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J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 1998;1(2):133-44.

Observations on assistance dog training and use.

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Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002, USA


Trained service dogs assist and also add pride, self-reliance, and personal satisfaction to an individual's daily life. However, well-bred, trained dogs are very expensive. To explore decreasing the cost of a service dog by increasing the number of dogs successfully completing training, the authors analyzed tasks that service dogs are expected to perform, measuring some of the inherent physical stresses the dogs encounter and considering training techniques to better prepare the dogs for more successful completion of tasks. Observing working dogs, the authors found that undue stress was placed on many of the dogs while performing tasks; that motivational gestures for performance were not fully extended; and that, many times, handlers did not instruct the dogs properly. The working dogs observed often were required to perform tasks that put them at risk of injury and performance failure. Important future considerations for training and handling working dogs will include proper training of handlers and a better understanding of the complexities of the instinctive and physical capabilities and limitation of dogs.

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