Patrick, GUGP's 2015 Guide Dog Puppy

Patrick, GUGP's 2015 Guide Dog Puppy
GUGP Website

19 January 2016

New Year's Resolution

Part of being a service dog handler is transitioning from one dog to another. Unfortunately for us, service dogs can't work forever. Each dog has his or her own quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, and the transition can be hard.

You're with your service dog practically 24/7 for years on end, which means you both get used to each other's needs, signals, likes, and dislikes. Changing partners is a huge adjustment, and it's nearly impossible not to make comparisons between your previous and current dog (usually in the older dog's favor).
At Muir Woods with baby Kaline (then still in training) and Juno
(then still working mostly full-time).
Which brings me to my New Year's Resolution, which I'm going to do my best to keep: I want to stop (as much as I can) comparing my current partner, Kaline, to his predecessor, Juno. Well, except for right now, since I think it'll be interesting to do in a blog post!

Juno started service dog training when she was an adult, nearing middle age. Even when she was a pet, when we first adopted her, her general M.O. was to follow me around until I sat down somewhere, then curl up at my feet until I was ready to go somewhere else. You can see how that was a really handy tendency when she started working.
Juno during her training period at the San Francisco zoo with
her mentor, Jolanda (front), and SDIT pal, Hunter (left).

Though she was something of a hot mess as an under-socialized adolescent, by adulthood, Juno had grown to be an unflappably calm, solid presence. The only thing I can think of that ever fazed her during her working career was a performer cracking a whip on stage during a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas.
Juno ignoring the festivities of Gay Pride in San Francisco
to pose for a photo.
Juno is also an extremely eager, creative learner. Not only will she do almost anything for food, she also took readily to clicker training. If she doesn't get rewarded for one behavior, she'll start running through a repertoire of behaviors and even think up new ones. Teaching her to do new things—like retrieve, carry objects around, and open and close drawers—was nearly always delightful and struggle-free. (Extinguishing bad behaviors, like her adolescent dog reactivity, was a struggle, though we eventually succeeded!)
With Juno in Las Vegas.
And another fabulous thing about Juno: Being part Lab, she has a basically Lab-shaped body, and thus every single piece of gear I ever got her fit her like it was custom-made for her. You don't appreciate that until you get a weird-shaped dog, let me tell you!
"Everything fits me, and I fit anywhere."
As you can see, Kaline had very big shoes to fill.

Kaline started training as a baby puppy. I like training dogs in general, but I especially love training puppies. They're a blast. But I'd never had my own puppy—Juno was adopted at 18 months, and my first dog, Angel, was about two when we got her. As a puppy, Kaline was a pretty quick learner, food-motivated like Juno, but it was exhausting being out and about with him. I thought I'd been pretty vigilant when working Juno—you're always on the lookout for possible distractions or threats to your service dog—but I didn't have to worry about her behavior. Not so with a puppy! Everything we encountered was a training opportunity: both a blessing and a curse. I quickly learned to wear a bait bag at all times so as not to miss one of these opportunities.
SDIT Kaline works on blocking (also known as covering).
He also wasn't, and isn't, nearly as creative about learning as Juno. Kaline does very well with luring (using a treat to help show him the desired behavior), but becomes easily bored and frustrated if he isn't getting hints. He won't just come up with new behaviors; he'll sit there and stare at you, then decide that your food isn't actually that enticing and go find something else to do.

Did I mention that nearly all of Kaline's gear beyond simple cape-vests has to be custom made? There's a reason he's lovingly known as the Princess Diva.

Where Juno is fairly aloof with strangers, Kaline is a social butterfly with both dogs and people. He just assumes that all new dogs and people are going to love him and be his new best friends. It was much harder for him to learn to ignore people trying to distract him, and it's something we are constantly working on. So many things that just came naturally to Juno, Kaline had to learn, sometimes laboriously over weeks. He had trouble learning to hold a long down-stay, so I began attending the "classic" movies religiously with him every Wednesday night. The ticket packages were cheap ($30 for six movies) and the movies sparsely attended—fewer people to notice if we had any trouble! I think we ended up getting three of those packages, and by the end his long down had improved markedly.

