When Dogs Fly: Tips for Flying With Your Service Dog

Today I flew from my home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to my hometown in Maplewood, New Jersey. Naturally, I took Daphne with me. Daphne has only flown once, three years ago when I took her home from her program in Albuquerque. Daphne is a solid service dog. She has great nerves, she’s focused on her job, and she approaches new challenges with a delightfully quiet demeanor. I have never been worried about Daphne. It didn’t matter whether we were on a subway in New York City or sitting through 3-hour lectures in school, Daphne had public access down to a science.


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Nevertheless, I was worried about flying with her. The biggest challenge with flying is you can’t simply “get off” the ride. Your dog needs to behave well enough not to be a nuisance in a small space and she needs to do it for an extended period of time. This is hard for full-grown humans, let alone a dog.

In the end, Daphne did great. She was polite and non-intrusive and she won over all of the passengers that noticed she was even on the plane (which was only a handful of people). The friendly folks over at United Airlines were extremely accommodating and it was just a pleasant trip.

Before I left, I set Daphne and myself up for success by going prepared. I came up with a list of things that were helpful for me when flying. You may notice that some of the things on this list go above and beyond the parameters of the ADA and ACAA, but in my opinion it’s best to be over-prepared.

  1. Alert the airline that you will have a dog with you

    If you buy your ticket from Expedia or a similar site you will usually have the choice to notify the airline that you will have a service dog with you. It’s just a simple check in a box when you pick your seats. A lot of sites don’t have a choice for “general service dog”. The one I used had “guide dog” and “hearing dog”. I checked “hearing dog” (even though Daphne isn’t a hearing dog) and went prepared to explain the situation. If you aren’t given this option when you purchase your ticket, call the airline and notify them. In the end, it’s best to give the airline notice well in advance. Because I notified them early United left the seat next to me empty so Daphne could have some room. They also knew to look for me when we started boarding.

    Keep in mind that advance notice might be legally required based on the length of your flight and the country you’re flying to, so advanced notice is always a good idea.

  2. Know your laws and have the necessary paperwork

    8e9Your rights to have a service dog on board an aircraft are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. They’re actually protected by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). There are a few key things that you need to know about the ACAA before flying:

    -Foreign carriers are required to comply with the civil rights protections outlined in the ACAA if they fly into or out of the United States. However, foreign countries that require that all animals coming into the country are quarantined can apply for a waiver from this requirement. Before you leave, make sure you’re not flying into a waiver country or they may not let your dog off the plane.

    -If your flight is longer than 8 hours, the air carrier can request legal documentation stating that your animal will not relieve itself during the flight or that your dog will do it in a “sanitary manner” and they can define what they think is sanitary.

    -To fly with an emotional support animal (ESA), you need to have a doctor’s note stating that you are disabled and require the animal. If you have a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD), a dog that performs task or does work for people with psychiatric disabilities, you may also need a doctor’s note to legally fly. It’s not fair, but it’s the law.

    -Make sure your dog fits under the seat (more on this later). The airline does not have to transport your service dog if she will block another passenger’s seat or an exit row.

    -Unlike the ADA, the ACAA does allow air carriers to request proof that your dog is a service dog. Legally, they have to ask a series of questions first, but even if you’ve answered all those questions, they can still ask for documentation. Just to be safe, always travel with your dog’s vaccination/titer records and a letter from your service dog program or trainer if you have one. To be extra safe, you may also want to carry proof of training, proof that your dog has passed a public access test, or anything else that can prove your dog is a service dog.

  3. Teach your service dog to eliminate on command and find your airport’s relief station.

    When you first get your service dog, whether she’s a puppy or a dog from a program, give a cue like “better go now” as the dog is eliminating then treat generously. Eventually your dog should eliminate on that cue. You can practice and proof it on walks.

    This is so, so important when you are traveling with your dog. Your dog may be in “work mode” during the few minutes you have outside to let them go. It’s good to have that cue as a line of communication between you and your dog. That way they can get their business done quickly and you can get on with your business.

    All major US airports should have a relief area for dogs. That area may be outside or it may be indoors. If it is outside you will have to go back out through security to get there. Just another reason why it’s crucial for your dog to go when you have the chance.

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    A service dog relief area in San Fancisco airport

    As luck would have it there’s an iphone app with all the information about service dog relief areas in airports across the country. Use it!

  4. Identify your dog as a service dog

    Yes, I know what you’re going to say. “But Laura! I’m not legally required to label my dog as a service dog! Stop trampling on my rights!” Well, uppity internet user, you are technically right. You are allowed to work your in only a collar and leash if you want. However, this blog is here to make your life easier and this one tip will eliminate a big chunk of your problems when flying. Presumably, when you are flying you are trying to actually get somewhere and you’re not going to get there very quickly or easily if everyone who passes you wants to know whether your dog is a service dog. Labeling your dog with a bold harness, vest, or cape will deflect a lot of questions.

    Princeton proves that you don’t need a ton of patches or a fancy harness to make a bold statement

    Also, I’m sorry to you gear minimalists, but I can’t imagine that a leash sleeve that says “service dog” and nothing else will be helpful. You want big, bold, and colorful. Daphne has a big, conspicuous sign on her harness marking her as a service dog and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  5. Use gear that is easy to remove

    Security is tough with a service dog. You’re distracted by taking off your shoes and fumbling with your laptop and phone. Cranky people behind you want to know what makes you so special that you can skip to the front of the line and take so damn long. It’s stressful! In addition to that, the TSA agents can request that you remove all metal from your dog. Your goal when preparing to travel should be to be able to do this as quickly as possible. Choose that vest, collar, harness with a slide buckle instead of a regular buckle. Make sure that you can easily remove any training collars. If your dog wears boots, take them off while you’re on line for security so you’re not caught trying to keep track of all four boots on top of everything else.

    Also, when in doubt a simple, metal-free slip collar will be your life saver. You’ll be able to get your dog completely metal-free and you’ll still be in control. Here’s a great one from Bold Lead Designs.

    Waiting on line for security. This is about the time when I start undressing her.

    Waiting on line for security. This is about the time when I start undressing her.

  6. Train a “wait” command

    So imagine this: Your dog has been stripped of her gear by security. You’re (understandably) flustered by everything going on. You walk through the metal detector with your dog and it goes off. You forgot that you had some change in your pocket.

