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A1: Debate: Training Assistance Dogs

by Gill Bowden
(Dunfermline, Fife)

I have made enquiries about getting a service dog but the waiting lists are ridiculous and rules such as having no other pets in the house create limitations.

I have Autism, ADHD and CPDSD.

I already have cats which I am not willing to part with as they give me great comfort and I love them, as does my autistic son.

So I decided to train my own assistance dog. I have taken qualifications in canine behaviour, welfare and training and also in assistance dog training.

It means that I can train my dog to meet my needs and to my commands, which I find much easier.

In some ways it would be easier to have official training and standards available but in other ways it will limit the access that disabled people have to assistance dogs

If dogs have to be registered by certain organisations this will concentrate the power and accessibility in the hands of organisations that can already not manage demand.

It will also mean that dogs are trained genetically not to the needs of the individual.

For example, my personal needs are that I can teach my dog to provide a barrier to other people if I can not handle interaction.

They can accompany me to places that I would be too anxious to go to on my remind me to eat and to help me find things I have 'out in a safe place' and can no longer remember where I put them e.g. my keys, my phone and to provide light pressure therapy when I am about to have a panic attack or am overly anxious.

I can train my dog to do these things in a way that works for me rather than being told that 'this is the normal way we train them, take it or leave it'.

While I do feel that dogs should have training to be 'polite' and well-behaved in public, I also feel that (as someone who struggles to get out of the house without my dog) the value of emotional support dogs should not be dismissed if they assist someone with Mental Health conditions to be able to live a fuller and more healthy life.

They should, therefore be recognised, in my opinion, as valid support aids even if a basic level of training is required to ensure they are not disruptive or aggressive.

To not accept Emotional Support Animal's is, in my view, a breach of The Equality Act in that it discriminates against those with particular disabilities.


Well done Gill for undertaking the training. There's not many people who would be that motivated.

You have raised some interesting points as the "recognised" organisations cannot meet demand.

There's also a question of the size of the dogs. Many dogs for the disabled are particular breeds. For example. If you are wheelchair user you may only want a small dog that can be lifted onto your lap for comfort and reassurance rather than a large dog that removes washing from a washing machine.

All disabilities are different and people's needs are different. No one size fits all.

I think you have opened up an interesting debate that needs to had by disability organisations.

Thank you for raising the issue.


Since writing the above answer I've found a website on Therapy Dog Training. It offers dog workshops and a dog training school. There is a charge for this service but the cost is not excessive given that it is accredited training.

Therapy Dog Training

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