What food do you recommend?
We recommend (and use) grain-free kibble such as Taste of the Wild Wetlands, available for $44 per 30# bag from Chewy.com with free delivery when you order two bags at a time. If you have Amazon Prime, that's another good option, as Amazon Prime also ships it for free.
Why do you recommend grain-free dog food, which tends to be expensive?
We recommend grain-free dog food because we feel that the high price is made up for in better health (and thus more than balanced out by the lack of vet bills).
How much should we feed our dog(s)?
It depends on the food and the size of your dog. Generally, we feed each dog about two cups of kibble per day.
When should we feed our dog(s)?
We recommend feeding the dog once a day, for dinner. The idea is to make things as simple as possible for you.
How often should we give the dog water?
Fresh water should always be available in a bowl for the dog to drink at home. There are several theories regarding whether or not a dog should drink water while they are working outside the home—we recommend keeping work schedules to about two hours at a time, and a dog should be fine not drinking water for that length of time, assuming you are not in hot weather or doing anything strenuous. (Drinking water often means the dog will need to go potty, which is not fun for the dog if it is out working.)
How often should we take the dog to the veterinarian?
Take the dog to your vet annually for a checkup and any needed vaccinations. Of course, if issues arise in the meantime, you should contact your vet with any questions or concerns. Note that some veterinarians will give a discount for service dogs. All dogs at Pawsitivity are taken to the veterinarian for an initial health and wellness checkup, which includes any vaccinations that are needed. They go back to the vet as needed, for spaying/neutering or any other concerns that may arise. Then, before each service dog goes to his or her new handler, he/she goes back to the vet for one final wellness visit.
Should we give the dog monthly heartworm pills? What about protection from fleas and ticks?
You can either buy pills from your vet, or your vet can give you a prescription, and you can buy them online from Drs. Foster and Smith or Allivet (at a lower cost). We use Iverhart for heartworm and NexGard to protect against fleas and ticks. We don't recommend topical flea & tick protection because it's too easy for the poison to rub off onto people. Also, you should NEVER use flea/tick collars on your dog.
Will the dog be spayed or neutered by the time we get the dog?
Yes, it is our policy to always spay or neuter the dogs.
Should we get our dog groomed?
We recommend monthly grooming, which will greatly reduce shedding. Grooming can take up to an hour, and professional groomers use what's called a "Furminator," which is a great tool for removing the dog's undercoat of fur. Your groomer can also clip the dog’s nails and, if needed, express their anal glands. (If the groomer won't cut nails or do an anal expression, we recommend getting another groomer.) We recommend monthly grooming because it helps to keep the dog healthy and also keeps your home cleaner. While it is an added expense, we believe it pays off in the long run.
Should we ask the groomer to shave the dog?
No, we don't recommend shaving your dog. Shaving a dog is only needed for poodles and the few other breeds that do not shed. A dog's fur doesn't just protect them from the cold in the winter, it also helps protects their skin from sun in the summer.
How should we care for our dog’s ears?
We recommend cleaning your dog's ears weekly, which means doing it yourself. Cleaning your dog's ears only takes a few minutes, and we will have trained each dog to take ear cleanings nicely. With the most common service-dog breeds (Labs and Goldens), their ears are floppy and, thus, their inner ears will get infections if you don't clean them weekly. We will show you how to clean the ears—basically, you fill the dog's ear with ear cleaner, stick in your Kleenex-covered finger and wipe out the inner ear, then let the dog shake their head to let the excess cleaner fly out (you may want to do this ear cleaning outdoors).
Should we give toys to the dog?
Yes, we recommend always having toys available (especially squeaky toys) for the dog to play with whenever he/she is at home. This constant access to toys will help keep the dog from chewing on other items.
Should we give bones to the dog?
Yes, we recommend giving the dog uncooked beef bones to chew on whenever the dog is at home. Bones not only gives the dog something to do, they also help to keep their teeth clean.
Should we give the dog a dog bed?
