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Service Women's Action Network (SWAN)

A member-driven community network advocating for the individual and collective needs of service women past, present and future.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)

Offers compassionate care to all those grieving the loss of a military loved one.

Service Dog Care FAQ

There are certain terms that we use when referring to your Service Dog. Here’s a quick rundown of words that you’ll come across and should be familiar with.
  • Service Dog – SD
  • Service Dog in Training – SDiT
  • Emotional Support Animal – ESA
Q: What are the benefits of crate training?
A: Dogs are den/pack animals and a crate creates a safe environment for them. (similar to placing a baby in a playpen when you cannot watch them) It is also easier to housebreak your dog when crating as a dog will not relieve themselves where they sleep. Allows pet owner to have less anxiety knowing that dog is safe as well as the home. Nothing will be chewed or destroyed if the dog is crated.
Q: Will you always need to keep your dog crated?
A: No, not always. Some dogs will eventually no longer need a crate and others will just always like their crate and not want to give up as it is their “safe” place. Depends on the dog and their needs as well as the owner.
Q: What are the benefits of range feeding vs. morning/evening meals?
A: Having set feeding times allows ease of your daily schedule should you need to be out at appointments or gone from home for long periods of time during the day. You should not feed your dog directly before coming to training class. Feed your dog two (2) hours prior. Also, do not exercise/run your dog for at least one hour after feeding as this causes bloat which can be a serious medical issue. By having a structured feeding routine will also assist you in monitoring their bathroom needs.
Q: Why do I need to carry a dog pack?
A: You always need to be prepared to have the items needed to care for your dog. We recommend the following to be included in your “dog pack”:

  • Water/Food Bowl
  • Food/treats
  • Towel/blanket
  • Extra leash/extra collar
  • Bottled water
  • Copy of Shot records
  • Benadryl/Imodium/pepto bismol/phazyme
  • Flexi leash for bathroom purposes
  • Poop bags
Q: How do I introduce my dog to another dog?
A: Most dog fights are caused by people. Typically those fall into three (3) categories:

  1. People wanting their dogs to meet other dogs too fast
  2. People not paying attention to their dogs and the signals from the dogs
  3. People that let their dogs do whatever they want and have no control over their dog

Do not assume that just because your dog is friendly there would be no problem. Dogs are pack animals and there is a hierarchy. Always ask the owner first if their dog is dog-friendly. If so, then both dog owners approach each other from an angle (never straight on). Watch your dog for any signs of aggression/anxiety etc.

You always want to make this a positive situation. Even if the dogs look good at their first meeting, do not automatically let them play, take it slow. You do not want the dogs to have a bad experience.

Never put your dog into the dog run with another dog until you have cleared with the owner to be sure the other dog is not dog aggressive. Always keep in mind that some dogs play hard and some dogs play soft.

Q: How do I stop /biting/nipping/teething/mouthing of my dog?
A: Grasp the top part of the muzzle while pinching the lips inside the mouth so that when the dog bites down, they bite their lip and will usually cry. Say “no bite” in a firm voice. You always remain calm and consistent when teaching a behavior.
Q: Should I let other people pet or give my SD treats?
A: Normally the answer is NO, but it is truly up to you as the handler. Please keep in mind though, if you allow it to happen on a regular basis while your SD has its working harness on, you are ultimately teaching your SD, that it’s okay for them to leave you if someone is trying to pet or give them treats.

We teach that no one is allowed to pet your SD while it has its harness on and is working. We also teach that no one other than you should give your SD treats. If you want to allow your SD to be petted by someone, please take off their harness so they know that s/he has some free time to “mingle”. If someone offers your SD a treat, ask the person to hand the treat to you, and you will give the treat to your dog.

Q: How do I stop my dog from chewing things? (Shoes, Underwear, etc.)
A: This is all going to depend on what the dog is chewing. At the end of the day, your SD is still a dog, and will at some point do “dog” things. In the dog world, if they have “access” to something then, it’s fair game.

That being said, if your SD is chewing items like shoes, underwear, etc., put those items up and in an area that your SD will not have access to them. If they get into something, because you’re not watching/paying attention to them, then ultimately it’s YOUR fault. When you cannot watch your SD, put them in their crate. This will not only keep them safe, but your belongings safe as well.

Q: Should I let my SD outside by itself at my house?
A: That is up to you. Keep in mind though, that there are a lot of problems with dog theft/killing/etc. As far as the staff is concerned, if our dog(s) are outside, we are outside with them as well.
Q: How do I handle Confrontation / Access Issues / Certification Questions?
A: We will go over these in depth in your classes. A lot of the problems that SD teams face, are simply due to a business entity not knowing the laws regarding SD’s/SDiT’s. It is our job as SD teams, to do our best to educate the public. The public can be unforgiving with their questions. They can be downright rude about things. The biggest thing to remember if you’re being confronted is to STAY CALM.

At the beginner level of training, you should ONLY be taking your SDiT to places where pets are allowed (PetSmart, Petco, Tractor Supply, Lowe’s, etc.). This should cut down on issues where confrontation/access are concerned.

If at any time, you have an issue at an establishment, get their contact information and one of our staff members will contact them.

Q: What do I do if my SD has a bathroom accident?
A: First, DON’T PANIC! You have to realize that there will come a time when your SD has an accident in a store. There could be a number of reasons for this to occur, (handler not paying attention to the SD, SD not feeling well, etc.). Just be a responsible SD team and clean up the mess, BUT keep in mind that a business entity can legally ask you to leave their establishment if something like this does occur. If that does happen, remain calm and leave, after you’ve cleaned up the mess.
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