Climbing up on soapbox. You say you want a service dog to help you out. They are great for that. You say you want one because you’d like to get some rest? Nope. Not gonna happen. As a matter of fact, if that is a big reason for you, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.

You will get less rest. Less sleep. Less time to relax. Less time period.

These dogs require a lot of work. A. LOT. OF. WORK. Read that again. And again.

The work is constant. It needs to be. Even a walk around the block is done with constant interruptions while we work on obedience like stay, down, sit, come, etc. But that is what keeps these dogs focused and working. A game of fetch is broken down into a series of steps and commands. That builds respect. There is no letting them roam at the dog park while you sit and check your email.

Think taking a dog to Target or Chili’s is fun? The stares, the comments, the need to touch, the questions, the being put in the back, the being followed, especially as these particular dogs serve a person with an invisible disease, which seems to communicate 1 of 2 things: “the dog is in training” or “the dog isn’t really necessary”. It isn’t fun.

It’s a commitment. Constantly. Training is required for the next 10 years. If not, these dogs will easily become pets. And to be fair to the animal, you also need to work your ass off at managing your disease. Out of control diabetes management can very quickly ruin these dogs.

And as for the extra sleep? Right. If the dog is good, you will be up more than ever. Go high at night? The dog will catch it. Every 30 – 45 minutes. Suffer from dawn phenomenon? Sorry bout that.

Just like getting the life altering diagnosis of type 1, bringing home a service dog also requires some life alterations. There are no quick runs to the grocery store. The dog needs a vest, may need to stop and potty, is the ground hot? Put on the boots (THAT doesn’t draw attention). Pack water and a bowl.

Have a child that is shy? Or doesn’t like attention? This could be one of the worst things you could do.

And what do you do when the dog stops alerting? Are you ready to troubleshoot? Retrace your steps, retool your routine? Make little tiny changes 1 at a time to see what works? Because it will happen.

If you learn one thing from this, know this. These dogs are A LOT OF WORK. Are you ready to commit? If not, you’d be better served looking elsewhere.

With that said, please understand. Those of us that have success don’t get there because we are lucky, or have really smart dogs. As a matter of fact, a smart dog could go bad really fast with a person not willing to do the work or gain the respect, they will play you for a fool. No, those of us that have success get there by working our asses off. By making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again. By asking questions. By seeking help. By watching other successful teams. By making diabetes management our #1 priority. And by understanding, just like athletes do, that rest, and off time are just as important to these dogs as training time.

Stepping off soapbox.

Team Blackdogsrule


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  1. I always love your posts. I learn more and more every time I read them. Thank you so much for educating the uneducated.

  2. I’ve spent over 4 years saying these things and more. I’ve learned most cannot hear….

  3. Yes!!! On the soapbox with you, Frank! Just last night someone stopped me saying that they had been laughing at us because our dog had shoes on. They asked if they could take a picture of us. Thankfully I was the one handling Ruby at the time because Faith would have been very embarrassed. .

    Then there was yesterday, during the day, when a woman walked past my husband and Daughter and loudly explained to her child that “She shouldn’t pet service dogs…even when she herself doubts whether they really are service dogs or not.”

    Even if you read this blog post and think: Commitment? No problem! Training? Got it. Exercise? In the bag! Stop yourself and think about the social and emotional repercussions of strapping a service dog to your child. I cried all night last night, over a glass of wine, because I second-guess myself constantly about whether or not this was the right decision. Even those of us who do the work, and have rockstar dogs like Ruby, struggle with the realities of daily life with a service animal.

    • Absolutely beautiful Sarah. I am a grown woman who finds herself confronted and challenged over my needs and my K9 (I am currently working with my second one now who has given me full access to feeling human again after losing my first one to cancer after years of amazing service). I have in fact gotten into full blown challenges and arguements with certain family members over ADA laws vs. “Right to service” and have found myself in consistent turmoil over the stress it has created between them and my spouse. I do believe that your life is enriched and so is your daughters because of Ruby. I will hold you in high regards and hope that things will improve for you all. I wish you all the best and hope that this experience brings to light for all of those you come in contact with. I constantly get stares now of my K9 with her Doggles and her Shoes… I just shrug it off, but my Stress induced anxiety and my social interactions that set it off which include being the center of attention as well how I have learned to handled others who chastise because of my K9’s has not always been easy, but it does get easier with time. Eventually you will be a pro and so will Ruby.