    You could go back through the metal detector with your dog, get her into heel position, empty your pockets, and then go back through again with your dog, but wouldn’t it be better to eliminate some steps? Give a “wait” cue, empty your pockets, go backwards through the metal detector and leave your dog standing on the other side, walk towards your dog (through the medal detector) and release the dog. You don’t even have to let go of the leash, just walk to the end of it. Easy-peasy.

    You can teach “wait” at home. Set up a threshold. You can use a doorway or two cones or a line on the floor. Walk your dog in heel toward the threshold, waive your hand in front of the dog as though you’re making an invisible barrier. Say “wait” and continue walking. If the dog walks, neutrally put her back in position and try again. If you’re having trouble, take teeny tiny steps at first.

  7. Have a solid loose leash heel

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    You are definitely going to need a reliable heel. Your dog should be walking with a “J” in his leash. It doesn’t matter if you’re all about positive reinforcement or if you use a prong, you should not have to “manage” your dog at the other end of the leash. Foraging might cut it in the local mall, but rushing to the gate carrying luggage and weaving between crowds is just not the same thing.

    Even though Daphne has always walked on a loose leash, we did some brush-up training before we left to fly.

  8. Bring an empty water bowl with you, but be careful not to over-water

    We’ve addressed the pottying issue. Once you get on the plane, you can’t get out. Because of this, when I fly I withhold water because I’d rather she not pee all over the plane. She gets a chance to drink before we leave the house and when we arrive at our destination, but no water in between.

    However, planes can be dry and can increase the severity of dehydration so I always carry a travel bowl for water and I know how to check my dog for dehydration. Watch for fatigue or coughing. Also, if you press on your dog’s gums and the color doesn’t come back immediately, your dog needs water stat.

  9. Train a solid “under” command

    Perhaps the hardest part about flying with a dog is squishing them into those tiny little pockets of “leg room” on the plane and finding place for your legs. It’s important to make sure the dog is comfortable. You can put down doggy pillows all you want, but in the end they’re going to be the most comfortable if they have practice curling up into small spaces. Start in your house. Ask your dog to go under a table and lie down. While you’re out and about, decrease the amount of space they have to squeeze into. Work toward getting them to fit entirely under a kitchen chair. Let them stay there for a few minutes at a time and carefully increase the duration. Practice with bathroom stalls, desks, benches, anything you can think of. This will allow your dog to acclimate slowly to the feeling of being in a very confined space. If you don’t practice beforehand you risk the dog freaking out once you get into the plane.

    It's a tight squeeze!

    It’s a tight squeeze!

  10. Practice on public transport

    I don’t know if you’ve been on a plane, like, ever, but it’s loud…and there’s turbulence. Not to mention there’s about 300 cranky-ass passengers all coughing and grumping and crying. Engine sounds on airplanes can be very disconcerting for a dog who has never heard anything like it before. If your dog isn’t used to riding in moving objects, turbulence can be a bitch. Your dog may love the car, but there’s a big difference between a 737 cabin and the back of your station wagon.

    Dogs need to be eased into the concept of riding on and (more importantly) behaving on loud, crazy public transport before you can throw them into a crowded plane cabin. Start with asking them to behave as if at work while in the car. Once you’ve done that, work your dog on buses and trains until you feel they are 100% reliable. The difference between a plane and a bus is you can run off the bus in a blind panic if your dog starts barking and scrambling to get off. In a plane you’re stuck, so you’ll have to know that they’ll be solid.

    On a NJ Transit train

    On a NJ Transit train

    If you are raising a puppy, it’s a really good idea to get them used to the sound of diesel engines at a young age. Diesel engines sound different from plane engines, but unless you own your own private jet, the sound of a deisel engine may be the closest you can get to an airplane while still on the ground. When Princeton was a little puppy, we spent a few hours over the course of a week walking around an idling bus at a bus station (with the driver’s permission of course). You can never be too prepared.

  11. Stay aware of your dog’s stress levels and take a “time out” if your dog is getting too stressed

    It doesn’t take a genius to understand the basics of canine body language, but it seems like no one these days knows when their dog is getting stressed out. Before a dog starts shaking in pure panic, she does give certain signs. There’s a difference between “uh oh, something feels wrong about this” and “HOLY SHIT I’M SCARED!” but when it comes to dogs, if you recognize the former, you can usually prevent the latter. So that’s a big rule: know what your dog is feeling.

    Dogs don’t express nervousness and fear the way we do. Many canine signs of anxiety are not similar to human body language. When we’re nervous, we start sweating, the hair on the back of our necks stands up, and we lose our appetite. Dogs can’t sweat and by the time they’ve raised their hackles they’re already too overstimulated to do their jobs. If they’re shaking, you’re way beyond their threshold. Here are a few more subtle signs of canine anxiety that are your dog’s way of saying, “I’m not too sure about this, you crazy human”

    –Excessive lip licking
    –Excessive yawning
    –Shaking off
    –“Whale eyes” i.e. you can see the whites of your dog’s eyes
    –Stiff walking
    –Holding the tail stiffly

    If you’re really bad at reading or remembering canine body language, here’s a handy chart:

    bodylanguage
    If you are walking through an airport and your dog is giving you the signs that she’s nervous, take a minute. Make sure you leave early so you have the time and ability to take short breaks. Find a quiet corner and let your dog have a breather. If your dog enjoys squeaky toys, they’re a great way to break the tension (just don’t use them when you’re actually on the plane). If your dog enjoys treats, bring some high-value, super tasty treats for situations like this. Don’t be embarrassed to give your dog a belly rub to calm them down. As long as you’re not bothering other people and your dog gets up and continues to be well-behaved, you’re okay.

  12. Bring tummy-friendly treats and be generous

    Even the most experienced, well-behaved service dogs should be treated for working once in awhile. It maintains their drive to work and their interest in their job. Not only that, but if you train using treats, giving a treat is a way of communicating to the dog that “hey! You’re doing great!”  When traveling with your service dog, it’s important to show extra appreciation and encouragement. It’s not easy for them to bravely take to the skies, so make sure to give something back. Not only that, but frequent feeding creates positive associations with the environment. When Daphne and I took off this morning, I was constantly feeding her. Through take off and landing she was getting treats every few seconds.  She didn’t have to do anything for these treats except continue to be the well-behaved dog she is. That’s a good thing. It makes her willing to do it again. For her, the positive treats overcame her nervousness and she did great.

