Service Dog Retirement
As you are beginning your journey with your new service dog, it is good to consider what happens at the end of your partnership.
4 Paws 2 Freedom does not require the service dogs in their program to retire at a set age, and since service dogs for PTSD may not do as much physical work as other types of service animals, there is a degree of flexibility. It is important to note, however, that we must always be mindful of the burden we may be putting on our dogs especially as they age.
There is much more stress put on working animals than on pets. While we use tools to help reduce that stress, there still is a cost to the dog. They will not be prone to show you this, so it is up to you to watch for changes in your dog as he matures and ages. You will be taking your service dog to the veterinarian every year for his annual checkup. Be sure to talk to the veterinarian about this. The most common reason we retire our dogs is because they are slowing down and beginning to experience joint pain. It is not fair to your dog to continue to work them as a service dog if they are in pain. Many dogs will begin to let you know they are not as interested in going out with you as often, or they simply may not be able to keep up with your schedule.
What does retirement for your dog mean?
Your service dog has been your buddy and your companion for years. You have a working relationship that you don’t even have to think much about, things just “click”. But, your dog is not just a friend, he is also “medical equipment” which is the reason dogs are allowed equal access to places under the ADA. If your dog can no longer keep up the pace, you must take the responsibility to retire him.
Keep him as your pet
Often times after spending 6-8 years working with our service dog, learning to better deal with the difficult situations that left us home bound, our PTSD is so improved that we may no longer require a service dog. In this case, we can retire the service dog vest and our service dog can now take on the pleasure of adored pet until he passes over the Rainbow Bridge.
Retire your service dog while bringing in a new puppy to train
This is one of the more difficult choices, but it needs to be explored. It is often very difficult on our adult mature service dogs to handle the exuberance of a new puppy. Puppies can be relentless in their pestering of adult dogs and this is likely not what your retired dog wants to deal with. After all, it has just been him and you for all these years. Plus, now you are leaving him at home and taking this young upstart with you. While your retired service dog will likely adjust to this new status, I find that usually the human cannot. Every time you take the pup out to train, which needs to be frequently, your old dog gives you the look of betrayal with his expressive eyes. For many people this is like tearing out your heart.
Rehome your retired service dog and bring in a new puppy to train
As tough as this scenario seems, it is actually easier for most people than trying to train a new pup around your retired service dog. It is more the “ripping off the bandage” style of change. 4 Paws 2 Freedom will help you find a placement for your retired service dog through our Career Change Adoptions. We have a thorough screening process for potential adopters. You will be first on our list for getting into our program with your new service dog candidate and be free to spend the amount of time necessary to successfully train your new partner. You also have the option to stay in touch with the new adopters if you wish.
Unfortunately, some dogs will need to retire before they are expected to. This is always a difficult situation. There can be many reasons, but the most common ones are medical reasons or fear. While dogs are screened for health concerns at the onset of training there are many things that no one can predict. Sometimes a dog needs to be retired at a young age due to medical reasons.
Nothing in life is a guarantee and we all know a thing or two about trauma, and the fear that can accompany it. Dogs are equally vulnerable to this. Dogs go through a series of fear phases as they grow, and should something frighten them during these times we sometimes see single incident trauma that we cannot in a timely manner work the dogs through. Single incident trauma can sometimes occur in seasoned dogs as well although less often. We offer rehabilitation classes and will help with this, but sometimes, starting over is the best choice.
Students who have received training through the 4 Paws 2 Freedom service dog programs will receive priority standing in beginning classes again with a successor dog. All application materials must be completed before beginning a new class. Successor dog must be evaluated prior to admission into the course.
All dogs placed through the 4 Paws 2 Freedom program are to notify 4 Paws 2 Freedom if for any reason they can no longer keep their dog. 4 Paws 2 Freedom keeps yearly ongoing records on the status of all dogs going through the service dog course. If a service dog student needs help in placing their service dog, 4P2F will assist in the placement of all non-aggressive dogs.
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