Teaching him to retrieve to hand seemed to take forever. What Juno picked up during one slow night at work, back when I had a job that wasn't dog-centric, Kaline took over a year to put together. Juno is very quick and doesn't need much amping up; once she realized there was a cookie in it for her if she picked things up and gave them to me, all I had to do was point, receive the object, and feed her. What Kaline needed was his Auntie Sonja, a soft zip-up pencil case full of high value treats, and for me to get SUPER EXCITED about everything to do with retrieving. Food just wasn't enough when it came to learning that. He needed me to be far more demonstrative than I'd ever been with Juno. Once Sonja helped me come to that realization, his retrieve improved swiftly and we're now to the point where I can use retrieving an object as Kaline's reward for doing something else.
During a long, boring airport wait, I can now
entertain Kaline with retrieving games.
Enough about Kaline's shortcomings. Now that we've had our own place for a year, I've come to realize anew just what a fantastic partner he is. For one, he is just about the most hilarious dog, service dog or pet, I've ever met. He makes me laugh every single day. Much of the time he falls asleep with all his feet in the air. Sometimes he finds tennis balls on our walks and, since he knows if he can get it home he can keep it, will doggedly carry the slimy object for a mile or so and then cuddle with it when we get back. He also has a huge obsession with sardines, and watching him struggle to contain himself while I make his dinner is endlessly entertaining. Kaline is quite a silly boy when he's not working, and he has no inhibitions about showing it!

Things that Juno does because I ask her, Kaline does because he absolutely loves to do it. Juno is not, in general, a cuddler. She would do deep pressure therapy for me, but she would get off whenever I told her and be very glad to be finished. Kaline will sometimes just do DPT, because he already knows I need it, and he will refuse to get off if he senses that I am still not calmed down enough. As an added bonus, he adores cuddling in bed and basically sleeps on me or pressed against me as tightly as possible. This might sound like annoying bed-hog behavior, but for me, it has improved my sleep tremendously.
Kaline delights in snuggling (off duty) and deep pressure therapy
(on duty).
Momentum pull, a task I use a lot and which Juno never found all that wonderful, is Kaline's calling. Where Juno never really got past needing a target person to follow, Kaline learned to pull in a straight line, follow directional commands, and seek out the path of least resistance in record time. He loves it. He's great at it. It's something you can end up taking for granted, since it seems so natural for him (much like holding long downs was natural for Juno).
Kaline in the early stages of his
momentum-pull training.
And while as a puppy, Kaline could be momentarily unnerved by random things—a fire in a fireplace, period costumes, large plastic figurines—as an adult, I think he's even more solid than Juno.
Kaline as an adult in front of the fireplace that scared him
as a SDIT.
His reaction (or lack thereof) to fireworks never fails to amaze me. We can be in the lower deck at a ballpark, with fireworks being set off on the field, and he just chills out on his mat, either watching the show or staring at me in hopes of getting rewards. I taught him early on that loud noises of all sorts mean he's probably going to get food, and have never regretted this!
Fireworks in Toledo—"Food now?"
He lay by my feet in the front row of Odysseo, a Cavalia show featuring about 30 horses performing each night, and had no problems (well, he didn't really like being splashed by cold water at the very end of the show, but can you blame him?). He still doesn't particularly like trucks rumbling by very close to us, but otherwise, nothing fazes him.
At Odysseo.
Learning to teach the way Kaline learns best—which is not always the way Juno learns best—was a really big part of us becoming a good working team. In some areas he needs more or different motivation than she does, while in others, where Juno needed a ton of encouragement, Kaline's got it, thank you very much, and please stop chattering, Mum. It took a long time, but for about a year and a half or so, we've been working smoothly as a team. It's become much less me showing him what to do and how to do it, and more both of us just knowing what needs to be done.

He now knows all my weird little signals, and I know his. For example, I taught him to shake off on cue because 1) I really don't like it when he does that inside restaurants and 2) even when he's out of gear, each shake off seems to last several minutes, like I just soaked him in water. Kaline knows he isn't supposed to shake in restaurants or when he's doing harness work, so he'll let me know if he needs a quick "shake break" by doing what looks like a head tremor. He'll just twitch his head a couple times, and then wait for me to take him to an appropriate place and give him his cue.

It takes a long time to reach the level of comfort and trust with your new dog that you had with your previous dog. And even though I've had that for a while now with Kaline, I still compare him to Juno (along with other friends' service dogs) far too often. Sometimes you forget that your previous partner had some things they struggled with, and some working quirks you found annoying. No dog is completely perfect, and even the ones you think can do no wrong have off days. It's important to appreciate everything that's wonderful about your current partner, and that's what I've set as a goal for 2016.

Because one day, I'm going to be training NextDog. (Hang out around service dog handlers enough, and you realize that we are constantly thinking about and tweaking plans for NextDog. It never stops.) And when that day comes, I know I'll be wishing I could just work with Kaline forever.


