Dachshunds tend to be incredibly stubborn and to have a mind of their own. They are also incredibly loyal to their owners.
Anyone who loves Dachshunds has probably wondered at one time or another whether they could make great service dogs the way they make great pets.
The truth is, Dachshunds can’t fill many of the roles filled by conventional service dogs. But they can become excellent choices for some canine service activities.
The same stubbornness that makes Dachshunds such loyal companions makes them hard to train, but Dachshunds are good candidates for becoming emotional support dogs and service dogs for people who have PTSD.
What Does a Service Dog Do?
Service dogs help their owners with medical or psychological needs.
The classic example of a service dog is a seeing-eye dog. Seeing-eye dogs help their blind or visually impaired owners navigate the outside world.
Similarly, a hearing ear dog alerts a deaf or hearing impaired owner to doorbells, telephones, sirens, or shouting
There are dogs that assist their owners with mobility issues. They may keep unsteady owners from taking a fall while they are walking.
They may pick up items off the floor. They may help people open doors or give them a nudge when they have trouble going uphill.
And there are dogs that help people deal with emotional issues.
A medical service dog might wake up someone with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) who is having a bad dream.
This is the kind of dog that might help a person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who is having difficulty staying on task or avoiding disruptive behavior.
Emotional support dogs are technically not “service” dogs, but most of the time, no one will ask. That is, as long as they are well-behaved.
Both service dogs and emotional support dogs are required to be very well-mannered in public.
They need to be quiet in stressful situations. They can’t go around sniffing other dogs, or, worse, people.
They must allow themselves to be petted when their owner permits it, but they can’t beg for attention (except to get help from their owner in an emergency situation).
They must not relieve themselves in public places, and they must leave private property alone, even if it falls into the floor in front of them.
Can Dachshunds Meet These Requirements?
There are some service positions that Dachshunds just can’t fill.
You will never see a team of Dachshunds pulling a sleigh across the snow to win the Iditarod.
Closer to home for most of us, no Dachshund is going to be able to keep someone who is wobbly on their feet from falling.
Dachshunds don’t make successful seeing-eye dogs, because they are a bit too close to the ground to get the perspective that a seeing-eye dog needs.
In theory, a Dachshund could be trained to be a hearing ear dog, or an allergy detection dog, or a seizure detection dog, although there aren’t any examples of this in the public domain.
The area in which Dachshunds can excel is in providing emotional support.
And when the emotional support is for PTSD, post-traumatic stress syndrome. Dachshunds can be trained to meet the federal requirements for service dogs.
A Huge Need for Dogs to Help People with PTSD
In the United States, the Veterans Administration has sponsored extensive studies of the use of service dogs in treating PTSD.
As many as 14% of veterans who were in Operation Desert Storm or Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and/or Afghanistan have PTSD.
Veterans with PTSD are at risk for other problems, including alcoholism, depression, and suicidal behavior.
Over 50,000 veterans of these two wars took their own lives between 2005 and 2018.
PTSD is not a condition that goes away on its own. It is not easily treated with medications.
Self-medication with alcohol and cannabis doesn’t work well, either.
Moreover, about 50% of veterans don’t respond to talk therapy. They may have work and family commitments that keep them from attending treatment sessions.
They may have the attitude that talking to a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist is undignified or stigmatizing.
But many veterans with PTSD who won’t talk with a therapist will respond to a PTSD service dog.
PTSD service dogs work well for many vets struggling to get on with their lives after traumatic experiences on the battlefield.
They don’t interfere with a veteran’s sense of independence. They aren’t stigmatizing. Owning a dog is entirely socially acceptable for nearly all vets.
And while getting a PTSD service dog won’t cure PTSD, and therapy is still recommended, government studies show that veterans improve after getting their dogs.
They suffer fewer symptoms of PTSD, like nightmares. They experience less depression, and they increase their interaction with others on the job, with their friends, and in their families.
How Do You Know Your Dachshund Can Become a Service Dog?
Organizations like K9s for Warriors have an equal opportunity policy for training shelter dogs to become service dogs.
If a dog can provide comfort for a vet after being trained, they don’t care about its breed or whether it has a breed.
Dachshunds can be service dogs just like German Shepherds when they are employed in supporting people with PTSD. But all service dogs meet certain basic qualifications.
