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Service Dog Day-school and Coaching Policies

Welcome to our service dog day-school and coaching policies! 

These policies are designed to create the best learning experience for you and your dog. If you are interested in our programs, please review these policies as they will give you a good picture on how we train, the training process, and what is expected from you! 

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Policies - Section 1
     The Training Process

Acceptance into the Service Dog Coaching or Day-school program:

Due to the high risk associated with owner-training a service dog, our program's acceptance process is designed to protect your dog from incompletion of service dog training. 

Why are there risks to owner-training?

Dogs are very similar to people in that they all have different personalities. As you may know, different personalities are suited to different jobs. For example, someone who loves a challenge would not be content as a clerk at a Dollar Store. Instead you will see these people in jobs such as working as a Navy Seal on dangerous missions or as a surgeon performing high-risk surgeries.  Likewise, someone who is claustrophobic would not thrive as a splunking guide. They would more likely choose a profession that gives them plenty of room to move and breath. In this way, we must be careful in picking our dog's professions. If we want them to be a working dog, we first must ask, "does my dog want to work?" and then, "Is my dog capable of the work I want them to perform?" 

A dog's personality is key into finding if they will succeed as a service dog. 

Besides personality playing a role in service dog work, a dog's health is another often unpredictable factor that can change. Just like bad health can prevent a person from working, physical and mental health diseases can develop in a dog that can prevent them from working. 

Lastly, relationship between the handler and the dog must be considered. Just like different personalities in people can cause an incompatible relationship, this is also true for a dog and human relationship. 

Because of these factors, there are inherent risks in owner-training a service dog:

Risks:
1) Financial involvement: 
Service dog training usually takes 1 to 2 years and in this process owner trainers can spend between $1,500 to $7,000 on their dog's training alone through our program. Besides training expenses, owners can expect to spend finances on food, equipment, and veterinary costs. 
2) Emotional involvement:
Probably more costly than finances, the emotional investment that is given to a service dog candidate's success is worth considering. It is impossible for an owner trainer not to become emotionally attached to a dog. In fact, it is very common for significant emotional bonds and attachments to occur in a matter of a few weeks of acquiring a service dog candidate. Because of this attachment, owner trainers tend to invest more time, training, and expenses into a dog that should not become a service dog. Simply, they become blinded by their dream for their relationship with the dog and cannot see the dog's flaws until the dog's issues become blatantly apparent. By this time, money, time, and emotional attachment have been deeply invested and it is heart-breaking to part with their dream. 
3) Time involvement:
Because a service dog's training can take one to two years, time is also a factor that is invested in owner-training. It is important for an owner-trainer to devote an average of an hour a day to training. This may add up to 365- 730 hours total. This does not include the time spent housebreaking, exercising, and playing with the dog. If your dog is not able to complete the training required, you will have potentially invested many months of time into a dog that will not be able to help you as a service dog. 
What we do to mitigate your risk: 
 

Step 1. All applicants must apply through our Service Dog Coaching Application form and submit the application fee. 

Your application will help us determine your and your dog's likeliness to succeed in our program:

1) Immediate red flags of your dog's temperament

2) Your ability to commit to training and to successfully owner-train a service dog candidate

Step 2. We perform an initial in-person assessment of your dog's temperament and of your ability to work with your dog

1) More subtle predictors of service dog failure

  • High prey drive instinct (chasing animals)

  • Resource guarding (guarding you, food, or other commodities)

  • Independence (lack of retrieval)

  • Over-reactivity (inability to settle, pulling towards neutral dogs, refusal of food or play) 

  • Other factors 

2) Your ability to train and navigate with your dog

Step 3. If there are issues that might improve with training, we will ask you to commit to a training plan we will make with you. If your dog does not improve significantly in the time span of 3 training sessions, we will recommend not pursuing service dog training with your dog. Further, we will discontinue your dog's acceptance into our service dog coaching program.

 

*Note: To mitigate your emotional, financial, and time risks, the minimum age of service dog candidate we accept is 6 months old. This is because our temperament screening is not designed for young puppies. As a part of the aging process, many dogs' temperaments do not mature until they are 14 months old. This means that until a dog matures fully, they may develop personality traits that are not conducive to service dog work such as resource guarding, chasing, and other reactivity behaviors. 

Acceptance into our Service Dog Coaching program does not guarantee success as a service dog or that you and your dog will pass the program. 