14 January 2016

To know Lee Shenk was to love him

Lee Shenk, GDB Puppy Delivery Specialist: A Friend to All

Lee Shenk, who died on January 8, 2016, was more than just a puppy truck driver.  Lee was a friend to all. Lee loved the puppies. Lee loved the returning dogs. Lee loved the career change dogs and retired guides. Most especially Lee loved the puppy raisers and all the people he met at each puppy stop. Lee loved the opportunity to deliver these wonderful little bundles of warm and squirmy little furballs to their very special homes and puppy raisers.
My memories of Lee's joy and extreme kindness to all puppy raisers is endless. I think of Lee and see a tall man with a wide happy smile looking out over the crowd of puppy raisers from the open door of the puppy truck with a beautiful new pup in his arms and bubbling over with the exuberance he displayed at every puppy delivery stop.

Lee was always poised to begin the fun of handing out new little puppies—sharing the love and joy each puppy brings to their puppy raiser.
Lee carefully puts on a black Lab puppy's collar.
I can't remember for sure the first time Lee delivered one of our puppies. But I can tell you that each and every time he placed a new puppy in my arms or those of any other puppy raiser, I/we all felt it was just us and Lee and our new puppy—a "personal puppy delivery," especially for that one raiser and family, in the spotlight of that moment. We always felt like the special ones.  We knew we were the lucky ones.
Lee with black Lab puppy, Hedy, who later became a working guide made famous in the story "Steady Hedy."

For my family there have been 32 puppies. Some came before Lee arrived at GDB. But once Lee started making the trip to Colorado with the puppies, a deep and lasting impression of his goodness and kindness began to grow with us and other puppy raisers. Over the years, my husband Ken and I developed a wonderful friendship with Lee that was to also include his wonderful wife Deb.

Our deepest expression of sympathy goes out to Deb. There are really no words that can adequately express our deep sorrow. Lee and Deb were a wonderful and fun couple to spend time with. How blessed we are to have been graced with their friendship. And friends forever, they are.

Looking back through my piles of pictures, I have discovered many pictures of Lee gently placing those special little pups into the arms of many puppy raisers. And there I found a picture of Lee enthusiastically placing our dear little Miss Pat into my arms.
Lee hands off Pat to Alice.
Thank you, Lee.  Thank you so much. Little did we realize that it would be Lee that delivered Pat to us and then the following year be the one to drive her on her return trip to the campus in Boring, Oregon, for advanced training.
Lee helps a puppy raiser load his charge into the van to go back for advanced training.
This was such an incredibly special happening for us and little Miss Pat—special beyond description as Pat is the last guide dog puppy we would raise for GDB.

We have chosen now to raise puppies for a wider range of services through service organizations. We always felt totally at ease and comfortable knowing that Pat, as all the pups, was under Lee’s watchful eye and very special care. He treated those dogs like his own and he loved his dogs. This meant everything to us.

Each and every time the puppy truck arrived in Colorado, there was Lee with his infectious smile. Meeting up with Lee each time the puppy truck pulled in for a puppy delivery was like no time had passed since his last visit to Colorado. Timeless!
Lee hands off a yellow Lab puppy to a mother as her daughter looks on.
We will miss you, Lee, so very, very much.  Godspeed, dear friend. Just knowing you were doing what you loved and what we all loved for you to do—delivering our four-legged bundles of joy—was a special and comforting thought for us all.

We pray you are now surrounded by all those guides and career change pups that crossed the rainbow bridge ahead of you and will now snuggle up close to you as they remember your gentle and caring ways, when they too traveled with you across the western United States.

We can never forget your smile, Lee.  We will never forget you, standing there so tall with that wonderful broad and joyous smile at the puppy truck door. The kindness, joy and friendship you spread at every puppy delivery, to all of us, is our gift from you. Thank you, our dearest Lee.  Thank you again for all you gave us beyond our sweet little puppies.

God bless you, Lee, and God bless your dear Deb and special Sigmund.

Alice (& Ken) and all our pups, especially Cotton and little Miss Pat

12 January 2016

Choosing a service dog breed

Editor's Note: Not all of the breeds pictured are suitable for inexperienced handlers/trainers. However, in the right hands, they can be excellent working partners.
Service Dog Cow, Pointer/American Bulldog Mix
Service Dog Luke, Plott Hound/Lab Mix
Service Dog Watson, Standard Poodle
You've done your research, spoken to family and friends, and you've decided a service dog will be a valuable part of managing your disability. Now you need to pick a breed.

