The Alexandria Dog
Training Company LLC

  Alexandria, VA

Service Dog Info Center

Service Dog Wash-Out Factors

Posted by greenribbondog on December 14, 2019 at 9:35 PM

Automatic Wash-Out Factors For A Service Dog:


Choosing a puppy, then putting your time and effort into training a dog who is a strong candidate, manages the challenges of service dog work easily, and enjoys the work asked of him, makes for a far more successful pairing as the other half of a service dog team than a dog who displays any of the factors that indicate a decision to wash-out that candidate is likely inevitable.

Too many people, when they realize that they would benefit from a service dog, decide to turn their family pet into a service dog, regardless of that dog's natural inclination and suitability for the job. Before you start down that path, consider if your pet shows any of the undesirable behaviors below, and get the objective input of an experienced service dog trainer who can help you determine if your dog would be a good candidate for the position.

A dog that displays the following behaviors is not an ideal candidate for a career as a service dog and will quite likely prove to be a frustrating dog for the service dog recipient to deal with over time, even after many months of training.

  • Aggression towards other dogs or people
  • Fear of strangers
  • Separation anxiety
  • Nervousness, anxiousness, easily-stressed personality
  • Excessive startle response or slow recovery to loud or sudden sounds or visual stimulation.
  • Submissive urination (after the age of 5 months)
  • Lack of, significant difficulty in, unreliability of housebreaking
  • Food aggression, possessive of food or toys not easily and promptly remedied by training
  • Slow to recover from human “offenses” (slow to forgive/holds grudges; i.e. pulls away, withdraws from contact after any kind of minor pain or discomfort – restraint, nail-clipping, an inadvertently stepped-on paw, etc.). A stable dog's natural reaction to minor discomfort caused by a human is licking, wagging, and appeasing behaviors, not withdrawing.
  • Significantly body-sensitive and retains this tendency in spite of training/desensitization – the dog doesn't like paws, ears, or tail touched.
  • Strong tendency towards aloofness with handler/owner – dogs that don't relate well with humans tend not to be good candidates.

A service dog has a stressful, difficult job which is hard enough, with long hours and frequent challenges, that insisting that a dog not plainly suited for the assignment take it on and do it anyway is not a good plan for you or for the dog. A dog needs a stable, confident, easy-going personality to handle the many daily stresses of his job as a service dog. It's frankly not fair to the dog to ask that he constantly deal with situations that he finds unduly stressful.

Just as a person who truly hates public speaking is not going to enjoy a career that requires daily speeches as much as a position without this burdensome task. Requiring a dog who finds common tasks of a service dog – such as visiting strange places or being around crowds – grueling is not the kindest option for that dog, nor the best fit for the service dog recipient.

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