If you use Deep Pressure Therapy, you can train a dog to do that as well, though there is some debate as to the legitimacy of the task.

Like I said, it is hard to convey tone across the internet, so I hope this didn't come across as harsh or cavalier. Deciding to use a SD is an incredibly personal decision, and it can be difficult to be coming to terms with the entirety of what it means to use a service dog while also gathering information and can be crushing to have someone respond negatively on the internet to what often feels like a miracle cure. That happened to me when I first started looking into it. I'm not sure if you can get PMs yet given the newness of your account but I will try to PM you the information about FB groups and some other references for SD information resources (dont know if it's against forum rules to share), but I wanted to put this on the publicly view able thread instead of only messaging it to you.
 

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I will try to PM you the information about FB groups and some other references for SD information resources (dont know if it's against forum rules to share), but I wanted to put this on the publicly view able thread instead of only messaging it to you.
Hi Moonstream,

Based on my experiences as an active member for almost three years, I can say that I've never seen any problems posting links to FB groups and the kinds of resources you're recommending here.

The links that create problems are:

a) GoFundMe accounts

b) When a newbie comes on to advertise a product or service such as "I'm a great dog trainer and here are my DVDs (for $300!)"

You can always ask the mods if you have any doubts, but I've never had any problem with the links I've posted.

Since I'm sure that others interested in having a service dog will be reading this thread, I think it might be very helpful to just post your links. :)
 
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