First and foremost, the most important tip you'll ever hear: Do not assume you'll be the exception to the rule. 

The goal of having a service dog is to be able to gain back some independence. Getting the same high-energy breed you had and loved as a kid now that you're an adult couch potato is not such a good idea. Just like when training our dogs, you want to set yourself up for success.

I'll mention this a lot throughout the article: It's about the specific dog, not the breed. It's important to remember that dogs are living creatures. They will all have their own personalities. Knowing the common issues for breeds is going to help you narrow it down from all to a few, and from there you can start to look at the individual dogs instead of individual breeds.

You'll also need to research your breeder and the lines they have. Just because a breeder is registered or has papers for their dog does not mean they're a responsible breeder. Take the time to ask questions, see where the dogs are raised, ask around.

Good First-Time Service Dog Breeds

These are just examples, and good first-time breeds are not limited to those mentioned here.

Labradors: There's a reason these are some of the most commonly used dogs. While not all Labs will be happy-go-lucky lovers, there are a lot of responsible breeders out there with some fantastic working lines.
Service Dog Daphne, Yellow Labrador
One of the best things about these dogs is the general public recognize them as "working dogs." Yes, they generally recognize them as guide dogs, so you may get a few comments about that. However they're also likely to instantly connect a guide dog handlers' well-known right for public access to you and your dog, causing you fewer issues.

Golden Retrievers: Again, there's a reason they're common. While grooming maintenance will be a little more for Goldies than Labs, they tend to be a willing and loyal breed.
Service Dog Sky, Golden Retriever
Standard Poodles: A wonderful breed, but do take a lot of grooming. Keep in mind as well that a service dog's level of hygiene and grooming compared to a pet dog are generally worlds apart.
Service Dog Watson, Standard Poodle
Some lines of Poodles have shown aggression issues stemming from fear. So, as with all dogs, well-balanced socializing is key.

Collies (Smooth & Rough): An incredibly smart breed with a good will to work. However, if you can't keep up with them, they'll leave you in the dirt. Remember to match your potential breed with your own lifestyle. Don't get a Collie if you're hoping to go from a couch potato to a world class mountain climber. Because if you don't make it to be a world class mountain climber and this dog is left to sit around all day, you will suffer. They will find their own thing to do and you will most likely not enjoy it. There are very few dogs out there who wouldn't love to go exploring with you, no matter their breed. So be sure to match a potential dog with your potential worst day to give you the best chance of success.
Service Dog Lucas, Rough Collie
Service Dog Billy, Smooth Collie
Greyhounds: A newer breed in the world of service dog work, they're quickly picking up popularity. More and more people realize these dogs are bred for sprints, not endurance. They give you the large size which most people appreciate, without the buckets of energy.

However, they are restricted in some countries. So please be sure, no matter what breed you get, to think long term. Do you plan on travelling? Ask around and see if there are any odd breeds that are restricted in places you're likely to go. In Australia, unless a Greyhound has passed a special test they must be muzzled at all times. Will a muzzle get in the way of your dog's tasks?

This leads me to an important tangent. It's important to be honest with yourself about the impact a dog's breed/looks will have on your life.
Service Dog Cow, Pointer/American Bulldog Mix
You're about to start going out into public areas with a dog, like it or not people will stop, they will point, they will try to take photos, they will notice you more.

The breed you choose will affect things like public access. Cold hard truth here, and I'm sorry, but if you go for a bully breed type dog over a Lab, you may find more people acting like morons around your service dog. Of course that's not always the case. I had a Shar Pei service dog in training that I worked with briefly. A lot of people would take the time come over and express how wonderful it was to see a "bully breed" out in public working so nicely.
Service Dog Doogan, American Pit Bull Terrier
So the public may not always have the reaction you think they will. Nonetheless, it's something you have to be willing to consider in great detail. Once again, please don't assume you'll be the exception to the rule. Going off of that belief will only heighten your chances of failure, especially if this is your first service dog. Please think about your options and set yourself up for a win.

Poor Breed Choices for First-Time Service Dog Handlers

Service Dog Shanti, German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherds
Any brachycephalic breed
Any breed that will have a short working career such as a Dane or Mastiff

I won't go into all of the reasons for these because basically they're all the same. These are breeds that are incredibly intelligent and often this intelligence comes with a lot of free thinking.