    When treating it’s also important to know your dog’s food sensitivities. If chicken gives your dog mud-butt don’t feed chicken. Mud-butt is not compatible with flying, especially when it’s your service dog with the stinky problem. Good treats for flying are usually higher in starch and lower in protein. Biscuits or bits of crackers are good. If you are a raw feeder or you’re not happy with your dog eating food high in grain or potato, try bits of carrot or celery. Whatever you pick, make sure you’ve fed it before so you know it will be compatible with your dog’s tummy.

So there you have it! Now you’re ready to take to the skies with your service dog in tow. Traveling with your service dog can be one of the best team-building experiences you can have. If you have any questions or comments or you just want to post pictures of your dog flying, write a comment. Until then, happy flying!

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Jewish Penicillin: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

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Stefan got a pretty bad cold last week, which was unfortunate because he’s a University professor and he has a pretty packed week full of research and teaching. He’s had a few sleepless nights and has been pretty much subsisting off of Dayquil and Nyquil. There is only one suitable meal for someone in his situation, so at his request I cooked up some “Jewish Penicillin” or chicken noodle soup.

Not only is chicken soup great for those cold autumn nights, it also may have anti-inflammatory properties that help you fight through the nasty symptoms of a cold. In addition, chicken soup made from scratch may have digestive benefits. Even though the science may still be inconclusive, there is another reason why chicken soup is the go-to food when you’re feeling down: it’s just plain good. It’s hearty, if it’s made right it (like my recipe) it can be healthy, and it makes any kitchen smell like home.

Growing up in a Jewish family, the basic chicken soup from scratch recipe was a staple at every family get together and the hero of every sick day. I know that most of my readers may already know how to make basic chicken soup, but for those of you who don’t, here’s my recipe:

What you’ll need:

  • 2 pounds of chicken thighs with skin and bones
  • water
  • 1 package of egg noodles
  • 1/2 pound of baby carrots
  • 1/3 pound of celery
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Get out a big soup pot and fill 2/3 of the way with water. Add salt to taste. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the chicken (make sure it’s fresh or thawed), skin, bones and all. Leave at a medium boil for 1 hour.

After an hour, remove the chicken and set it aside. Skim any extra foam or fat from the top of the broth.

Cut the baby carrots in halves and chop the celery. Peel the onion and chop it in half. Add all the veggies to the broth. Press the garlic and add that in, too. Let simmer for 1 hour. (After half an hour, taste the broth and add extra salt or pepper as you see fit).

Once the chicken has cooled, remove the skins and bones and throw them away. Use your fingers to shred the chicken and put the shredded chicken back into the pot with your veggies and broth.

Get a smaller pot and add 2-4 quarts of water plus salt to taste. Bring the second pot to a boil and then add the egg noodles. Cook for 8 minutes and then strain the noodles and put them on the side. I cook the noodles separately because if you put them into the pot with the soup, they tend to get mushy at some point during the meal. This way, you have perfectly al dente noodles every time. If you have left overs, store the noodles separately as well.

Add the noodles to your serving bowls and ladle the soup into the bowls. Simple, easy, and perfect.

It smells like home

It smells like home

Fall Comfort Food: Halloween Beef Stew

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When I was a kid, my mom would make beef stew on Halloween night. Her theory was that if we got a delicious, hearty meal before trick-or-treating, we wouldn’t stuff our faces with candy. She was partially right. We still stuffed our faces with candy, but we never ate quite as much as our friends who would eat candy the entire night.

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My mom would prepare a big crock pot full of stew, it would simmer all day making the house smell amazing. We would eat dinner and be off to tick-or-treat. After that, there was always a lot of stew left over. Whenever someone we knew would come to the door looking for candy, my mom would give them a little chocolate bar and then invite them in for a bowl of beef stew. I swear, some years she fed every kid we knew in town.

This little memory is the reason why this is my favorite home cooked meal of all time. The taste and smell of the dish conjures up the excitement we felt getting ready for Halloween, the crisp leaves crunching under our feet, and the brisk Autumn air. To me, my mom’s beef stew tastes and smells like home, which is just so comforting when you’re so far away from everything you know.

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It looks amazing and it’s actually better than it looks

Here’s the recipe:

Halloween Beef Stew

Cook time: 6 hours
Prep time: 20 minutes

You’ll need a slow cooker for this one!

Ingredients (amounts depend on how much you want to make and how big your slow cooker is):

  • 1-2 pounds of beef chuck roast (make sure it’s well marbled)
  • 4 cups of beef broth
  • 1 cup of plain tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup of red wine (don’t worry, the alcohol will burn away and the kids will love it!)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2-4 russet potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 pound of baby carrots
  • 1/2 pound of white mushrooms
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped or pressed
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons of your favorite beef spice rub (I like Emeril’s Essence)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • chili powder to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

You can chop the veggies and beef beforehand. I like to leave the baby carrots whole. I chop my beef into cubes that are between 1 and 2 inches. I cut the potatoes into quarters. I just chop the mushrooms in half. You can really cut the veggies any way you want, but remember it’ll get very mushy if you dice them up really small.

Season the beef with your favorite beef spice rub and dredge it in the flour, coating all sides. Then, oil a frying pan with the olive oil and put the pan on medium heat. Add the beef and brown the sides but do not cook all the way through. Remove the beef from the heat and put it into your cool, empty slow cooker.

Add the chopped onions to the same frying pan with the same oil that the beef was cooking in. Cook on medium heat until the onions are soft but not browned. Add them to your beef in the slow cooker. Do not turn the slow cooker on yet.

De-glaze your frying pan. Take the pan off the heat. Take 1/4 cup of your beef broth and add it to your cooling frying pan. mix it around a bit and add it to your (still cool) slow cooker. I do this because the beef and the onions leave a lot of delicious flavor behind in the pan and I want that in my stew.

Add all of the remaining ingredients into the (still cool) slow cooker, except the mushrooms. Mushrooms cook really fast so you’ll put them in later.

Mix thoroughly. Then, turn your slow cooker on high for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, turn the slow cooker to low and add the mushrooms. Cook that way for an additional 3 hours.

Enjoy with your favorite crusty bread on the side!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Summer Grilling: Honey Surf ‘n Turf

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It’s gonna be amazing!

