You’ve finally made the monumental decision that a service dog is right for you. You’ve weighed the options between an older shelter dog or puppy (fostered litter versus breeder). You’ve come to the conclusion that a puppy is best for you, after all it’s what most owner trainer’s do.
Whether from a fostered litter or breeder bought all puppies are adorable. I mean come on, just look at these faces.
I wanna squish him. Which one is your favorite?
Which one just by looking at this picture is your new service dog prospect?
Keep in mind you’ve never met them and they’re not old enough for a temperament testing.
You picked your favorite, right? That’s the most logical thing to do.
Do you know which one I picked?
None of them.
Wait. What? I didn’t pick one? Why not? How can I not? They’re just too darn cute and obviously your favorite will be perfect for service work.
There lies the big mistake new owner trainer’s make from the very start.
When Anakin’s litter was born my breeder flooded me with pictures of the new babies. Of course I loved them all but in the back of my mind I knew a puppy might not have the right personality and temperament for the work I needed. Because of this possibility I didn’t let myself get attached to any one puppy. I had a frank, real conversation with her regarding if the puppy I took home (assuming one even worked in the first place) didn’t work out for any reason and what my options would be if this happened (another article for another time).
Picking your future service dog is a very important, life altering decision. In most cases, you’re literally putting your life in the abilities of your dog. You can’t make this an emotional decision. The puppy you immediately fell in love with might not be the best fit for your needs.
This decision is about the dog you need, not the dog you want.
For a pet by all means, pick any dog you want, heck, pick them all. Picking your future service dog is a logical decision, not an emotional one. Most breeder dogs or foster litters I see that wash due to temperament the decision was an initial emotional attachment to a puppy far too young. Unfortunately this initial emotional attachment fails more often than it succeeds. Or the training required is extensive and the dog isn’t 100% reliable the way you need. Forcing you to cope with what you have because you had no backup plan.
It was only after the temperament test, handed over my second payment and drove away did it hit me that I had a dog. It wasn’t fully real until I was driving him home a few weeks later. Because I stayed objective and waited before becoming emotionally attached I now I have the perfect partner for our work together.
I know it’s hard, nearly impossible but your future and well being, not to mention your dog’s, rests on this very important initial restraint.