These breeds can without a doubt make wonderful working dogs, but you need to know how to work with them. Experience is important here. You can, of course, be one of those people who just gets on with it and does fine, but you're trying to set yourself up for a win, remember. So take steps towards these breeds by all means! But don't just jump in because you saw one on a show once and they were amazing.
Service Dog Link, Icelandic Sheepdog
Brachycephalic breeds are not on here (squashed-faced dogs, like Boxers, Bulldogs, Pugs, etc) because they can't make wonderful working dogs. They can. However, if you don't know how to work a dog and condition them and read their body language, you'll likely miss the important warning signs of their health issues and they'll be washed out earlier than need be. These types of breeds take a lot of care and usually for a first time service dog handler, it's a bit overwhelming.

Finally, the slow-to-mature breeds. Again, there's always the exception, but on a whole these types of breeds tend to be more difficult for first-time service dog handlers because they can take longer to mature, which can be tricky when you're hoping to have a dog to support you.

If you're going to go with a giant breed, it is even more important to make sure you find a very reputable breeder and know your breed inside and out. The bigger the dog, the bigger the health issues they tend to have.

Factors To Consider When Considering a New Prospect

Size at maturity: What is the size of the breed that interests you? Keep in mind that males and females can often differ in sizes. It may not be much, but those extra three inches can be the difference between a safe working dog for mobility support and a huge vet bill. Please don't go to a breeder who breeds above-standard sizes—this is a dodgy way of breeding and I can guarantee they're not a reputable breeder if they do such things.
Service Dog Rico, Papillon, and Service Dog Travi, Chocolate Labrador
Longevity: This is a big one to consider when thinking of larger breeds for mobility assistance work. Another factor to investigate is the average lifespan of a breed. Please be sure, once again, to be honest with yourself about this issue. You may have heard of that one exception to the rule, a Great Dane who lived to be 10, but know that as a whole the breed on average lives for 5-7 years.

A larger or giant breed dog may not mature until well after their second birthday. Make sure to consider its working longevity as well as its general life expectancy. Most Great Danes, while living for 5-7 years, only get 2-5 years of solid mobility work in, as they take longer to mature and if pushed into work too young will need to retire sooner as well.

Hereditary breed traits: Each breed was developed for a purpose. While there are always an exceptions to the rules, you need to think about the general standards of breeds. This dog will be there to make your life easier. Picking your breed based on false or unrealistic possibilities will likely lead to issues for both you and your future partner.
Service Dog Apollo, Australian Shepherd
If considering a breed developed for hunting, herding or guard dog work, realize that the traits that made a dog of that particular breed an excellent hunting dog, an effective sheepdog or a successful guard dog do not disappear just because the traits are no longer highly desired by most dog owners. The ancestral urges to hunt, swim, chase livestock, sound an alarm, kill predators or drive away strangers that dare approach are likely still there lurking under the surface.
Service Dog Gir, Shetland Sheepdog
Guardian breeds or breeds originally bred for fighting/aggression can be a little more difficult for the newer handlers to train. If you choose to ignore this warning and work with a stronger breed, please respect their heritage. Learn how to train with their breed traits, using their weak points to turn into strong points and strengthening the traits you were attracted to originally.
Service Dog Evan, Doberman

Be sure to consider the traits of your own disabilities as well. Breeds with these types of instincts are not generally suggested for people with psychiatric issues as they can become overly protective in times of trouble.
Coat Care: A simple point that a lot of people don't take into full consideration when making the final choice on breed is that a service dog must be kept at a very high level of grooming and hygiene as they're in areas not usually open to dogs. Once again, please be brutally honest with yourself about this.
Service Dog Sulley, Mixed Breed (aka Slovakian Mop Dog)
Picking a service dog takes a lot of planning and thought. If you don't think you'll have the financial or physical ability to manage the grooming needs of your final chosen breed possibilities, then take some time to reconsider.

Age: One of the most important decisions to make is whether to start out with a young puppy or to seek an adult dog, 18 months to three years old, which can commence training immediately. This is a huge thing to consider and has its pros and it's cons.
Service Dog Willow, Bully Mix
If this is your first service dog, I would suggest starting with a young adult so you have more of an idea what you're working with by way of temperament etc. While training can take up to three years to transition from service dog in training to Service Dog, it's generally easier for an adult dog to get into work sooner as they're physically and mentally more mature.

