AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD SERVICE DOG
Australian Shepherds can be trained as Service Dogs and preform the same work and tasks as other breeds. It is all about good breeding, temperament, character, loyalty, health, a willing attitude, and lots of training. Aussies LOVE to work, and in our opinion, there is no better job for an Aussie than to be a Service Dog.
Sharing Our Story:
My husband is a retired Army Veteran of 20 years in service and 10 yrs. as a JROTC Instructor. He has several service related injuries and health issues.
After the loss of our other Aussie, “Odin”, who was the most amazing dog anyone could own, my husband fell further into depression. Having a bad back and knee’s, plus all sorts of other health issues, I knew I had to do something to lift his spirits and get him mobile. I convinced him we needed a Service Dog. He agreed and was adamant it had to be Australian Shepherd.
Australian Shepherds can be trained for therapy, search and rescue, guiding the handicapped as companions, as well as full-service mobility dogs. Their history as herding animals makes them excellent candidates for this type of work along with many other breeds. However, it is important to remember that each dog is different. Breeding and training is key in any successful Service Dog.
My search to find a “Full Service Mobility Australian Shepherd” wasn’t successful. I could find “Search & Rescue and Seeing Eye SD” with waiting lists of 3 to 4 years, costing $40,000 to $120,000 for regular SD Breeds. I decided that since my husband was a Veteran we would go through VA. I decided to research breeders and to connect with Veteran Affairs (VA).
NOTE: VA doesn’t provide SD for Veteran’s anymore. You procure your own SD, follow all the necessary VA guidelines, rules, and regulations plus you need a VA Primary Care Doctor to sign specific papers in order to have your VA SD on your medical records.
Your SD must be Certified through an Assistance Dog International, International Guide Dog Federation, National Association of Guide Dog. There are also several organizations like your local Legion that can provide you with resources. We hired an Assistance Dog International Trainer and a Local SD Trainer to train us on how to train our dog. We then had him tested by a certified ADI Dog Trainer.
*** If you would like more information about the steps, forms or regulations as per VA, please feel free to contact Fred or Denise Dumas through Kim and John Lippert our Australian Shepherd Breeder.
While filling out what seemed like endless breeder application forms, an email arrived from a gal referring me to Kim Lippert. She went onto tell me Kim had 28 yrs. of experience breeding Australian Shepherds, and that she had the sweetest little blue merle boy who sounded like everything I was looking for. I contacted Kim and after a lengthy conversation about both our histories, what I was looking for, her breeding practices, and the character she strives for, I felt strongly any one of Kim’s Aussies would have the potential for making a good Service Dog.
Please keep in mind that not all animals can pass the training/testing to be a Service Dog. Even after years of training it doesn’t mean they will work as a SD. It’s very important for the potential SD to be friendly, healthy, and to have the ability to work calmly in not so calm circumstances, possess a sound temperament, be smart, and have a willingness to learn and work.
The day we went to get our pup, a natural quality that really stood out to us was when my husband dropped his crutch the little fur ball came running to grab the end of the crutch and drag it to my husband.
Our pup’s litter name was Fred, which happens to also be my husband’s name. We all found it so fitting & funny. We named him “Canyon Oaks Blue Attis, AKA Attis”, which in Greek means “God of Rebirth”. We felt strongly that some traits in Attis were so much like our Odin. Attis’ name fits him perfectly!
My husband suffers from PTSD nightmares and sleep paralysis where his breathing is shallow to the point of where it sounds like his heart stops. He can’t move, but can hear you, and needs someone to wake him up. Without any training, Attis moved like a defibrillator jumping on Fred to wake him. We were so stunned that this little guy did this with no training. To this very date he continues to wake Fred during these episodes.
Service Dogs begin training averagely at 6 weeks of age. You’ll want a skilled, qualified SD Trainer to personality test your pup. It is vital to do your research! There is a sea of information one must sort through when picking a Service Dog, Service Dog Organization, Trainer, breed and breeder.
Not every dog makes it to the completion of Service Dog Training. Many dogs that have been selected from an extensive line of well-bred service dogs, have gone through training and socialization only to fail to complete the training for various reasons. Very, very few dogs are suitable. One must consider carefully several factors in order to choose a potential SD candidate that has the best chance of success.
Owning an Aussie isn’t for everyone. In addition, not all Aussies are cut out for Service Dog work! It is extremely important to work with your breeder as much as your SD Trainers. A qualified breeder wants what is best for their dogs and therefore are the best ones to evaluate the SD potential of one of their own dogs. As a pet/SD owner, it is your responsibility to safeguard the welfare and to be in control of the SD training of your new family member.
Aussies are very smart and love to work. Know that in choosing this breed it requires complete dedication on your part. Be committed to investing in hiring a qualified trainer. Commit to attend training classes as early as possible, every week, for the first 2 years of the pup’s life.
After you pass the 1st Service Dog Test at 2 years of age, you will still need to attend classes with your trainer for advanced work monthly until the 3rd year test is passed. Further training is required throughout each year for the rest of your Service Dog’s life. Once you have passed both 2nd and 3rd year tests, your SD will be tested every 18 months for the rest of his/her life to keep their Service Dog Certification. It is very important to keep up with those training classes and continued training at home every single day.
Having a skilled SD Trainer, one that is familiar with your disabilities, knowing what tasks the dog needs to perform to help you is very important.
BEWARE of Fake Service Dog registries. You can only get your Service Dog registered and certified through a qualified Service Dog Trainer. They will provide the training, the testing, and proof of certification.
Attis is the sweetest Aussie. His typical Aussie “wiggle butt” is almost always in overdrive. He loves learning new tasks and tricks. He is a huge part of our family. Not only has he helped my husband in thousands of ways to have a better quality of life, but he helps me daily to care for my husband.
We are so grateful to Kim and John Lippert and Canyon Oaks Aussies for bringing Attis into our lives. Attis is an amazing Certified Full-Service Mobility Support Dog. We couldn’t have achieved all we have without your love, care, and support. I can’t wait to get another puppy to train to be my Therapy Dog!
We are grateful to both our Trainers Brigadoon Service Dogs and Lead Me Ursula’s Boarding and Training.
Fred & Denise Dumas & Attis
Assistance Dog International – Do a search of your State and City for a local SD Trainer
International Guide Dog Federation
National Association of Guide Dog
Americans with Disabilities Act – ADA.gov
A Giant List of Service Dog Tasks via Service Dog Society.com
National Network on the Americans with Disability Act