  4. Wow – very enlightening!!! I appreciate posts like this so much! It helps educate families like mine who are interested in a DAD for our son! THANK YOU for sharing your knowledge and experiences!!!

  5. Pingback: Second Guessin’

  6. Brilliant post. I agree wholeheartedly. It’s a lot of work having a DAD but it is so very much worth every bit of the efforts invested.

  7. Thank you for the insight! I haven’t thought about getting a DAD, but I am glad I read this anyways.

  8. Thanks for the reality check. My 11-yr old daughter thinks she wants a DAD. There are some serious considerations. I appreciate that there are people who will tell the good, the bad, & the ugly. I want to go into our decision with my eyes wide open. Even then, I doubt we’ll be able to fully grasp the commitment involved. Thank you!!!

  9. Amen!! .. Went to NC State Fair and had some jerk comment out loud that everyone and their brother had a service dog. I wheeled on him and said quite clearly “I would give anything to not NEED to have a service dog!” .. He finally realized how rude his comment was and apologized.

    • Good for you! I wonder where some of these people’s Mothers were when they were growing up? What ever happened to if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all? Or just simple human KINDNESS and RESPECT. Kudos to you for speaking up and putting him in his place, I’m just sorry you were put in a position to have to do ot at all.

  10. Actually, I am going to correct you on a couple of things. The dog doesn’t NEED a vest. ADA states that vests and other identifiers are not required by law for a working or in training SD, they are simply a courtesy to better help the public identify the dog as something more than a pet. Boots are also not necessary on all dogs. A dog with good, tough (usually black) pawpads has no need of boots and honestly using them is worse on the dog. Dogs “sweat” through their feet and covering them prevents them from being able to properly cool themselves this way as the boots trap the moisture against their feet. Most people should instead try a salve called Mushers Secret. It will help protect and strengthen the pads against extremes of heat and cold as well as allow the natural dissipation of heat via their feet.

    I definitely agree with pretty much everything else. Having and training an SD is difficult and education goes a long way to correct people who think having one is just so much fun.

    • Frank Wisneski

      You are correct about requiring a vest. A SD doesn’t need a vest, paperwork, or certification. But in our case we utilize one. It’s a great place to put DO NOT PET stickers and store poop bags. It also makes life a little easier for our 12 year old daughter to navigate through life with her SD. We can debate about the boots though. That would be a personal preference.

    • Frank Wisneski

      Sorry hit enter too soon. Boots are a personal preference and were used in an effort to show how much needs to be considered when thinking about a SD, and how they aren’t just pets, but require more thought and maintenance.

      • I understand that vests are not required and that many people may choose not to use one, and that is their right. My reasons for choosing to use a vest follow: (1) People do not give me a hard time about him being a service dog with his vest on. I do not appear to need a service dog. (2) For my dog, putting on his vest is his cue that it is time to work, and his personality changes into work mode. (3) His main job is mobility assistance, so I need to have an SD vest or a mobility harness to hold onto.

    • I have to agree with Frank below about the paperwork and such, but also regarding the “boots.” I live in the Middle of the Mohave Desert where the sidewalk heat can be as hot if not 35 degree’s hotter than the air in the sun. Walking across asphalt parking lots and other areas I have seen damage to dog’s pads that become irreversable. I would rather be safe than sorry, and if anything, the boots are usually only used if the heat is intolerable and once inside, they are removed. There should be very little reason to be standing in the sun on days like this for more than a few minutes at a time. I believe it is all about location, location, location. A good rule of thumb is using the back of your hand. If you can put the back of your hand on the sidewalk or street and hold it there for 10 seconds without the heat burning you, then I would suggest using booties. These dogs are not outdoor dogs that build up a tolerance to terrain like some, and are usually pampered by indoor activities, so speak to your vet first and find out their recommendation.

  11. As someone with a service dog who works tirelessly on our teamwork, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for writing this!! Every word is true

  12. Pingback: Black Dogs Rule: So You Say You Want a Service Dog | The Dog and Ma's Karma

  13. I really want one but, they are to much money.

  14. Ive trained Rottweilers to be Service Dogs for over 21 years, and all I can say is, PREACH IT!!!! LOVEd your article, and very true.

  15. You are absolutely right about SD’s being a lot of work and they are working dogs, not pets. Be very sure to check out the service dog company as well, as you can easily be ripped off, like I have been. Waited a year for my dog, they took all of my money and the dog wasn’t even house trained. I need a service dog badly as I am paralyzed from the waist down.