Service dog training: It’s harder than I thought it would be.

Sorry I haven’t written in a while. Here goes nothing….

Service dog training, it seems easy right? You train the dog, take them out into public, and they slowly grow into a good service dog. WRONG. It’s really hard, harder than I ever imagined. There will always be problems with public access such as people not knowing the laws under the ADA, things such as “It will be too long of a car ride” or “She’ll be a distraction to everyone”. Also you can have big fails too. In my last class Nikki got up during art. So now I can’t bring her back, at least not for a while.

There is also behaviour issues such as barking, chewing, whining, and other things that I did not expect. In public Nikki is usually very well behaved. In her first trip to Walmart she had NO accidents and no barking or whining! But at home it’s a different story. I’m trying a Kong toy and some other things to help mentally stimulate her more so that she will hopefully do this behaviours less.

There are many tasks to train also, and you cannot just “skip” a week of doing them. They need to be practiced every day at the most, and every other day at the least. And sometimes your service dog “forgets” a task and you have to re-teach it to him or her. Nikki forgot her “touch” when I fake startle during training, and I had to re-teach it to her. You may have to repeat a task 10-15 times just to get it right. You have to be consistent and persistent, but in a nice way. I clicker train Nikki, because that is how she was trained to do some things through the center before I got her.

Some day I hope that Nikki becomes a well-behaved Service dog. Both at home and in public. And I hope that I won’t fail again, but I’m pretty sure we will have fails along the way. I just have to press through the good and the bad, the beautiful and ugly, the successes and failures. One day we will be a Pawsome team. For now I gotta keep my head up, even if there are tears and bad days.

Note: My Instagram account is private now. This is for personal reasons. I’m sorry if this offends anyone. 

 

 

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My struggle with unspecified anxiety disorder.

A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with unspecified anxiety disorder. The reason that I was diagnosed with this disorder is because my anxiety is very complicated. I have anxiety in social situations, Obsessive- compulsive like behaviors (worry, constant checking, routines, etc.), and I have panic attacks. I did not fit into the criteria for any anxiety disorder, so I was diagnosed with “unspecified” anxiety disorder.

My new SDiT (Service dog in training), Nikki can help me with my panic attacks. She can either do DPT with a treat offered or snuggle with me (which isn’t a task, but DPT is). This helps me when I am having a hard time with my anxiety or panic attacks. She is working on other tasks such as grounding, block, and cover. We haven’t gotten to anxiety alert and guide to exit yet.

Today has been sort of a hard day. Yesterday I had an emotional breakdown, and I was really struggling with my social anxiety

  • At doctor’s office:

Oh my gosh, my heart is pounding. I wish it would stop. Every muscle is tightening in my body, why am I feeling this way? This isn’t scary! I will be ok! Ugh, come on body! Calm down! Ugh, I hate this feeling.

  •  Walked into bathroom when they were waiting for the floor to dry on accident:

Oh my gosh! Why did I do that! I bet a lot of people saw that! What are they going to think of me? I bet they are going to think that I am so stupid. I wish I wasn’t so stupid!

  •  After reading upsetting text about a mistake a made:

(Crying on bed and snuggling with Nikki) Ugh, why did I do that! Social communication is so complicated, I’m always getting things wrong. I don’t want to communicate anymore, it’s too complicated. Why should I communicate when I’m just going to make mistakes and fail? What if the person is mad at me? What if the person mentions my mistake in front of others? Maybe I should stay home, so that I don’t cry in front of everyone or make a mistake.

 That is a peek inside my brain. I also have had my Zoloft increased to 50 mg, because the 25 mg was not working for my social anxiety. My doctor recommended increasing it to see if it will help in addition to Nikki. I haven’t felt a lot of side effects, except for feeling a bit shaky. I’m tired too, but they may have been because I had an emotional breakdown earlier today.

Sometimes I wish it wasn’t like this. I don’t know if it will ever get better or not. This is the  struggle I have with unspecified anxiety disorder.

 

Please don’t “Tease” me or joke about me being Autistic.

Sometimes I get very frustrated because people tease me about being Autistic. I’ve had good friends that I think unintentionally teased me and hurt my feelings, because they don’t know what it is like to be autistic. I’ve heard my fair share of comments that make me feel upset. The best thing to do is to try to remember, we can’t control our reactions to certain things. A sudden loud sound can make me jump, it is an automatic reaction of my nervous system. It hurts when people laugh and tease me or joke about me being Autistic.

It’s ok when I joke about it, but I don’t like it when people laugh when I am startled. It makes me feel different and ashamed. It’s not my fault, if I had a choice I would make my nervous system to where it wouldn’t jump at loud, sudden sounds or movement, but I can’t change that. So what can people do that will help me? Well people could learn to not laugh at me, and ask me if I am ok. That would be helpful.

Yes, I know, it’s silly in neurotypical eyes to watch an Autistic person jump at a loud noise, but imagine if you were the person? How would you feel? This is what frustrates me about neurotypcial people, they can’t understand because they can’t experience the overload.

I hope that someday people will not tease or joke about me being Autistic. It may be hard to deal with people who don’t understand Autism, but I will keep going forward.

My new service dog in training.

On July the 8th 2017, I got my first dog. I adopted a border collie/lab mix named “Nikki”. That day was so exciting!

 

We are in the car. I am rocking back and forth because I am so excited, I am going to meet Nikki! This is soooo exciting! After waiting for what seemed like eternity to get to our destination, we finally pulled into the parking lot. I see a small black dog with a woman outside the building. We walk up, and it turns out to be Nikki! Nikki wags her tail excitedly. We decide to go inside, the woman, whose name is Liz, demonstrates some of the service dog tasks she has learned such as deep pressure therapy, block, and watch my back. I am hoping with all my heart that that I can take this sweet girl home. My mom asks about taking Nikki home. My heart flutters with excitement as the papers are filled out, and then we were out of the door and on the way home with Nikki. Later on that evening after a trip to PetSmart and Orange leaf, in which Nikki got a small amount of vanilla froyo, we headed home. That night she jumped onto my bed, she looked at me like “I am going to sleep on your bed with you, right??” So I let her sleep on my bed. At one point she came up beside me and licked my face, such a sweet dog. I think she is going to be a great service dog with more training.

 That was an exciting day. Nikki is learning how to sit, lay, and I am going to be teaching her come, stay, anxiety alert, and guiding through a crowd. Her vest, which we ordered today, is supposed to come on Wednesday. I am excited to start the process of training Nikki to be a service dog.