Regardless of the breed of dog, a service dog needs to meet certain basic requirements:
Service dogs have to be socialized. It’s ideal for dogs to be exposed to many different experiences when they are puppies.
A dog’s brain makes the circuits for recognizing friends starting about 7 or 8 weeks of age. Puppies continue to learn “this is OK” until they are about 14 weeks old.
This is the time of a Dachshund’s life that they easily learn to accept all kinds of people, other pets, like turtles and cats, strange noises like tuba playing and vacuum cleaners, and owners who are happy, sad, depressed, high, focused, or scattered.
It’s a lot easier for a Dachshund to become a service dog if they had a loving, nurturing home during this period of their lives.
But rescue Dachshunds that didn’t get their start in good homes can learn these kinds of social skills, too. They just need more training.
It’s also better than a future service Dachshund wasn’t traumatized in its second six months of life.
This is the time in a Dachshund’s life that its brain is creating the circuits that sound alarm signals for danger.
This is the time of a Dachshund’s life that it is most likely to develop its own case of PTSD.
A Dachshund that has been abused won’t necessarily wash out of service dog training.
It will just have to be matched to an owner who cares for the dog and understands her well.
There are also some requirements that aren’t usually a problem. Service dogs need to be motivated by food.
Treats reinforce good behaviors. Treats are used in training. Most Dachshunds are sufficiently food-motivated.
Service Dachshunds need to be intelligent enough to learn 30 to 75 commands. It will take about 3000 brief training sessions to teach a Dachshund 75 commands.
That’s not because Dachshunds are stupid. (Canine psychologist Stanley Coren and a group of American Kennel Club judges ranked Dachshunds 49th in intelligence among dogs, or “average.”)
The issue is that Dachshunds can sniff out other things to capture their attention while they are being trained.
But a Dachshund named CotytheServiceDog reportedly learned 558 commands and hand signals to become a medical service dog, according to a Russian social media site called Wiener-Dog Writings. “My Dachshund is sometimes an (ass),”.wrote the owner, “but that’s OK.”
Do I Have to Get My Dachshund Certified as a Service Dog?
Non-traditional service animals like Dachshunds may not be the first dog you think of when you are thinking about service animals.
But the rules of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal law defining the rights of people to have service animals, are clear.
Under ADA rules, if it isn’t obvious at first glance that a dog is a service animal, and with Dachshunds it won’t be, businesses and landlords are only permitted to ask two questions:
- If this animal required because of a disability, like PTSD?
- What task has this animal been trained to perform to help its owner deal with that disability?
Business owners, landlords, security guards, and the police aren’t allowed to ask if you have PTSD.
They are not allowed to require documentation that your Dachshund has been certified, licensed, or trained to perform actions that help you deal with PTSD.
There is no requirement that your Dachshund wears a vest identifying it as a service animal. You are never required to say “This is my emotional support dog.”
You have a right to have a Dachshund to help with your PTSD or other psychological support issues.
But the fact that your right to use a Dachshund as a PTSD service dog or an emotional support dog is clearly written into the ADA doesn’t mean that everyone knows them.
The fact that the rights of service dog owners are written into the law doesn’t mean that everyone knows them.
A business that denies you your lawful rights to employ your Dachshund as a service dog could lose a lawsuit, but wouldn’t going through the long process of a lawsuit add to your stress?
You can avoid these kinds of situations with a simple certification that doesn’t reveal anything about your mental health status.
It just shows that you are a responsible citizen with a dog.
If you are getting your Dachshund through an organization like K9s for Warriors, you will have the paperwork to show that your dog is a trained service dog with federally protected rights.
If your dog’s education was more informal, there is still a simple way to prove that your Dachshund meets the qualifications of service dogs.
Get an American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification
The CGC certification is a two-part course you take with your Dachshund. You and your Dachshund demonstrate mastery over10 areas of good canine behavior.
When both you and your Dachshund successfully complete the course, the local AKC affiliate will give you a certificate stating that your dog is well-behaved.
This is also proof that you are acting responsibly by using your Dachshund as a service animal in public.
Even veterans run into problems with their service dogs of smaller breeds like Dachshunds.
That doesn’t change the fact that no business or government office is legally allowed to demand proof of certification as a service animal before you and your Dachshund comes in.
An AKC CGC certification is a great way to head off difficult situations.
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