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Malinios Service Dog question concern new owner
MemberApril 30, 2021 at 5:35 AM
Looking for insight/opinion and appreciate everyones time. I put money down on a Belgium Malinois when she was 2 months old. She is 6 months now. She was imported 4 months ago and has been boarded/trained since this time at a local trainers home as she was imported from France directly to the trainers home.
My concern is about her training, progression, and ability as a Service Dog (for seeing issues, and for me as service veteran).
Concerns: currently the dog pulls on the leash, is not focused, does not know its name, does not know basic commands of sit, place, stay and is not potty trained. She is comfortable in a crate and seems to be low energy for a Malinois however.
She was imported from 4 months ago at 8 weeks old from http://www.passionchien.fr/index-english.htm
The trainer said she was 4 on the Volhard Aptitude Test , https://www.workingdogforum.com/threads/volhard-aptitude-test.1673/ which indicated she’d be a great Service.
I’ve since learned the trainer is having an apprentice do the hands on training, at least 5 other dogs are being trained at her house (crated in the home and no outside training facility-just a home); and it seems the dog is just learning to be crate trained and be a nice house dog.
The trainer said more training will happen in the next few months and by the time she is is 8-14 months old she’ll be a great service dog.
I’m very concerned as I continue to pay her monthly and don’t see the training I expected.
I appreciate anyone’s thoughts on a Malinois for this, the “rating 4” scale, the breeder, her training methods, likely progression if accurate from the trainer, are my expectations too much?
MemberApril 30, 2021 at 8:27 AM
I think you are right to be concerned. I would seriously question any trainer who has had a dog for 4 months with the results you describe. If she is 6 months old and has mainly been kept in a crate / kennel, she is well past the optimal window for socialization. Socialization is critical for any service dog.
I was involved in training mobility assistance dogs for several years, so I do have some background in this field. A Malinois would not be my first choice for a service dog except in rare situations where the owner had the unique personality and activity level to be able to work with a Mal and give it both the physical and intellectual stimulation that it needs. My program had a Mal pup donated to us from a breeder who said she was the lowest key Mal she had ever encountered. Even so, a “low energy” Mal was far too high energy for 99% of service dog owners. Maybe you are that unique person that would be a good match for a Mal, but please don’t make that decision lightly. The bond between a Service Dog and handler is very special and unique, but if it is not a good match, it can be a miserable life for the dog. Many years ago, I wrote an article about the ethical use of Assistance Dogs. If you are interested in reading it, you can find it at https://drive.google.com/file/d/198bWFtNJtWAkUJouWHJK2F0wpQE1wxtk/view?usp=sharing.
You mention that you have vision issues. I don’t know where you live, but many states require advanced certification to be able to train guide dogs. A poorly trained guide dog can threaten the life of both the handler and the dog. It is not something to take lightly, and even after training many dogs and service dogs in particular, I would not even consider training a guide dog. I would go to one of the national programs that have been doing this for many years. Before trusting my life to some trainer, I would certainly want to know what their credentials are.
Unfortunately, there are many pet dog trainers who also think they can train service dogs. There is so much more to it that just training the dog! That is the easy part! To really be a good service dog trainer, the person must also have a thorough understanding of the disability that the dog is being trained to mitigate; understand the capabilities of the eventual handler and use training techniques that the owner can learn, utilize, and maintain; work with the owner to train them to handle / manage the dog as well as maintain her skills; be available to help with issues as they occur during the partnership; and much more. There are some trainers who do a great job, but there are many others who do not.
I wish you well. It sounds like you have some very difficult decisions ahead of you.
MemberMay 1, 2021 at 7:28 AM
I totally agree with @Riggan and concur with you as I too, would be very concerned about the lack of progress as described. I imported my GSD and my experience was vastly different than what you are seeing. Wishing you a great outcome!
MemberMay 1, 2021 at 9:22 AM
Mr. Cabral, Alin, Bill, Riggan: thank you all for your time and insight. I am going to have a serious talk with the trainer next week and serious review myself of the situation this weekend.
