I’m a hero! Well, my Mom knows I am! I’ve been nominated for the 2012 American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards. Please support me by voting for me and asking your friends to, too!
Click here to go to my nomination page
Hi, I’m Bradley! I’m a four year old purebred Golden Retriever. My mom trained me to be her service dog. That means she has a disability and I do things to help her with it.
Here, you will find more information about me. For more general information about service dogs, go to http://pleasedontpetme.com.
What does my job involve?
First, I’d like to point out that one’s disability is one of the most personal subject matters about which he or she may discuss. Not everyone is willing to disclose any information about their disabilities and sometimes others assume that, since someone has a service dog, the person must not mind talking about his or her disability. This isn’t true. Please respect the privacy of people with disabilities, whether they are partnered with service dogs or not, by not asking personal questions or commenting on their disabilities. If they want to talk about their disabilities, they will broach the subject themselves.
Now that I’ve covered all that, I’ll go into some detail about what my job involves.
My Mom has multiple disabilities, so I am cross trained to mitigate the various symptoms of each disability. It may sound like a lot of work, but I really enjoy everything I do! When my Mom taught me the skills that I have, it was an incredible bonding experience, and, when we work together, using those skills, it brings us even closer.
Perhaps the most identifiable of skills you may see me performing is guiding. My Mom is blind and needs my help to navigate her surroundings, safely. I do this by helping her avoid obstacles in her way, helping her navigate through crowds, stopping when we come upon steps and help her go up or down them and helping her find certain things like the entrance to a building or the person we are with. To learn more about what I can do, to assist my Mom with blindness, visit the page about guide dogs.
There is another part of my job, which requires several very different skills. This part of my job involves me keeping a close watch on my Mom, to make sure that she’s doing well. Otherwise, she may experience a crisis, which involves a variety of symptoms. I can pick up on an impending crisis, before my Mom can, and I alert her to it. When she does experience such a crisis, there are various things I do in response, to help her through it the best I can. To learn more about what I can do under these circumstances, visit the page about Psychiatric Service Dogs.
The third disability I assist my Mom with is mobility impairment. My Mom has sensitive balance problems and I am trained to do things that help keep her physically stable. Some of the things I do, to achieve this, include helping her up and down stairs, bracing in a steady position, to help her stand up and pick up dropped items, so she does not have to risk falling, when picking them up. I can also help her get up if she does fall.
What kind of training have you received?
LOTS! I came to my mom when I was 11 weeks old and started learning from that point on. I started out learning really simple things, like sitting, walking nicely on a leash and other basic manners. My mom kept my training sessions very short and fun so I’ve always enjoyed learning new things! When I was a baby, I went to puppy kindergarten for 6 weeks and got to practice all the things my mom taught me around other dogs, which was really good practice for ignoring distractions.
As I got older, I started going to a wide variety of places with my mom so I could learn how to “work” in all kinds of environments. That’s how I started my “public access” training. When I was about a year old, my mom made friends with a nice lady she called my trainer. For several months, my mom, my trainer and I all went out together, three days a week.
The most important part of public access training is having excellent basic obedience skills, so my mom had me take the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test. That’s a test that any dog can take and it recognizes dogs whose manners make them a valuable canine member of society. I passed the test so I received my CGC certification and my mom took a pledge to be a responsible dog owner. This was a very proud day for us!
I still had a long way to go in my public access training though; I am a happy-go-lucky, people-loving Golden Retriever after all! After several more months of training, my mom and trainer decided I was ready to take my public access test. The public access test isn’t required but it’s definitely a good idea to take one! I passed my test and graduated from “in-training” to “service dog” status! Now I am a “full-fledged” service dog and my mom and I are a team.
My training is ongoing. I’ve learned something new every day since I was a baby and still like to be taught new skills. My mom taught my almost everything I know with a method called, “clicker training.” Clicker training is a completely non-aversive style of training that makes learning just as fun for me as it is for my mom!
Do you ever get time to just be a dog?
I sure do! At home, I spend a lot of time running around with my dog siblings in our fenced in yard. I play fetch, play frisbee, do tricks, splash in my kiddie pool, play with my mom and dad’s chickens and spend a lot of time just sleeping on the couch. I have a lot of toys, including chew toys, puzzle toys, squeaky toys and stuffed animals. Quite often, I get to have my dog friends over to play. I also go hiking with my mom and dad, go to the beach and visit my human friends and family members all the time!
I love to swim!
I also like to spend time in nature...
My siblings and I are always having fun together- whether we’re playing or relaxing.
My Working Gear
Throughout the past three years, I have worn a wide variety of working gear. This is because we’ve had to determine, through trial and error, which gear works best for us, as my Mom’s needs change. Here, I’ll show you some examples of the various working gear that we’ve used, over the past few years.
When I first started training, the only gear I wore was a vest. This served two purposes: it identified me as a service dog in training and also helped remind me to act professional, because I was “on duty.”
When I was a little over a year old, I got my first, “big boy,” harness. This is the mobility harness my Mom used to start teaching me some guiding skills.
Once that harness stopped fitting me well, we went with a completely different type. It fit me very well and was very functional. This harness is called “The Web Master Harness,” and it is made by Ruff Wear Performance Dog Gear. Mom and I highly recommend it for service dogs who perform moderate physical work.
The harness we got next was much more like a traditional guide dog harness. Once we got this harness, I started guiding my Mom, full time. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold up too well.
The next harness my Mom got me is the one that I’m using now. It’s perfect for both of us! This harness helps me guide me Mom and also allows me to assist her with her balance and mobility. We can’t recommend it highly enough for other service dog teams! It’s made by Service Dog Designs.
More Pictures of My Working Gear
Mom uses various forms of reflective material, but for extra visibility, sometimes I wear this highly visible, reflective “Track Jacket,” made by Ruff Wear Performance Dog Gear.
More Functional Gear
Starting from upper left, going clockwise:
(All of the items listed are made by Ruff Wear Performance Dog Gear.)
A Very Misunderstood Piece of My Working Gear
Many service dog teams, as well as owners of pet dogs, use head halters, that are similar to the one I use. There are a variety of brands and styles available, so not all are the same as the one we use.
Occasionally, some people will ask if I’m wearing a muzzle. Of course I’m not! There is no reason a service dog should need to wear a muzzle, so, if you run into another service dog team and the dog is wearing a similar head halter, there’s no need to worry!
Head halters are used for a variety of reasons. Many pet owners will use them as training tools, when they are teaching their pets to walk nicely on a leash. Some pet owners misuse head halters by relying on them as a substitute for effective training.
The function of head halters for dogs is comparable to head halters that are used on horses. Some vary in form and function, but most are similar in nature.
There are a variety of reasons service dog handlers choose to make a head halter a permanent part of their dog’s working gear. These reasons vary, dependent on the team’s needs. I wear mine so my Mom and I can communicate with each other a little better by the sensitive feedback my head movement provides.
This photo shows that dogs can, indeed, open their mouths, while wearing head halters. This is to show that head halters do not serve the same function as a muzzle would.
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How You Can Help My Mom and I
Please take some time to read the information on this website. It will help my mom and all the other service dog handlers around if more people understand what a service dog team is.
If you’d like to donate some money to me, it’ll help my mom with the costs associated with my care and service dog equipment. (She may even get me a few extra toys!) Any amount will help. Thank you for your consideration!
Special Thanks To:
Katrina Boldry of Service Dog Designs