Breeders Are Best

the chicago dog coach trains service dogs for children

Child and Service Dog

Why Dog Breeders Are Essential For The Future of Service Dogs

PAWS has done a study on the effectiveness of training rescue/shelter dogs as Service Dogs in comparison to breeding dogs in a dog breeding program. The numbers are staggering and they show that breeding Service Dogs in a structured breeding program is the only way to secure dogs for Americans in the future.

From the PAWS website, “We have no plans to discontinue the use of dogs from shelters, however it would not be realistic for our program to rely on shelters to provide the kind of assistance our clients need. We need a very friendly, outgoing, and stable type of dog, with no medical problems or aggression in any form.  Our dogs can be no older than two years of age. Most dogs in shelters are there for reasons of which we are not aware, and therefore, they must be evaluated very carefully.  We cannot in good conscience provide a client with a dog that will require expensive medical procedures or may become aggressive, or one whose age prevents it from assisting its partner for 8 to 10 years.

We recently received the following statistics from a Humane Society that had taken in 5,665 cats and 2,813 dogs last fiscal year:

  1. Only 29% (or 828) dogs were adopted;
  2. 199 dogs were reclaimed by their owners;
  3. 435 dogs were sick/injured, dead on arrival or too young to adopt;
  4. 879 dogs were deemed not adoptable by the shelter for various reasons; and
  5. 472 dogs were put to sleep by request of the owner.

Based on this Humane Society’s statistics, it can be determined that only one out of four dogs that came into their facility were adoptable.

We regularly go to 33 shelters in 9 states and in the past five years, have found a significant reduction in the number of adoptable dogs entering these facilities. Last year, we tested a total of 1,235 dogs in shelters.

Only 80 of these dogs passed our temperament testing and went on for further evaluation (medical, etc). The good news is, the ones that did not make our program are more adoptable due to their experience at PAWS.

Three years ago we were able to rescue 260 dogs to begin our training. Last year only 80 usable shelter dogs were found. This is a 70% decrease in just three years. We have spoken to other organizations across the country that use shelter dogs and all attest to the growing lack of appropriate dogs from shelter sources. Most of these are smaller organizations that train 3 to 12 dogs each year. Reports in Dog World (May – June – July 2001) collaborate this fact.

We have attempted to work with breed rescue groups, however they charge an adoption fee that they will not refund if the dog washes out of our program for medical reasons. Not only do they keep our adoption fee, but they require that we return the dog. They then place the dog in a family home and charge the family another fee.

Our experience over the last 12 years has shown that 75% of the dogs we procure from shelters wash out due to hip or elbow dysplasia, which according to OFA may not affect them as pets until they are older, but is a condition that is very detrimental to a working dog. Since most rescue groups are getting their dogs from shelters, the wash out rate will be comparable, thus making it a poor business decision for our program to pay their fees, run expensive medical tests and then return the dog if it is not medically sound.  We have been rescuing dogs to train as Assistance Dogs for nearly 25 years and our statistics have continuously shown that only 1 out of 8 rescues successfully complete our training. We have taken in over 5,000 dogs for training and only 625 have been successful in our program. We test over 1,000 dogs annually and only an average of 6% can pass the preliminary temperament test.

The ones that we take are then put through another, more comprehensive test at our Training Center, along with a complete medical exam by our Veterinary Staff. These tests, which include x-rays of hips, elbows and shoulders, can be expensive. Often there are additional shipping costs for returning the dog if it was rescued from a shelter or rescue group in another state.  We have had a small breeding program for years. Three out of four puppies that we bred have successfully completed training over the past five years. This is quite a difference from the 12.5% success rate of shelter dogs. All Guide Dog schools have their own breeding programs that produce from 200 to 1,000 puppies each year. In each case, the success rate is much better than 1 out of 8 dogs completing training.

There are many facts about Paws With A Cause that are not given media attention, such as our efforts to find alternative jobs for the dogs that do not successfully complete our training. These include work with US Customs and Leader Dogs for the Blind. Most often dogs that are “Career Changed” are placed in loving homes as family pets.  We would like to assure our supporters that we will continue to rescue dogs whenever possible. We also accept donations of dogs. It has always been a priority to rescue dogs to train as Assistance Dogs, however, we must keep our true mission in mind, which is to train Assistance Dogs for people with disabilities. While it may sound harsh, our primary goal is to facilitate the independence of people with disabilities through the use of Assistance Dogs, not to rescue dogs. Every dog we rescue is a bonus and a blessing, but our clients must be our top priority.”