My fault for not making better background steps before starting this process. I started this process in need of a dog for vision problems with my left eye (right eye is ok) and for PTSD. I saw getting a dog would take years and this trainer said it could be done his/her way with a Mal that was low drive in a shorter time frame. This was before I knew how the actual training would be done not by the trainer but by the apprentice and since learning a great deal from Robert Cabral.
I see the dog and trainer a few times a month for short periods and recently understood fully now how the training was being done by the apprentice for the hands on portions and outside the home.
To clarify, the dog has been taken out a few times a week for socialization at malls and stores. Her interaction with other dogs is with the other 5 Mals in the home and 2 giant poodles. Also, the dog is a lower drive dog then her sibling who is also at the home.
Thank you all again.
MemberMay 1, 2021 at 10:22 AM
Red, wishing you success on this journey. Please let us know if you have any questions or if you would like to brainstorm what you want to ask / say to this trainer. I would also encourage you to think carefully through the skills / tasks you want this dog to have to help mitigate your PTSD and incorporate that into your discussion with the trainer. Service dogs for PTSD, both for vets and non-vets, have become very popular and there are many appropriate tasks that a dog can provide. Unfortunately, there are also dogs being trained in very inappropriate ways and for inappropriate tasks. Some things sound good on paper, but not in the real world. Other tasks can result in a dog that is not safe to have in public, especially if there is a flare up of the PTSD.
It also takes a very special dog to work in any type of psychiatric assistance capacity. Dogs will naturally pick up on our emotions and respond to them. With PTSD, we are asking dogs to recognize the stress signals, but we don’t want them internalizing that stress themselves. If it is a softer type dog, then the stress from the handler will likely translate to stress in the dog, which is the last thing we want. Yet, if it is a harder dog who will not be as likely to take on the stress itself, there is also a danger of the dog assuming the leadership role instead of the person. So for PTSD (and other psychiatric issues), there is a fine line that needs to be walked to maintain a healthy relationship between dog and handler. Some dogs can deal with it and some cannot.
Also, make sure that the training techniques that the trainer is using are ones you are comfortable with and that you believe you could use yourself to maintain (and continue) the dog’s training. You have learned a lot of really good information from Robert, so that should help you assess that piece of it.
The director of a program that I worked with for a while whose mission was training SD for vets used to say that a partnership was only effective if the team was beneficial to the veteran, the dog, and the community. Hopefully you can work towards establishing that type of teamwork with this dog. Good luck, and has been said, thank you for your service. Don’t hesitate to post any questions here, and also to share your experiences going forward.
MemberMay 3, 2021 at 6:30 PM
They say, first ever service dog used for seeing issues was a German Shepherd, some 100 years ago. But GSDs are more compliant and calm and can be trained in that field. A Malinois to be trained as a service dog in that field, would require a different approach from usual which may, or may not, yield in the desired outcome.
Usually Labradors are preferred for that because of their calming psychological effect in public; they do valuable service, but are not perceived as typical service dogs. So when you walk down the street with a service dog, a Malinois or a GSD would produce a different psychological effect on people than a Lab. Let’s face it: people associate Malinois and GSDs with war dogs and prison break movies, but they associate Labs with fluffy toys and fabric softener commercials. It’s about perception, which is outside of our scope to correct it or change.
Then the reactiveness of a Malinois to the distrustful, suspicious, or even fearful public will manifest differently. Will that dog be trained sufficiently to resist constant fear or distrust from the public? Well, that is the question. One is certain – the level of training can’t be the same as for a service Labrador. If the trainer(s) has succeeded in producing, say, 20 Malinois dogs for that particular service and duty, and all of them passed the tests and are employed, then it would be a good start. But if that’s not the case, then it’s not too late to reconsider; that Malinois can still be someone’s good pet, but you may benefit more from a breed of dog and trainers that were specialised in that valuable service with decades of success.
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