Stefan and I recently moved from New Jersey to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. To celebrate our new life (and new backyard!) we bought a grill. No, we didn’t go for a subtle, modest charcoal grill or even a small two-person grill. We went all out and bought a big, red Kenmore 6-burner grill.

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I guess it was a part of Stefan’s assimilation into American society. Other examples include his Jeep Wrangler truck and his unfortunate American flag swim shorts.

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Pictured: Stefan applying for a Greencard

So, to christen our new grill, I whipped up a couple of recipes that blew our minds! I’m not kidding. I was surprised at how good they were.

Of all the flavors, my favorite is sweet. I have a huge sweet tooth. Not only are sweets comforting, there is science that shows that they actually help to manage stress. Nothing is more stressful than a cross-country move, so I decided to make two meals using honey. You can make these meals separately (like we did) or prepare them together if you have company over.

Sweet Ginger Soy Mahi-Mahi

Mahi-mahi is the epitome of summer. It’s heavy enough to put on the grill (if you have a thick piece), it’s hard to ruin, and it comes off the grill juicy and flaky. Few fish can hold a candle to the taste and versatility of Mahi-mahi. I lifted this recipe off off AllRecipes.com. It turned out amazing. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 to 4 fillets of Mahi-mahi
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove of crushed, fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger root
  • 3 teaspoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything (except the fish) in a big bowl and mix until the honey has dissolved and all of the marinade has the same consistency. Pour the marinade into a pan. Sit the fish in the pan for 20-30 minutes. Remember to flip the fish over halfway through so the entire fish gets marinated.

Put the fish on a medium-high grill setting. If the fillets are thin (or you’re a risk-averse type of personality), place them on tin foil when you put them on the grill. Thicker fillets usually hold together enough to put them directly onto the grates.

Cook until the fish flakes, but not so much that the fish dries out. Keep an eye on this one, it cooks fast.

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We couldn’t get a good picture of it. It was gone too fast!

 

Honey Mustard BBQ Chicken Breasts

Now that you’ve had some surf, try a little turf. These chicken breasts are sassy and sweet and marvelous. I made this dish based on this recipe from the Food Network, but I changed it up a bit because I felt the original recipe had too much sour and vinegar and I wanted something sweet. What you’ll need:

  • 3 to 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite barbeque sauce
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients except the chicken in a bowl and stir until the whole marinade is the same consistency. Take your chicken breasts and trim them. Then, I like to score the chicken (cutting horizontal slices into the chicken, but not cutting all the way through). This makes them cook more quickly and evenly, but it can cause them to dry out if you leave them on the grill too long, so be vigilant!

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You can see the scoring on the meat here

Put the raw chicken in a plastic bag with the marinade and swish everything around so that all visible areas of chicken are covered in sauce. Put them in the fridge and let them marinate for 2-3 hours. Don’t let them sit there for longer than that. Also, please note that the chicken marinade takes a lot longer than the Mahi-Mahi. If you’re making them together, be sure to start the chicken first.

Before you put them on the grill, make sure your grates are well oiled. The marinade has a lot of sugar, which will give it a kickass color when it’s done, but it also makes the chicken more likely to stick. Cook well (remember, raw chicken can be deadly!) but don’t cook until they’re dried out. There should still be plenty of juicy sweetness.

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We always grill veggies over our empty burners because, why not?

Enjoy!

Princeton takes on the world

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Princeton is well on his way to becoming a service dog. Over the past few weeks we have continued to work with Rebecca Fouts, a trainer from Access Canine Solutions. Princeton learned how to walk nicely on a leash and got accustomed to his service dog vest. He also learned some puppy manners like “leave it”, “wait”, and he has started learning how to heel. A few weeks ago, Rebecca took us to Staples for Princeton’s first public access trip. There was a lot of planning and training that led up to this huge milestone in Princeton’s life. Before a service dog goes out into a public place that isn’t pet-friendly, 3 important steps need to be taken: temperament testing, socialization, and training.

The Temperament Test

No dog is born a with the impeccable manners and reliability of a service dog. However, to a large extent, service dogs are special dogs from birth. Puppies that get chosen to go into service training need to be driven, confident, non-aggressive, and relatively calm, even from birth. Just like how people have a variety of personalities and capabilities, dogs are born with strengths and weaknesses that make them right for different kinds of jobs.

You're cute, but are you service dog material?

You’re cute, but are you service dog material?

The temperament test is generally given when the puppy is 7 weeks old. The go-to temperament test for service dogs is the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test. This test is given by an impartial participant and it allows the breeder and the trainer to get a good idea of the puppy’s personality, strengths, and weaknesses. No test can predict with absolute certainty what a puppy will be like as an adult, but the Volhard is a pretty good indicator of personality and drive. The Volhard is a combination of five tests:

  • Social Attraction – The tester gets the puppy’s attention with noise and movement. The puppy is scored on whether it comes to the tester and the confidence it has if approaches.
  • Following – The tester stands up and walks away. The puppy is scored on whether it follows with confidence or not.
  • Restraint – The tester gently rolls the puppy on its back and holds it there. The puppy is scored based on how much it struggles and on the attitude it has while restrained.
  • Social dominance – The puppy is allowed to stand and the tester strokes it from the head all the way down the back. The puppy is scored based on how it responds.
  • Elevation dominance – The tester gently elevates the puppy off the ground for 30 seconds. The puppy is scored based on how it responds.

Since the puppies in Princeton’s litter were going, in a large part, to working homes (service dog training, hunting training, etc), they were given an additional test to determine their “obedience aptitude”. This test is done 4 or 5 parts depending on what the breeder and the potential families are looking for. Princeton took the 4 part test. This included:

  • Retrieving – A crumpled paper ball is thrown in front of the puppy. The puppy is scored on how much interest it shows in the ball and whether it picks the ball up.
  • Sound sensitivity – A sharp noise is made on the floor near the puppy (like a metal bowl falling). The puppy is scored on whether it startles and how it recovers from the sound.
  • Sight sensitivity – A towel is dragged in front of a puppy or an umbrella is opened. The puppy is scored on how it reacts.
  • Structure – The puppy is scored on its conformation and how it holds its body.
I see a future agility champ!

I see a future agility champ!

Princeton was also given a hunt test with live quail and was checked thoroughly by a vet for any congenital defects.

Temperament tests given to shelter dogs and older dogs are different and more in-depth. An older dog may have been traumatized by past events, so it is crucial to have a more thorough test.