To graduate as a service dog team in our program, applicants: 
1. Must be accepted into our service dog coaching program,
2. Must earn your AKC virtual home manners title,
3. Must pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test,
4. Must pass the AKC Urban Canine Good Citizen (UCGC) test,
5. Must pass the AKC Advanced Canine Good Citizen (ACGC) test and,
6. Must be able to perform at least one task consistently in a distracting public environment

Policies - Section 2   
         Required Training

 

Lessons Needed and Required Homework: 

 

Your first lesson will be focused on creating a task list and a training plan for you and your dog's specific needs. To meet your goals made by your coach, you will be required to train between 30 minutes to one hour on average per day. If you cannot meet these requirements, you should plan on widening your support system to allow for others to help you train your dog. Other lessons will focus on earning your AKC Virtual Home Manners title, passing the other public access tests, public access training and etiquette, and task training. 

Depending on your needs and your coach's recommendation, your training may include private lessons, day-school, and/or group classes. Group classes may be with other service dog candidates, with therapy dog candidates, and/or with pet dogs. Every person and dog are different so the frequency of lessons may vary from every other week to every other month. 

Public Access Training:

TN state law (Opinion Number 13-59) op13-059.pdf (tn.gov) states that service dogs in training are allowed public access as long as the dog and the handler are identified with a school for training service dogs and are well-behaved. Because of this law, Knox Service Dogs (KSD) will issue their students with school identification after the service dog candidate has passed their first public access test, the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test.

 

It is a privilege that service dog candidates can train for public access in TN, and it is important that we protect this right by safely interacting in public and by being respectful to everyone while representing and wearing the "Service Dog in Training" and "Knox Service Dog" patches well. When you and your dog wear KSD identification and Service Dog in Training patches, you represent the service dog community as well as KSD and it is important that you and your dog adhere to public access etiquette. This etiquette includes the items listed below. 

Public Access Safety and Etiquette:

1. Preventing your dog from eating or smelling food out in public (other than for allergen detection)

2. Enforcing housebreaking habits 

3. Keeping your dog out of the way of foot traffic including isles and exits

4. Removing your dog if your dog barks uncontrollably, shows fear or aggression, or in any way becomes an unnecessary threat to you or the general public

5. Keeping your dog under leash control 

6. Not allowing your dog to interact with the public (unless for a specific task) including sniffing people, licking people, or being petted by people

7. Not allowing your dog up onto furniture including restaurant benches or in grocery carts

8. Inappropriately potties indoors (not in a service dog relief area)

9. Keeping you, your dog, and your dog's vest free of dirt and otherwise clean and well-kept

10. Be respectful and follow the guidelines in this Policy for how to handle rude interactions

Before public access training, your coach will work with you on how to interact with problems that may arise from the general public including:

1. People intentionally or unintentionally distracting your dog

2. People attempting to deny you public access

3. People asking to pet your dog

4. Disrespectful interactions with people

5. Where your dog is and is not allowed 

6. How to handle a housebreaking accident 

If Public Access Safety and Etiquette is Breached:

If your trainer/coach notices a repeat (2 or more times) pattern of you not following service dog etiquette, a written plan will be made for your improvement and you must work on improving your service dog etiquette in pet friendly places only. You must also give your KSD Identification back. Once your trainer/coach sees improvement and that you are able to follow the etiquette rules, a coaching session will be done in a public access situation and your KSD identification will be returned so that you can continue public access training. 

Steps to Take if Denied Public Access: 

If someone is attempting to deny you public access, you should first show them your KSD identification and politely inform them of the TN state Service Dog Guide Law in Opinion 13-59. If the person still attempts to deny you access, you should ask to speak to their manager. If the person or manager still denies you access, you should leave the premises and call the manager the next day and politely inform them of the denial event and of your public access rights. If you are still denied access, inform your KSD coach and they will reach out to the entity. At this point, if you are still denied access, you should file a complaint with the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners and they will advocate for you. 

Policies - Section 3   
           Cancellation and Late Policy

Cancellation: 

If you must cancel your lesson, you must give a 24 hour notice. Exceptions will be made in the case of sickness or other extenuating circumstances. 

If you habitually (3 or more times) cancel without adequate notice, in the future you will be required to pay for your appointment at the time you schedule your lesson without a refund for cancellation.

 

Late:

 If the client is more than 5 minutes late to your lesson, we cannot guarantee that your lesson can run late to make up for this time. Because lessons are booked per time slot available, even if you are late, you pay for the whole time slot. 

If the client is habitually late (3 times or more), the client will be required to pay for their lesson when it is scheduled. 

If the client is running late, out of curtesy, they will communicate with their trainer/coach that they are running late. 

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