Are You Ready?

Training your own Service Dog can be stressful. Before applying to the AVSDA training program, please take some time to consider your wellness and where you are in your treatment plan.

Thoughts to Consider

Drew Sanders, AVSDA Board President, LCPC, Major, USMC-Ret

It is important to note:

In the AVSDA training program you do not receive a fully trained dog, ready to come to your aid when needed. Instead, you are your own (or your AVSDA foster) dog's trainer. Though the goal in training your own Service Dog for PTS is to help you regulate and reduce symptoms, it is important to know adding a new family member, especially a young, still-learning-canine one, can increase the very stress the dog is intended to help reduce.

Spending some time taking an honest inventory of how you feel, and weighing the pros and cons of training your own Service Dog can help guide your decision. So can frank, honest discussions with your mental health professionals and your family members, who can help you determine whether you are ready to apply to AVSDA.

Some important possibly stress-inducing considerations include:

  • Having to get up, get dressed, and walk your dog several times every day

  • Going out to practice training in public settings

  • Purchasing pet food and supplies

  • Cleaning up messes when accidents happen (and they do happen, even with the most trained dogs)

  • Losing valuables the dog might chew (you will need to be vigilant and put things away)

  • Keeping your home dog-safe to prevent accidents and injuries

  • Being looked at spoken to, and talked about by strangers in public places

  • Having your dog looked at, spoken to, and inappropriately touched by strangers when out in public

  • Worrying about not doing a good enough job

  • Resenting your dog, or feeling disappointed when the "new" wears off

  • Worrying about illness or the future loss of your dog

  • Worrying about money and dog related expenses

  • Feeling annoyed by family members' interactions with, and reaction to, your dog

While it is unlikely you will experience all of the stressors mentioned, there's a likelihood you will experience at least some of them at some time while training your service dog, and even afterward when you have completed this program.

And yet...

Many of the stressors listed above, when viewed differently, can come into light as your new "mission" to overcome with your canine battle-buddy!

  • You have a reason to get up, get dressed, and go for several walks every day; your best friend depends on you, and you'll both feel great once you are actually out there, doing it!

  • Practicing training in public settings doesn't require you to go places you wouldn't normally ever go; and when it is tough, your dog is right there by your side, needing you as much (or more, in the beginning) as you need her! You feel more strong and capable knowing you can handle it together!

  • Feeling needed, as a provider, is a good feeling. Going to get the food, you are a a great partner!

  • Cleaning up messes and maintaining a calm, forgiving attitude helps you model the sort of care your dog will soon be reflecting back toward you, when you are in a time of need!

  • It's just stuff; and having a dog who reminds you to pick up after yourself will result in a tidy, more comfortable home environment for both of you!

  • He's your best friend; of course you want to keep your shared environment safe for both of you!

  • When unwanted social interventions happen, you will protect your team by changing your behavior, to show your dog how it's done; later he'll be able to help you out of a similar bind!

  • Same as the previous answer!

  • Your dog is forgiving and trusting; you will learn from her example that you are doing your best and are trustworthy!

  • Every new parent, with the ultimate bond that can occur between two living beings, has moments of doubt and resentment as he or she adjusts to shifting from "I" to "we". You will learn to be patient with yourself and your dog, knowing tough moments do pass, especially if you are calming yourself by playing with or petting your dog!

  • Loving someone deeply is two-edged, and loss is inevitable. But until you are facing that difficult day, when-because of love-you will find the needed courage to see your partner through it, every other day your dog will remind you; "Not today!"

  • This is a legitimate concern when money is tight; but there are plenty of organizations willing to lend a helping hand to keep you and your dog together and healthy!

  • Again, yes, that can be really annoying; but the best remedy is to focus upon and teach them what you want them to do, rather than what you don't want...just like you'll learn to do when training your future-Service Dog!