Socialization

As a service dog puppy grows and hits developmental milestones, it is very important to expose him to as many new experiences as is reasonable. By the time the puppy is 14 weeks old, it will have developed many of its ideas and attitudes about the world and any traumatic events that happened during that time will be committed to its behavioral memory. Because of this, the quality of experiences is just as important as the quantity. Not only do we expose the puppy to many different things, we do so in a positive way. The key is for the puppy to have as many positive associations wih his environment as possible. Also, during this time the puppy learns how to react to his environment. Socializing your puppy helps him grow into a dog that is calm and comfortable in a variety of circumstances, even ones he has never experienced before.

Cool and calm on a college campus

Cool and calm on a college campus

In the first 4 months of his life, we exposed Princeton to a huge variety of people, places, and things. Some of these included:

  • Different types of people – Princeton met old people, young people, people with different hair styles, people with different clothing, disabled people, babies, people of all races, etc.
  • Different types of food – Princeton was exposed to all sorts of yummy treats as well as cooking smells.
  • Different surfaces – Princeton walked on sidewalks, stairs, carpets, tiles, blacktop, gravel, marble, sand, grass, even see-through grates and manhole covers.
  • Other Dogs – Princeton went to a puppy play-group where he met dogs of all shapes and sizes
  • Working equipment – Service dogs need to use a variety of different equipment. Princeton tried on vests, walking harnesses, a head collar, a pinch collar and he even got to interact with (but not wear) Daphne’s heavy mobility harness. He was also crate trained during this time.
  • Moving things – Princeton walked around an idling bus, walked on the sidewalk next to moving cars, sat while bikes, skateboards, strollers, lawnmowers, and balls rolled by, and walked next to a shopping cart.
  • Pet-friendly places – Princeton walked around a college campus, strolled along the campus of a middle school, checked out an outdoor mall, played on playgrounds, ran through woods and fields, hung out at a bus station, and, of course, visited the vet.
  • Different sounds – Princeton heard bowls clatter to the ground, he listened to different types of music, idling engines, and heard several different types of alarms and sirens.
  • Transportation – Car rides, train rides, a plane ride, and a ride on the elevator
  • Handling situations – Princeton got baths, was combed out, and was hugged and loved-on by strangers.
  • Anything else in the environment that could be scary to a puppy – We walked past statues, took him outside on the porch during a storm, and basically exposed him to anything and everything we could think of.

Some puppies, Princeton included, go through a fear period where they get scared of things they weren’t scared of before. Princeton’s fear period lasted about 2 weeks. During this time, we toned down his socialization outings and stuck just to normal walks, puppy play group, and playtime in the yard. Puppies during their fear period are more easily traumatized. Over-exposing a puppy to external stimuli during a fear period could cause behavioral problems later on in life.

Training

Service dogs have important trained tasks that help their disabled handlers, but they spend much more time learning how to behave in public. It is important that a service dog is able to work and behave in public places that aren’t pet friendly. Ideally, a service dog should be as invisible and unobtrusive as possible. Silent, but confident.

Daphne being "invisible" at a restaurant

Daphne being “invisible” at a restaurant

Under United States law a service dog is only required to be housebroken and not an unreasonable nuisance (eg. they can’t bark in movie theaters, beg for food from customers in restaurants, or jump up on people) as long as they are trained to help their handler mitigate his/her disability. However, proper service dog handling requires a lot more training than just that. Ideally, when working, a properly trained service dog will:

  • Focus more on their handler than the environment
  • Walk nicely on a leash
  • Remain quiet at all times
  • Lay down for as long as they have to without shifting about excessively
  • Ignore environmental distractions
  • Avoid any sniffing of the environment

Before we even thought about taking Princeton into non-pet-friendly public places, he went through a basic obedience class. He learned how to sit, down, and walk well on a leash. He got accustomed to wearing his service dog vest. He learned to keep his barking under control. He came when called. He started to be able to leave distractions alone. He even learned how to potty on command. When we finally took Prince out in public for the first time, we kept it short. Our first outing was no more than 20 minutes long. We sat outside Staples for 20 minutes and let him potty and relax. We walked through the store with only training in mind. I kept my full attention on him at all times.

Teacher's pet

Teacher’s pet

In the past 3 weeks, Princeton has been to Staples, a shoe store, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond. He even worked next to Daphne once. So far, all of our preparation is paying off. He’s a delightfully well-behaved little guy when out in public. He doesn’t sniff too much, he ignores people, and he focuses on me when asked. Right now, we’re not asking him to look professional. It’s still important, for socialization purposes, for him to pay attention to his surroundings when working. We let him sniff a little and even take a bit more leash that we would expect of a graduated service dog. When he does come back and pay attention, he gets a lot of cheese and praise. Princeton is loving his work and training so far. While there is a little luck involved, we also set him up to succeed by preparing him for the big, crazy world. DSC_3284

So why do you need a service dog anyway?: A bit about Acephalgic migraine

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Migraine awareness month is June, but I figured I’d get things rolling and talk about my chronic migraine condition.

A few months ago I finally got a straight-up diagnosis for my neurological problems. I want to take this opportunity to say a few words about Acephalgic migraine or “Silent Migraine”.

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When the average person pictures a migraine, the first thing that comes to mind is pain. It actually is true in most cases. Migraines can be incredibly painful and disabling. What many people don’t know is that migraines come with a variety of other symptoms besides the head pain. Every time a person has a migraine, they typically go through 4 stages:

  1. Prodrone: Prodrone is the migraine’s overture. It is a variety of symptoms that warn that a migraine is coming. A person in the prodrone stage of a migraine will feel irritable and/or confused, will throw up or have diarrhea or both, and they’ll start to become light-sensitive.
  2. Aura: Aura can happen before a person feels the head-pain or while the pain is happening. Aura can actually be quite intense and debilitating. A person will start to exhibit neurological symptoms such as speech disturbances, problems walking or navigating, and increased sensitivity to light and sound. The person may fall, they may feel numbness or weakness in their arms and legs, and they may reach an increased state of confusion. Perhaps, the most notable characteristic of the aura state are visual symptoms. A person suffering aura may have blurred vision, tunnel vision, or may see spots of light.
  3. Pain: Migraine sufferers typically experience debilitating pain. The pain is usually centered on one side of the head and it’s a throbbing/stabbing type of pain. A single migraine can cause up to 72 hours of excruciating pain, often necessitating hospitalization.
  4. Resolution: After the pain subsides, migraine sufferers often feel exhausted, fatigued, and weak. This feeling of severe exhaustion can last up to 24 hours.

