Her name is Lucy and she's Braden's Chocolate Lab. We obtained her specifically for him, to be his service dog. There's a lot involved in the process of getting and training an autism service dog, but we figured it would benefit our son so we jumped in with both feet.
I'm the disciplinarian in the family, so the task of training Lucy has largely fell upon my shoulders. I'm pretty comfortable training a dog in basic obedience like stay, sit, lay, heal, and even some hand signals. And Lucy knows those things. But I'm not an experienced dog trainer and I have no idea how to train a dog for more specific commands needed to be of service to my son. But with the new laws around service animals that recently went into affect, now is the time to get Lucy more training on tasks that would directly benefit Braden, our 9-year-old who has autism.
It's very difficult to train a dog when both adults in the family are not following the same guidelines. And my wife has never helped me with training Lucy. To the contrary, she usually does what she pleases with the dog even if that means breaking the training I've been working on. It has been a struggle in that regard. My wife feels that if you love an animal you let it do whatever it wants to do. I completely disagree with that theory. In fact, I think animals need and maybe even want discipline and training.
Mainly due to my wife's lack of helping me with Lucy, the dog has become confused about whether she's a service animal or a glorified pet. She had to be confused about her role because I was confused! And we couldn't continue to call her a service dog if she wasn't being trained OR if she wasn't performing a service for our son. So we decided it was time to get her more specific training.
What does my son need a service dog for? What services could Lucy provide? You should know that in order for a dog to be a service dog they only need to provide a single service, not a slew of them.
Here's what we decided; Since Braden doesn't communicate well, if he gets out of our sight he won't respond to his name. For instance, if we're in Ace Hardware and he goes down a different isle than me I may yell his name. "Braden!" I'd shout. But Braden doesn't respond. I can yell his name numerous times and he doesn't respond at all. I just need to hear him shout, "WHAT?" but it doesn't come. Lucy can help with this safety issue because I need to know where my son is.
So we enlisted the help of a certified dog trainer. Right now, in the early stages of this specific training, Lucy is learning to bark on command and to "find". It's starting out simple, but she's catching on quick. And my wife WAS the main person doing the training this time around, but after a week that changed. I am in charge of it again due to my wife's inconsistency with the dog.
When Lucy has these commands down solid we will probably tether her to Braden OR train her to stick right by his side without a leash. Braden doesn't often like to hold her leash. When me and Braden are in Ace Hardware (or anywhere else for that matter), if Braden doesn't answer to his name I will yell, "Speak!" and Lucy will bark to let me know where they are in the store. And, if for some reason, Lucy is not by Braden's side I will give her the Find command and she will go search for him.
As Braden changes and matures he may need Lucy to handle other tasks. We will address that situation when we get there. But for now the dog is officially back in training.
Her name is Lucy and she's Braden's autism service dog.
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