Patty L. Fletcher
Hello again visitors of campbellsworld! Patty and ®Seeing Eye Dog Campbell Lee back again with another fun and hopefully informative article for you.
This week we’d like to talk with you about one of the most challenging things that someone with a service dog faces. Which is, Incorporating your service dog into your personal household.
The first thing to tell you is that the type of household you have will decide the challenge. We will break these up into categories. I can tell you I have run the gamut of all types, and so I’ll be speaking from personal experience as we go along.
First let us talk about being in a household where there is a live in partner. Whether you’re married or just living together as ‘partners’ is of no matter the logistics are pretty much the same.
There are several difficult points.
The hardest ones in my opinion are:
Bonding, who’s in charge, and how to deal with what happens when I am simply not available during a disobedient moment.
Let me explain. First off the most important thing to remember is that above all others the service dog must be one-hundred percent bonded to the one it is designed to serve. In my case Campbell’s single function is to guide, so even though he doesn’t work for me while we’re at home he still needs to look to me for all things.
I must be the one who provides the majority of his care.
I must be the one who decides what his limits are as well as what he is allowed to do, and should he break any of the ‘in home rules’ set for him, I must be the one who decides and carries out his consequences.
Now, is this always black and white? No, it is not. Let me give an example. Let us say I am taking a nice long hot soak in the tub. Campbell is most likely not going to be in the bathroom with me, and once Campbell’s boundaries have been set he is most likely going to be running free in the house. So, let us say that he decides that while mom’s in the tub he wants to have a bite of my partner’s pizza. My partner cannot allow this, so what is he to do? He should go by the rules, and consequences set forth by me. In Campbell’s case he would tell him to ‘Leave it!’ Then he would have him go to his place. ‘His place.’ This is a designated place somewhere in the house Campbell goes when I want him to stay put. He would then give him the command to ‘rest’ until such time he was either done with his pizza, or I come out of the bathroom and take charge of him again.
However, if I am not in the bathroom, or otherwise occupied and Campbell gets into his pizza he should tell him to ‘leave it!’ and then have me take charge of him. It can be a very hard happy middle.
Another thing that is hard, is the allowing of a partner to bond with the dog. Of course you want your dog and partner to care for one another, in fact I love that the man I occasionally keep time with and Campbell have a great relationship. It can be very difficult if the dog and partner don’t like one another. This can happen, and if anyone should wish to know more about such things simply let me know, and I’ll be more than happy to write of it.
Bonding between your dog and partner is a slow process. The first thing to remember is when you first bring your dog home from where ever it comes, the name of the game is one-hundred percent bonding between dog and handler, nothing more nothing less. It is not up for discussion, at least not in my world.
Once you have begun to establish a good bonding process between you and your dog, you can begin to truly incorporate your partner into the mix.
Allow the two to play together, allow your partner to pet and love on the dog, and if appropriate, allow your partner to give a treat or toy to the dog. This lets the dog know your partner is their friend, and allows the two to begin to care for one another. Think of it as if the dog is a step child to your partner, and you will most likely do well.
Next on the list of categories is living with house mates. Now, the biggest question I get here is, “What’s the difference between house mates, and a live in partner?” Well, most likely you’re not in love with your house mates. For example, right now I have a single mother and her two children living with me. One of the very first things we did was to set up house rules for them and Campbell. They’re rather like what I wrote of concerning what is and is not ok with the partner, but for just a few things.
One of the differences I have run into has been this.
My house mate has many different persons in her life. Meaning, she has lots of friends that visit, and while this is totally acceptable, and of course is to be expected, when there are many different people coming and going, Campbell like any dog tries to take advantage. So, each time someone new is introduced to the household I must once again go over the rules.
They are the same as described above. If I am at all available, and Campbell gets into trouble he is to be stopped as quickly as is possible and given over to me to deal with, but if I am unavailable due to being in the bathroom, or asleep my house mate herself takes charge of him, stops his behavior and puts him in his place until such time I am available to take charge of him again.
Now, I want to stop here and say nine out of ten times when I am asleep, Campbell is going to be with me, and it is my recommendation others follow this practice. It is one thing to leave your dog free in the house while you take a bath or do something outside without your dog, but to go to sleep and give your dog freedom among others family friends, or otherwise is in my opinion a recipe for possible disaster. I however, have been accused of being quite rigid with my dog handling practices, so I say of course “To each his own.”
Now, I want to have you take note of what I say here about what happens if I am detained elsewhere other than with Campbell. I say, “My house mate takes charge of him.” This is what I mean. If she is here and I am busy elsewhere she is the one I want handling Campbell, not her friends etc. The reason for this is simple, just as with children too many people telling the dog what to do and how to do will in time cause him to become confused, and frustrated, and this, just as with children will lead to bad behavior which I cannot allow. In short, “Too many cooks, spoils the soup.”
However, this as with anything is not always black and white. There are times when someone other than my house mate must intervene and it simply is as it is. You make plans and life happens. Again, if I am at all available, his bad behavior should be stopped, and he should be given over to me to deal with.
Now to the last category on my list. Living as a single person.
Living as a single person with your service dog in my mind has so far been the easiest. Except for one tiny problem. Campbell gets extremely used to it just being he and I at home, and there not being any partner in my life, and then should I begin to date, just as with children, Campbell becomes jealous, and if I do not take great care to make certain Campbell is not ignored in any way, he is without a doubt going to begin to display bad behavior, and most likely it is not going to happen at home. This can lead to all sorts of issues, some of which if not dealt with as soon as they show themselves could be deadly for not only me, but him as well.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs have feelings and emotions too, and if they feel neglected they will become upset, and if they become upset they will act out, and so it is always a good idea if you are single to try and have someone around on at least a part time bases that your dog is comfortable with and you can spend time doing things with, so the dog doesn’t get the idea they are the only being in your universe. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in quite a pickle should you find someone you wish to keep time with.
I hope this has answered some of your questions about what is required when trying to incorporate a service dog into your personal household. If there is something you’d like to know, that I did not cover, please be sure to let me know.
I’m always happy to answer questions.
Thanks for reading, and until next time this is Patty and Campbell saying, “may harmony find you, and blessid be.”