People like me, who suffer from chronic Acephalgic migraine, have all the above symptoms except for the head pain. This makes the condition notoriously difficult to diagnose. Before I was diagnosed with my migraines, I had to be checked for brain tumors, brain damage, multiple sclerosis, lyme disease, and I even had to go through therapy for somatoform disorder (hypochondria). It wasn’t until I had ruled all these things out that a headache specialist was able to diagnose me with silent migraine.

Except, in my case, pain's invitation got lost in the mail.

Except, in my case, pain’s invitation got lost in the mail.

My migraines are triggered by florescent lights. I’ve always had them, to some extent, but they became debilitating in 2010 after I was diagnosed with a cornea disorder called Keratoconus. Keratoconus occurs when the cornea becomes misshapen, growing into a “cone-like” shape. Because the cornea is no longer spherical, it does not refract as much light as a healthy cornea, letting more light into the eye. I was able to wear special contacts for my eye problem for awhile, but eventually my chronic dry eye made it impossible to continue the special contacts. I now wear glasses, which don’t fix much. I still have double (or triple, or quadruple) vision and I can’t read large blocks of text.

A normal cornea (left) and a cornea with Keratoconus (right).

A normal cornea (left) and a cornea with Keratoconus (right).

Since Keratoconus can cause blindness, I also had to have a procedure done called “corneal cross-linking”. While the procedure itself is non-invasive and safe, the doctor had to scrape a small layer of epidermis off my cornea. I was blind and in terrible pain for about 3 weeks after that. The procedure didn’t fix the problem, it just stopped it from progressing. My corneas will always be misshapen.

I can run, play, swim, etc. outside without a service dog (although I do take Daphne on outdoor outings because once in awhile my migraines get triggered by things besides florescent lights). However, as soon as I go under florescent lights, I begin to vomit, I become extremely confused, and I start to have problems processing what I see and navigating. I also become unsteady on my feet and can fall. Daphne is trained to help me walk, to guide me around corners, and to pick up things when I drop them. She can also find a few specific people (Stefan and my mom) in a large indoor space if I get separated from them.

Not many people have service dogs for migraines, but most people can’t function at all when they’re in pain from migraines, let alone work interactively with an animal. Also, most people don’t know that in the US, service dogs can legally be used for almost any disability. Any medical problem that limits one or more of your daily life activities (walking, thinking, moving, seeing, hearing, etc.) is legally a disability for purposes of using a service dog. The dog must be trained in at least one task that mitigates the disability.

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In addition to the incredibly disabling features of my migraines, they also put me at risk for a few health concerns. Perhaps the largest health risk for a person suffering from Acephalgic migraine is the likelihood that that person will develop head pain associated with the migraine. Also, anyone who has the “aura” stage of their migraines is at a significant risk for stroke. A study conducted with 100,000 women under 35 suggested that women who have migraine with aura are 6 times as likely to have a stroke than women who didn’t .

I also take the birth control pill. I absolutely need to stay on it because it helps control a lot of other dangerous medical problems that I am currently suffering from. Women on the pill who suffer from migraine with aura are 25 times as likely (about 28 in 100,000) to have a stroke than women who don’t take the pill or have aura.

I am also a smoker. This increases my risk of stroke about 4 times (about 100 in 100,000). I do think I will eventually quit, though. I do not expect to be a life-long smoker.

The use of a service dog for my migraines gives me incredible independence. I would recommend a service dog to anyone suffering the debilitating affects of Acephalgic migraine.

Meet Princeton!

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This page hasn’t been very active the past few months because we have a new addition to the family!

On March 15th, Stefan and I traveled to Sequim, WA to pick up our puppy from his breeder. At the time, our puppy was only 8.5 weeks old and 16 pounds. It was so exciting to meet our new little guy!

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We named him “Princeton” after my alma mater. Princeton University is also where Stefan was working as professor when we met. It has a lot of meaning to us. Princeton’s registered name is “Rainshadow’s Old Nassau”. “Old Nassau” is a nickname for Princeton University and “Nassau” is also the family name of the Dutch royal family. We figured it suited him because Drentsche Patrijshonds are a breed native to the Netherlands.

It has been a big adjustment period for us. We got him home and started right away on crate training and housebreaking. Prince did great with both. He is a happy puppy and smart as a whip.

Over the past few months, we’ve been working on basic obedience and socialization. Princeton has been exposed to people of all ages, sizes, races, and physical ability. He has also been exposed to a variety of situations. We have walked him outside with a shopping cart, driven in the truck, ridden an elevator in a parking garage, plus tons of other stuff.

We have a private trainer who specializes in service dogs working with us once a week. We’re still only working only working on basic obedience. Right now, he knows “touch”, “sit”, “down”, “crate up”, “out of the kitchen”, and “leave it”.

 

Needless to say, it has been a big adjustment. Daphne was not impressed with the puppy and is still trying to pretend he doesn’t exist. Princeton is doing his best to endear himself to her, though.

In the past few months, Princeton has been growing like a weed. He went from a cute, chubby little puppy to an awkward pre-teen. He’s now 19″ tall at the withers and 34 lbs! He should be a big dog like his dad.

I will be updating this blog so you can all follow Princeton’s progress. If you want to know more about the Drentsche Patrijshond breed, check out Princeton’s page!

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A tale of puppy love

As I have mentioned a few times before, my fiance, Stefan, and I are getting a puppy. We will be taking him home on March 17. As I am writing this, it will be just about 2 weeks, 2 days, 0 hours, 32 minutes, and 10 seconds until we step off the plane with our new puppy. We’re going to name him “Princeton” after my alma mater, Stefan’s first real employer, and the place that brought us together. His registered name is going to be “Rainshadow’s Old Nassau”, a suitable name for a Dutch breed.

Right now he’s 6 and a half weeks old and as cute as a button. Here’s a picture of one of the three males from the litter. We don’t know which of the three we’re going to get, but I can assure you, they’re all equally gorgeous.

How can you resist that face!

It’s not so much the fact that we’re getting the puppy that is so important to us. Stefan and I are not ready to start having children and we won’t be ready any time soon, but after caring for Daphne together for so long, we wanted to start some semblance of a family on our own. So, in many ways, this puppy won’t just be some random animal we’re giving food and shelter to, he’s the beginning of our family.