Gender: A female usually is smaller and has a shorter coat/less feathering when compared to their male counterparts if spayed. A female is equal to a male in terms of competency in this career. Both genders tend to be pretty even in temperament, but do take into consideration desexing (neutering/spaying).
Service Dog Bindi, Kelpie
Females who are intact may have issues with hormones and spot bleeding, whereas males who are intact may have issues ignoring other female dogs who're in heat.

Keep in mind, there's a lot of interesting research being done about when and how to alter dogs. So please consult a vet and/or do some research online for further information about the pros and cons of these choices to make sure you have the latest information.

Bottom line, everyone is different. Just as every dog is different.

Please take all of these things into consideration when choosing a breed. It's not a decision to take lightly.

Robbi Flynn
Robbi is a service dog handler in Australia who owner-trained her dog, Musa. She can be reached through her website.

05 January 2016

When not to crusade

One day, I was browsing through my newsfeed on Facebook, as per usual, when an interesting photo popped up. It was a peer of mine holding her dog in a locally owned arts and crafts store. I looked at the comments, and the most recent was one of her friends asking: “Wow, they let you bring him in the store?”

For some people, this would have alarm bells ringing in their head. Because somebody is obviously going to reply, “They asked me if he was a service dog, I said yes and that’s all I had to do,” or “Ha ha, yeah, I just say he’s a service dog and they can’t kick him out.” It’s a struggle many handlers have come across. “Fake” service dogs, or more accurately, pets that are portrayed as service dogs, are certainly a problem for service dog teams. I know of some teams where the service dog has had to either go through retraining or be retired from work entirely, due to an unfortunate encounter with a pet dog in a place where the pet should not have been.

Yes, it would be a real kick to the face for this peer of mine to have responded with affirmation that she had, in fact, misrepresented her pet as a SD. Considering we have had classes and outings together, before and after Velvet and I were a working team; I should have every right to go in tooth and nail, bombs away, right? How dare she do this to me, to other teams?

No. All I had seen was a photo and the poster had not responded with any indication that she had posed her companion dog as a service dog. In fact, my phone had a notification that there was an additional comment on the photo. Scrolling down, she had responded to the person asking how she took her dog into the store. Her response: “I asked the owner if it was okay if I brought him in.” Bingo! Some stores, as long as they are not violating health department codes, are pet friendly. I commented explaining how some non-pet stores can be pet-friendly, and was thanked for the explanation.

Now, imagine if I had gone in prepared to start a war over this. Feelings probably could have been hurt over my assumption. Rather than being known as a friend who would gently educate, I would be known as a trouble-maker who can’t enjoy a good photo of a cute dog in a dog-friendly store. Also, this person knows I am a service dog handler. What example would I be setting for her as one of her few, possibly only, friends who uses a service dog to mitigate a disability?

How long did it take to avoid potentially starting a fight? About five minutes. Unless a person is blatantly saying, “I’m just saying my pet is a service dog to get him into stores,” we cannot know the full story behind a picture. Many people are uneducated about the laws behind service dogs. How many handlers knew all of the laws before utilizing a service dog to improve their daily life?

I am not saying to sit every person down and start with the history of service dogs being utilized. You do not have to go out of your way to educate, especially when you have your own daily life schedule to attend to. All I am saying is, be kind and do not make assumptions. Proper education of service dog laws in America is desperately needed. Simple misunderstandings due to  lack of service dog education are experienced by different teams every day, such as a greeter saying “Dogs aren’t allowed in here,” or a child exclaiming, “I didn’t know they let dogs in here!” It doesn’t take an entire lecture to gently educate these simple misunderstandings.

With the emergence of social media, many people have assigned themselves the task of hunting down fakers. Do some people blatantly pose their pets as service dogs, knowing exactly what they are doing? Of course. There are also many other cases that could be the story which people do not know. What if the person has been advised by their health professional to get an emotional support animal and is not educated about the different between ESAs and service animals?  What if the individual does have a disability that could be mitigated by a service dog specifically trained to assist with the individual, but doesn’t know how to get started? Until the full story is posted, assumptions should not be made about a snapshot.

Many misunderstandings service dog users encounter with the public are not direct insults to the team, but simply a lack of education. This is why I am glad Growing Up Guide Pup is dedicating themselves to educating the general public in various ways. Aside from laws, Growing Up Guide Pup also showcases the adventures of puppy-raising, introducing readers to the various types of service dogs, and much more. Even as a service dog handler, I love reading the articles that are posted by guest bloggers and watching Matt and Amie’s vlogs of their puppy raising adventures. The website, videos, and social media tools utilized by GUGP are a vault of valuable educational tools.