Service animals are recognized as valuable medical equipment that helps a lot of people with physical and/or mental disabilities take control over their lives and engage again in various daily activities. Considering the significant role that service animals play in so many people’s lives, the process of choosing the “right” animal for this purpose, is likely to be rigorous and thorough.
Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds worldwide, that have been ranked No. 4 for 2021 by the American Kennel Club. Why so many people love the representatives of this breed so much and what qualities the breed representatives have as service animals, are some topics that we would like to discuss today.
First, we will need to clarify the term “Service Animal” once again for those of you who are new here and are not familiar with its meaning.
Definition of the Term “Service Animals”
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as dogs, who have been individually trained to perform specific tasks for the benefit of a person with a physical or a mental disability. The tasks performed by the service animal must be directly related to the person’s disability. If you would like to read more about the ADA regulations in regard to service animals, you can click here. As you can tell from the definition, only dogs can be recognized as service animals. However, some states allow handlers to have miniature horses as service animals as well, so you should keep this in mind.
What Qualities Should a Good Service Dog Possess?
Dogs and service dogs in particular should be evaluated based on their individual traits. Some people are still biased, that certain breeds are not allowed to become service dogs or just can not become good service dogs. The ADA states, that service animals must not be discriminated based on their breed, and all kinds of breeds can be trained as service animals. However, there are qualities, that every service dog should possess to be reliable enough to perform specific tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Among these qualities are:
Intelligence, trainability, eagerness to learn and please their owner, friendly personality, loving nature, balanced temperament, loyalty.
Golden Retriever- a Short Breed Overview
We love these creatures! The Golden Retrievers are ranked one of the most affectionate dog breeds that can strongly attach to their owners. They can interact with family members, new people, and other animals with ease! If you have small children, you can be confident, that they will find a loyal and playful buddy that they can spend such a pleasant time with! It is too good to be true, isn’t it? The Golden Retrievers are considered one of the most intelligent and trainable breeds as well. They are known as quick learners, able to retain a lot of information, and obedient dogs, eager to please their owners. Of course, there is no complete happiness…Our lovely paw friends tend to shed moderately during the summer and the winter. During the spring and autumn, you can expect them to shed more actively. Those of you who decide to have a representative of this gorgeous breed at home should be prepared for a certain amount of hair on their furniture and clothes at all times. Luckily, these cute doggies require a moderate level of grooming, so you do not have to invest so much time to keep their lovely double-coat neat. If you are in love with this breed, you should be prepared to spend enough time to keep them physically and mentally fit. The Golden Retrievers are quite energetic and playful. These amazing doggies are not considered barkers. They bark occasionally as vocalization is a type of communication not only in humans but in dogs as well. In general, we can say that the Golden Retriever is one of the most popular breeds as both pets and service dogs due to its indisputable qualities.
What Tasks Can the Golden Retrievers Be Trained to Perform as Service Animals
Due to their intelligence and high trainability, these canines can perform various tasks.
The female representatives of the breed can reach up to 25-32kg, while the male representatives- up to 30-34kg in weight. Their height can reach up to 51–56 cm in females, and 56-61 cm in males. Considering their size and personal traits, these dogs can become great mobility dogs. They can be trained to pull a wheelchair or support a person having balance issues. There is a certain type of harnesses equipped with a robust handle, that enables mobility service dogs to fulfill this task.
The Golden Retrievers can become great guide dogs as well. They can be trained to assist a person with visual impairments navigate in the surroundings. As guide dogs, these canines can alert their owner about an obstacle on their way or ensure that there will be enough distance between their owner and passersby.
As the name of the breed indicates itself, these dogs are great at retrieving objects. This ability can be traced back to the reason for their breeding and namely- to retrieve shot upland game birds like partridge and goose. If you have impaired mobility, or you often feel disoriented and light-headed due to a certain condition or as a side-effect of prescribed medication, you can rely on your Goldie to bring to you all items you need.
Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks
If you are dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD or other types of mental disability, you will be glad to hear that these lovely doggies are great at providing tactile stimulation and Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT). Since they are medium to large in a size, they are not suitable for jumping on your lap. However, they can paw you, nudge you, place their chin on your shoulder, arm or lap to calm you down when you need. Also, they can guide you to a safe place, when anxiety episodes arise.
How to Train a Golden Retriever to Perform Specific Tasks?
There are the following options available for that:
1. Contact a training organization or a personal trainer, specializing in service dog training. You can arrange a consultation online or in person (at your home or at the training facility) so that your dog can be evaluated and a training program can be recommended.
2. You can contact an organization engaged in service dog training and get a trained service dog.
These two options will give you confidence that your dog or the dog that you will be provided with, has been professionally trained and has acquired the necessary obedience and social skills. However, these options can be prohibitively expensive for some people. You can expect to pay up to $25 000-30 000 to get a trained service dog. Training your own dog with the help of a trainer or a training organization is more affordable, however, a training session in-person, that takes about an hour, may cost you a hundred dollars or more. Some training programs, especially those designed for more advanced training can reach thousands of dollars.
3. Contact a non-profit organization.
This option is the most affordable one. However, in this case, you are likely to be placed on a waiting list and you may need to wait for a year or two to get a trained service dog.
4. You can train your Golden Retriever to become a service animal yourself.
In this case, you can focus on the tasks that you actually need your paw friend to perform. Also, you will be actively engaged in the training process and will be able to strengthen your bond. The biggest disadvantage of this option is that you may lack the experience and skills to conduct training yourself. Also, you will have to invest a lot of time and effort. Patience, discipline, and consistency are other words that you will need to always keep in mind if you decide to go that way.
5. Enroll in an online course.
By choosing this option you will get access to learning materials and support from a tutor (support by a trainer is often calculated in the price of many online courses). Also, you will be able to make your own schedule instead of complying with a schedule set by a professional trainer. Training at your home and at your own pace are other benefits of this option. Needless to say, you and your doggy will develop an even stronger bond, as you will spend much time together and will know each other better. If you consider this option the most suitable for you, we would recommend that you take a look at the online courses that Service Dog Training School International offers: Online Courses.
Essential Principles of the Training Process
If you decide to train your Golden Retriever to become a service animal yourself, you should consider some basic training principles. You should be very patient and consistent and not give up if difficulties arise. Also, you should remember that each dog is an individual and you need to take the personality and temperament of your canine into account when conducting training. Keep the training sessions short and always reward and praise your paw friend when they perform a certain task. Talking about certain tasks, you need to keep in mind that the training process should start with basic commands like “sit”, “stay”, “come” and gradually move to more advanced tasks. Do not rush things. As we mentioned above, this breed is deemed highly energetic, so you should not forget to exercise and walk your doggy on a regular basis. Physical and mental exercises will also help your canine spend their excessive amount of energy, and will reduce the possibility of behavioral issues occurring due to lack of activity.
Do You Have to Register Your Golden Retriever As a Service Animal?
No, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) service animals are not required to be registered. However, if your city requires all dogs to be licensed and/or registered, you should remember that service animals are subject to local dog licensing and registration requirements.
Do You Have to Put a Service Dog Vest on Your Golden Retriever?
The ADA does not require service dogs to wear any type of service dog gear, including vests, harnesses, or ID tags. However, some handlers find the service dog training accessories beneficial identification signs as they notify passersby about the nature of their dog- he/she is not just a pet, but he/she is working. That way passersby are less likely to initiate contact, which may distract your dog.
No wonder, that the Golden Retriever is one of the breeds that most people welcome. Such lovely doggies!