Yes, we recommend giving the dog a dog bed. Even if the dog winds up sleeping with you, sometimes it's too hot up on the human bed, and the dog will want a comfy spot to sleep on. Many times, even the dog bed will be too hot for the dog and they'll sleep on the cool floor, but it's nice to give them the option of a dog bed. Also, it is nice for them to have their own “spot,” and you can even train them to go there when you want them to.
Should we have a crate for the dog?
Yes, we recommend having a crate for the dog, and the dog will be trained to like the crate. A crate is a dog's own special spot, and they like to have a private place they can go to when they need to decompress. Also, if you need to leave the dog home alone, you can either leave the dog loose around the house or lock the dog in the crate (either option is appropriate).
When should we put the dog out to potty?
We recommend putting the dog out to potty at least three times a day: in the morning, after they eat dinner, and before bedtime. If you have a fenced-in yard with a wooden fence, we also recommend installing a dog door into your back door.
Should the dog be allowed on the bed or couch?
Our default training is that the dog is not allowed on the bed or couch, but if this behavior is desired for calming the handler, then we'll train the dog that it is okay for them to go on the bed or couch.
Should the dog say hello to other dogs?
We recommend not letting the dog play or say "hi" to other dogs (except other dogs that live with you), because the service dog is supposed to be focused on the handler and not other dogs.
Should the dog play with the handler's siblings?
If a child is to have the service dog, then you have a couple of options for siblings. If the siblings are old enough to have a lot of self-control, then it's best to have the siblings not interact with the dog (to encourage the dog to bond primarily to the handler). If the siblings are too young to have much self-control, then—it's not ideal—but we'll have to let the siblings play with the dog. (However, you should give the handler and dog as much time as possible to bond together alone.)
How will the dog handle our cat?
We will give the dog exposure to cats, but we highly recommend introducing the dog to your pet cat in a specific way. It's best if the cat has claws! You should introduce them with the dog not on a leash, but under your close supervision. Talk to us about more specific instructions if you need them.
What should we do if the dog chews on something they are not supposed to chew on?
The only way a dog can “ask” if they are allowed to chew on something is to go ahead and chew on it and see what you'll do. If you catch the dog in the act of chewing on something they are not supposed to, just mildly correct them, take the object out of their mouth, and give them an appropriate dog toy or bone to chew on. Then praise them for chewing on that toy/bone. If you know there are objects your dog is likely to chew on (socks, for instance), best practice is to not give the dog an opportunity to chew on those items.
What should we do if the dog starts behaving inappropriately, such as barking too much, jumping on the couch or bed, or jumping on people?
If the dog starts behaving inappropriately, correct the dog and then ask them to sit. Then reward them with a treat and praise when they sit. The dogs we work with often have a pretty low "prey drive," so this mild correction followed by a reward for good behavior is often all the dog needs to stop inappropriate behavior.
How much should we walk the dog?
If the handler is high-functioning, we recommend two 30-minute training walks per day. If the handler is low-functioning, we will be training a low-energy dog for you and they won't need to be walked at all (their work will be stimulus enough for them), and if you will not be walking your dog, it’s nice to play fetch with him/her if possible.
Should we flip the dog on its back to show our dominance over the dog?
No, do not flip the dog on its back. First of all, it is not necessary, and second, there's always the possibility they could be traumatized by such aggressiveness.
Should we continue training the dog?
If the handler is high-functioning, then yes, we recommend continuing to train the dog, starting with a beginner course. The dog won't need to start at that beginner level, but this kind of training is more for you—the handler—to learn the principles of positive reward-based training. It's really about training you! :-) Best practice is to continue working with the dog as much as possible so they maintain what they have learned.
If the handler is low-functioning, continued training is more of a gray area. No one wants the dog to get attached to the handler's parents (the dog should grow attached to the handler, not the parents), so we will work with you to determine how best to reward the dog for good behavior (without encouraging the dog to bond to the parents). This work will probably involve techniques such as having the parents give the handler treats to give to the dog for good behavior (supervised by the parents). Every case is different, but we will work with you to determine the best method of keeping the dog behaving well.