Lacey was assessed yesterday by a certified trainer with a lot of experience with Service and Support dogs. I called the trainer for help, because my client had called me in a highly emotional state, saying that Lacey had bitten her son. Having spoken with this trainer before about Lacey, it just made sense to call on her again. Due to some things that were taking place simultaneously, I was in a highly emotional state myself, and I know from long experience that when emotions get in the way, you can’t do your job properly.
The trainer understood the situation completely, and took time out of her very busy schedule to come in and meet with my clients and me to assess Lacey. The visit took just over an hour, and at the end of it, Lacey was cleared and deemed to be “an excellent candidate for Support work.” The trainer was very pleased with Lacey’s calmness despite being surrounded by a ton of distractions – one of which included a very big, highly excited Labrador who desperately wanted to meet her. She was also very pleased with how Lacey was able to perform the basic commands, “sit”, “sit/stay”, “down”, “down/stay”, and “heel”. Apparently, it is somewhat unusual for a dog of Lacey’s age [4 months] to be able to even sit…
As it turned out, Lacey had not, in fact, bitten the child. What we think actually happened was that she tried to initiate play with him by putting her front paws on him. She was too close to his face, and one of her toenails scraped his cheek and left a mark. We think this because no one actually saw the action; my client only heard the outcome. His back was turned when the incident occurred.
Now, I have been highly criticized for allowing Lacey to be with her family while she’s still a puppy and going through all the stages puppies go through, including nipping. Among other things that have been fired at me, I’ve been told that if I was a “real” trainer, I would know that Support and Service dogs are not given to their families until they are out of those puppy stages – usually, at around a year to 18 months of age. Now that I am calm, I am going to respond to the criticism once, and once only.
I do know that. And when Lacey initially came to me, the expectation was that she would be with me for at least a year. She is with her family very early because that is what they requested. Their son, who is autistic, was struggling without Lacey, and although we had tailored the training sessions to give him a couple of hours at least a few times a week with her, it wasn’t enough. He was refusing to work with her, and outright rejecting her. This was very stressful not only for the family, but for Lacey, too; she is deeply bonded to this boy and his rejection created a great deal of stress for her that she was negatively expressing onto my animals. So, the family and I had a long talk about the situation, and they decided that despite the challenges we would have to deal with because of Lacey’s young age, it was in their son’s best interest to have Lacey with them.
The trainer has asked to do a second assessment of Lacey when my client’s child is present. She wants to see how Lacey interacts with him, and how she copes with his continuous, very high energy. My clients and I are more than happy to accommodate that request. Even trainers sometimes need the eyes and perspectives of other trainers. There is no shame in that, nor does it mean that a trainer is not “real” or not qualified.
Have a great day and a great week ahead, and remember to stay calm…