I’ve Been Thinking About Service Dogs

I’ve been thinking a lot about Autism service dogs laity. I have a wonderful dog who already helps me out with a few tasks around the house, but since I don’t want people to know about my AS for now I am going to keep working him in private and places that already allow dogs.

I’ve always been good with dogs, and have spent a lot of time training and working with all the dogs in my life. People often will comment on how amazed they are by my dog’s exceptional public manners. Undoubtedly my boy would pass the Canine Good Citizens Test if I paid to have him certified.

I am able to do a great job passing for normal and pretending everything is fine, even when I am having a panic attack. As a young woman with no obvious disability, I worry that I would have trouble with people saying “you don’t look disabled”. Because of my problems with shutting down during confrontation, trying to explain myself to a total stranger would be my worst nightmare.

Technically, I CAN function in the world as a fairly normal person, but the truth is, I am often struggling while pretending that everything is ok. So does that mean I don’t qualify for a dog even if it could make my life much easier?

My current dog has naturally started to help me in the privacy of my own home in a few ways. Most days getting out of bed is a struggle, but my number one dog is very persuasive, forcing me to get out of bed, refusing to allow me to snooze my alarm more than once or twice.

He also reminds me to step away from what I am doing to take breaks. This is a VERY valuable thing for me, since I work behind a laptop and can get so focused that I forget to eat, take bathroom breaks, etc. He is very in tune with me and seems to know when I am tensing up.

In general my anxiety levels are much lower when I am around any animal, but my dog gives me extra comfort and connection. Stroking a dog’s fur is a fairly socially acceptable form of “stimming” that I truly enjoy.

I saw a video online of a service dog trained to “block” people from getting too close to the handler. The idea of having a dog protect my very sensitive personal space bubble is honestly a very exciting  one for me.

There are are few other tasks that I think I could easily train my dog for that could potentially be very helpful, especially when I am feeling low on spoons / am nearing Autistic Burnout.

Back to the part I struggle with the most – admitting that I need help, dealing with the extra attention that having a dog brings, and the real question – will people hassle me if I train my own dog to help me in the ways that I see fit?

There is a lot of negativity out there about “fake service dogs” and emotional support animals. People can be down right hostile. I’ve heard service dog handlers with no obvious disability tell stories of people confronting them about their dogs, demanding ID, medical explanations, etc. I do not think I could handle people injecting themselves in my business that way.

Generally I am a very private person, that is why my blog is anonymous. I like to be left alone while out in public, and don’t really enjoy talking to strangers. Having a dog might make blending in impossible.

Since the extra training sessions only increase the bond that I have with my dog, I am going to keep them up even if I never have the guts to put his skills to good use.

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5 thoughts on “I’ve Been Thinking About Service Dogs”

  1. Interesting…After retiring in 2012 I began training my first CTD Fred then Honey and now working with three Italian Gray hounds. The threesome each week, visit an Alzheimer’s facility. I think that a basic obedience class for any dog is time well spent for both dog and handler. My Facebook has a number of photographs of my companions. Training with a pet is inspirational.

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  2. I’ve done a lot of reading about this. We got a puppy last summer and the plan is that she’ll be my unofficial support dog. She will perform the tasks she needs to do (mainly keeping me calm) but she won’t have any of the protection that service dogs have. In the UK it is near enough impossible to get an autism dog, even for a child. For an adult, forget it. Especially one that is ‘coping’ like me. So I just try to plan everything around my dog which isn’t easy but it’s just about doable. Having her made an official service dog would make my life much easier, but for now I am just really glad she is around 🙂

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    1. In the US it is allowable for owners to train their own service dogs and business can ask you to leave if your dog does not act polite in public like service dogs are supposed to. I have found that I have a natural ability to train dogs even at complex tasks. Dogs are visual pattern learners and so am I, which makes it easier for me to communicate with a dog than with most people. Also business can not ask you what your disability is here, only what service a dog provides. Service dogs, who have public access, must be trained to do a task and I am thinking I can teach “medical alert” because my boy already seems to pick up and notify me when I am starting to get in an anxious state. If I stop what ever is making me anxious and snuggle him I relax, potentially preventing things from escalating.

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