So, I wanted to write a summary of the journey we’ve been on. It’s a little story of what happens when you fall into “puppy love”.

The first thing that happens is you research

I got the puppy bug a long time ago. I don’t really know what started it. It may have started once I realized we had saved up enough money for a modest down payment on a home once Stefan got a tenure-track job somewhere. Still, once I was bitten, I had the bug. I think I started with labrador breeders, because I love my labrador. After a few run-ins with breeders that looked perfect on the surface but a little too shady for comfort once I delved a little deeper, I decided that maybe I was in over my head. It seems that there are just so many disreputable lab breeders out there, it would be hard for me to find someone I trusted. Labs are unfortunately being overbred and I was finding problem breeder after problem breeder. Maybe I don’t know where to look, but I haven’t been a dog person that long. I need a nice, close-knit breed club to lead the way instead of a sea of mostly-sketchy faces.

...not really.

…not really.

After that, I looked into Dobermans. I have quite a few friends in the service dog world who have excellent doberman service dogs. They seem like they’d be awesome dogs to own. I might actually own one in the future. I even put my name on a litter list for one. What scared me away was the numerous health problems that seem to plague dobermans. After I spoke to someone who had gotten her doberman from a very reputable breeder, but who had been struggling with a vast amount of skin problems and ear problems and teeth problems from the very start, I decided I needed to look elsewhere.

I actually stumbled upon the Drentsche Patrijshond while just looking through the AKC website one day. I downloaded the breed standard and my curiosity got the best of me. My research quickly branched out from there. Drents are beautiful, healthy, even-tempered (for the most part), soulful and loving, large enough to potentially do service work, good with kids, easy to care for, and relatively healthy as far as larger breeds go. I was impressed with their breed club (very nicely fleshed out for a rare breed). I contacted a few breeders, but knew my breeder right away by the time she took to answer my questions on the phone, the care and love she had for her dogs, and her glowing references.

The second thing that happens is you commit

“Stefan and I are thinking about maybe getting a puppy” felt strange to say to family and friends. Although I had a ring on my finger and we spent hours talking about buying a home in another state, our future children, and our future in general, the thought of suddenly having something in common–something that we couldn’t just split in two–felt odd at first. Finally, I started telling people, posting pictures of the breed on facebook, and talking more with the breeder and things started falling into place. Perhaps the most important thing that happened was that Stefan became excited about it.  He was maybe a bit more excited than I was.

Finally, the time came and the puppies wiggled their way into the world. We sent off our puppy deposit soon after. Very soon after that, we bought our plane tickets. It would be 2 short months until we’d fly across the country to get our puppy and take him home. We had committed. It all felt very sudden, and each week, as the breeder posted pictures of the puppies growing at an alarming rate, the reality of the commitment hit home.

The third thing that happens is you doubt

The apartment started to feel smaller as we moved Daphne’s larger crate into the bedroom (the puppy will have her crate). Amazon packages were arriving every day. Frequent trips to PetSmart made the apartment look like an explosion of dog toys and bully sticks. There were (and still are) days when I wake up with migraines and Stefan has to come back from work and pick up the slack getting Daphne out of the house. I wonder if I’ll be able to handle another one.

I have too many friends who are expert dog trainers. I’ve heard “If your puppy has one toileting accident it sets a precedent for the entire relationship,” and “it’s cruel to have two large dogs if you’re not going to be working them and training them constantly,” and “your dog needs to meet 100 people in the first month or he’ll be fearful for the rest of his life.” When I heard it, I knew a lot of it was bullshit, but the doubt, it clings to you. I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like to be a parent. You get so caught up in all the worry that you’ll do the wrong thing, you don’t even notice what you’re doing right. I wonder what I’m doing right with Daphne, if anything. I wonder if anyone else has ever felt this way.

And then I think, “by the time my puppy is geriatric I will be well into my 40s,” and, well, that’s just enough to send shivers down my spine. I guess the scary part isn’t “the dog will live that long,” but rather, “I’m that old.”

The fourth thing that happens is you start nesting

There’s nothing you can do about doubt but put it to the side and move forward with your life. Doubt and worry are very similar emotions and if there’s anything I’ve learned from therapy it’s that worry is the only useless emotion.

So, I moved on and started getting into my puppy preparations. We got a little, miniature bed, a friend gave us a tiny harness, we got a little collar, a playpen, toys that look mini next to Daphne’s stuffed animals and squeakies, plenty of carpet cleaner, a 15′ leash so we could play ball with him, a carrier to bring him home in, and even a little pillow that says “puppy luv”.

Nesting? Who? Me?

Nesting? Who? Me?

I went to the vet (much to Daphne’s dismay) and chatted her up with a ton of stupid questions, I booked a puppy class and a puppy play group, I even signed him up for Pet Assure (a pet health-insurance-like-discount-program).

If a non-pregnant woman ever nested, I am nesting the heck out of the place right now. This place is nothing but puppy as far as the eye can see. I’m surprised Daphne hasn’t caught on (she’s surprisingly been her usual blase self).

The fifth thing that happens is you get excited

Finally, after all that, here I am, sitting up late on the couch, with only 2 weeks, 1 day, 23 hours, 34 minutes, and 50 seconds (about) until Princeton comes to Princeton. Looking at pictures of the puppy, trying to guess which is going to be ours, giggling like a little girl, and hugging my partner.

Yes, I still have my fears and my worries and my doubts under the surface. Most of my worries, I realize, are about things that are a whole lot bigger than simply the arrival of a puppy. However, I really believe that anything worth being really, really excited about in life is going to be a little scary. We’re ready for you Princeton! We can’t wait for you to come home.

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Grandma’s Sprinkle Chicken

This may go down in history as my favorite recipe of all time. It’s a recipe for baked, crunchy chicken that, in my opinion, cannot be beat by any “deep fried anything” out there. When this chicken is served at a family event, you better have quick fingers, because it is literally gone as fast as it is served.

