Our Service Dogs are rescued
Getting dogs from shelters and rescues is not only an ethical choice, but it’s also a smart choice.
At Medical Mutts we use the same selection criteria for our dogs as do organizations with a breeding program. We look for dogs with the right temperament, the right age, the right physical traits and the right health. We do not take in project dogs. The dogs that we take into our program come in with all the right qualities to be a service dog. Only a small fraction qualify.
The advantages of training shelter dogs
We sometimes consider rescue dogs as somebody’s reject – a dog with defects or problems. Although in some cases that may be true, there are plenty of dogs that are surrendered just because their owner moved and couldn’t take the dog, was too busy to care for the dog or didn’t have the financial resources to keep their pet. Sometimes, the dogs simply got lost and no one claimed them.
There are plenty of great dogs in the shelters. Some are purebred, others are mixes. Some dogs have the social traits required to be service dogs and the training qualities that we need.
After dogs have been through the trauma of abandonment, they very often develop an even stronger bond with the new people in their lives. The dogs tend to be more clingy and attentive to their caregivers. Those ‘velcro dogs’ are just what we need when training service dogs, especially for conditions such that require the dogs to pay close attention to changes in the person’s physical condition.
There are dogs of all ages in the shelters and rescues. We prefer dogs that are between 1-2 years old. Why so old and not puppies? No matter how good you might be with temperament tests, they have very little predictive value as the dog grows up. Adolescence can bring out inherited behavior traits that can be problematic for service work. By selecting older dogs, we have a much better idea of the dog’s potential.
There are dogs of all sizes and breeds at the shelters. Service dogs don’t have to be of any particular breed. We can train small, medium, or large dogs, depending on our clients’ preferences or needs.
What We Look for in Service Dog Candidates
Friendly and Confident Dogs
Our prospective service dogs are typically between 1-2 years old and exhibit friendly and confident personalities. They must be in good health and possess the necessary physical attributes required for their roles, such as size, nose, and frame. While some are mixed breeds and others are purebred dogs, our careful selection process ensures they have received adequate socialization for effective performance, despite being rescue dogs.
Sound Temperament and Social Resilience
Our evaluation extends to the dogs' innate inclination to be with people rather than exploring their surroundings. We conduct tests involving food, and interactions with people, cats, and other dogs. These assessments gauge their ability to handle physical manipulations, restraint, and reactions to loud environmental noises. We also measure their food drive, which indicates their willingness to accept treats, even under stressful circumstances.
To further ensure their suitability, dogs passing the temperament test undergo X-rays to check for signs of dysplasia and heartworm tests. All our dogs are fully vaccinated and spayed/neutered.
Thorough Testing Process Only 1 in 4 Dogs Qualify as Service Dogs
After arriving at our training facility, the dogs remain under observation for an additional 4-6 weeks before being accepted into our program. During this time, they undergo our rigorous advanced training protocol and demonstrate their capability to handle various situations, including crowded malls, bustling restaurants, loud and busy environments, and doctor's offices. Dogs that raise any concerns about their ability to be safe in public and perform consistently are returned to the shelter or rescue. We believe that even those who don't make it through our program still have an improved chance of adoption, thanks to the training they receive from us.
Finding dogs capable of performing at the level required for service roles is a challenging task, but we maintain our commitment to high standards. Despite their challenging beginnings, these dogs possess the potential to positively change someone's life with the right support.