I was asked to blog about what I consider to be the necessary Assistance Dog starter pack. These are essentials that you need to make working with your assistance dog in public easy.
- An over the shoulder leash – I cannot recommend these highly enough, the ability to have your leash draped around your body but still within easy reach if you need to use it like a conventional leash makes life so much easier. I particularly like over the shoulder leashes as they are more versatile than around the waist leashes that also offer similar hands free use. These leashes can extend out over 2m for giving your dog room to wander on a potty break, they can be clipped around a chair if you must leave your dog in a down stay at a distance (say for example if you need an x-ray) and they can be clipped in half to use like a regular leash and depending on the style even around your waist. The reason I do not recommend around the waist leashes is because that is basically your centre of balance – many of the clients I work with have impaired balance and if the dog was to break its training and lunge or pull on the leash the likely hood of the handler falling over is high, whereas when this force is distributed around your entire torso your better able to gain control of the leash with your hand while staying upright, even with some balance issues.
- A silicone collapsible bowl. I like these bowls because being silicone they don’t go mouldy if you must put them away damp – unlike the fabric collapsible bowls, and they are quite sturdy. Many of them come with a handy dandy clip too. I don't usually take water out with me as I can always access a basin in a public toilet or ask for tap water at a cafe and they are always more than happy to fill his bowl for me.
- A safety light. My dog’s harness/vest always has one of these safety lights attached. You simply squeeze them to activate/deactivate them, they are waterproof and in low light situations its handy to have a little flashy light on your dog. When people don’t expect to encounter a dog, they can easily trip over or run in to them in low light situations - even my giant white borzoi seems to be invisible in low light public access.
- A compact camera case. I have this little compact camera case I got on eBay and in it I keep a few poop bags, my ID card and my information cards. I keep it clipped on to my leash for easy access. You can also use it to pop some dried treats for any on the fly training you do.
- Information cards, these are cards I have perfected over the last 10 years, they are craftily worded to answer all the most common questions while giving absolutely no confidential information away. I sell these for $60 for 250 cards and $80 for 500. Seriously these are sanity savers for those intrusive questions about your dog and your disability that you don’t want to answer. I hand this card over – people look down to read it and *poof* I’m gone when they look up again. It really helps on those low spoon days when dealing with the inquisitive public is more than I can handle.
- If you are still in training I highly recommend taking your clicker and treat pouch out with you too. Being able to reward great behaviour on the spot builds nice strong foundation behaviour.