I don’t know where this recipe came from. Perhaps you’ll find it on the side of a box somewhere. To me, however, this recipe is as old as I am. My grandmother used to make it for us kids when we would go over to her house for Shabbat dinner.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Raw chicken, unbreaded. You can use any chicken. My mom likes to use tenders or wings. My grandmother used to make larger pieces (whole breasts, thighs, drumsticks). Just use whatever you’re comfortable using. For this demo, we used 12 winglets, but we had extra breading left over.
  • 3 tablespoons of mayo
  • 1/4 cup of seasoned Italian breadcumbs
  • 1 cup of cornflake crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • (optional) a very small sprinkle of oregano
  • (optional) a pinch of cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

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If you are using frozen chicken, make sure it is fully thawed. I prefer using fresh chicken.

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Add the mayonnaise into a large bowl. Then add the chicken. Make sure they are fully coated in the mayonnaise. (Note: If you are using larger pieces, you can coat them one at a time and take them out of the bowl).

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Put that to the side and grab a second bowl. Add all the dry ingredients to the new bowl.

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Now you should have your wet, coated chicken and your dry coating. Coat the chicken in the dry coating.

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After you coat each piece, place on a rack inside a cookie sheet. This will ensure that the bottom gets nice and crispy.

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Put into the oven for 40 minutes or until the chicken is brown and crispy and cooked through. Remember, chicken can be dangerous if eaten raw or undercooked, so don’t be afraid to cut into one of the larger pieces to make sure it’s not pick inside.

And there you have it, crispy, crunchy sprinkle chicken that you and your family will grab up like it’s going out of style!

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Stuff My Dog Loves: Service Dog Edition

I’m a huge fan of the Dog Snobs’ Blog. They’re witty, thorough, and they use a generous amount of hilarious memes. One of my favorite columns that they write is something called “Shit the Dog Snobs Love” where they list their favorite dog products and why. I have tried quite a few of the things on their lists and they have yet to steer me wrong.

So, in the spirit of the Dog Snobs, I’m going to write a similar column, maybe not quite as witty, but I hope that my readers will find this column almost as helpful!

The theme of today’s STUFF MY DOG LOVES is “Stuff for your service dog (and other dogs, too)”

#1: Bold Lead Design Harness

The most important piece of equipment that I use with Daphne when we’re out and about is our Mobility Support Harness from Bold Lead Designs. This is currently the best harness on the market if you are looking for a rigid handle mobility support harness. It looks like this:

Ready to work!

Ready to work!

Katrina over at BLD makes each harness by hand, custom for your dog. It’s made with supple leather and lined with sheepskin. The whole thing weighs in at 3 lbs, including the metal handle (which collapses, by the way), which is the lightest mobility harness you will find. This is extremely important when working a dog that is bearing weight.

The harness is also extremely durable. I’ve had mine for over 18 months, I abuse it daily, I have no clue how to care for leather, and it still looks spectacular on my dog. Not only that, but you can purchase extras for the harness like a pull strap for counterbalance, a banner sign, or even a cape that sits on your dog’s back behind the harness.

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BLD also makes a variety of harnesses for other types of service dogs. They make a guide harness, a basic assistance harness, and a guide/mobility harness.

#2: Mendota Leashes:

How do I love the Mendota snap leashes, let me count the ways…

So pretty…

Not only are these leads spectacularly beautiful in every color, they’re sturdy. Daphne has not only been working almost constantly in her 4′ red Mendota snap leash, she has learned to retrieve a leash using it. It has put up with her pawing it, drooling all over it, tossing it, and finally learning to retrieve it to my hand, and it still looks excellent. These leashes are soft to the touch, waterproof, and colorfast when exposed to UV rays. The leather is tanned using the “English bridle” tanning process. I’m not a horse person, but my leashes have gotten drenched and the leather doesn’t look any worse for the wear. All this and a 1/2″ diameter, 4′ length leash will cost you less than $17.

Service dog users generally like to pick a color for their dog’s gear. Some service dogs, like hearing dogs, have a “standard” color that many of them wear. These leads make it super easy to match your leash to your dog’s collar or gear. I actually have three of these. They’ve never let me down.

#3: EzyDog Neo Collar

The EzyDog Neo Collar is the gold standard in comfort flat collars. I have scoured the internet and have not been able to find a collar that 1) is more comfortable for my dog 2) is able to display the color I want as well and 3) is as durable. The collar is nylon with a neoprene interior. It has a separate, smaller plastic ring for tags to cut down on that annoying jingling sound. It’s also really well priced, ranging from $16-$22, depending on the size. It comes in 8 bold colors.

The collar is odor resistant, waterproof, reflective, and easy to clean. It is my favorite flat collar to work my dog in by far. Daphne wore a red one for a year straight and it looked brand new the entire time. 

#4: Trader Joe’s Beef Recipe Jerky Strips

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Anyone who owns a service dog, whether the dog is from a program or is owner-trained, knows that it’s crucial to constantly be training, proofing, and training some more. Daphne can work out in public without treats, but I always like to carry treats with me in case she does something spectacular. Also, lately we’ve been working on some new tasks that I’m hoping to start working with her in public really soon.

That said, these are my new favorite treats, ever. Trader Joes sells these jerky treats for ridiculously cheap. For $1.99 you get 6 oz, which is a lot more than it sounds. Each strip is about an inch wide and 4.5″ long. The strips are perforated so they’re easy to split into little bites for training purposes.

If you’ve been following the news lately, you will have noticed that there have been a lot of dog deaths associated with jerky treats made abroad (particularly in China). Because of this, when I feed jerky treats, I only feed human-grade jerky or treats made in the USA. These treats are 100% USA made. Not only that, the first 3 ingredients are beef, beef liver, and chicken. Very impressive.

#5: Active Dogs Padded Harness Vest/Active Dogs Neoprene Snap-on Bridge Handle

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If I’m going somewhere where I don’t think I’m going to get a migraine, but I want Daphne in gear just to be sure, I put her in her Active Dogs gear. I use the padded harness vest. I use this vest and the bridge handle mainly for counterbalance (the dog leads and “pulls” forward, providing balance support without bearing weight). With my 24″ tall dog, I’ve found that the 24″ handle gives me a guide harness-type length.

I like my harness vest because it is extremely durable and easy to clean. I usually just run it through a gentle cold wash and then let it air dry. It’s also beautiful. I have yet to see a company create vests with the same professional look and consistency as Active Dogs.

My vest doesn’t slip, but if you have a slimmer dog, this vest may actually slip to the side when the dog is moving. Active dog actually sells a “Chest to girth strap support” that will help to anchor the vest and keep it from slipping.