Retiring your service dog

by Sue on July 22, 2011

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Just recently I had to retire my service dog due to back issues with him. I use him sometimes for light tasks but all and all his career is over. I am now using my husband’s service dog as my husband was just recently admitted into a full care facility due to his ALS.

Gunny seems to be taking this retirement OK. Possibly because it hurts him to do too much work and he knows it. However, there are times when he looks at me and clearly says “You still love me though, right?” I give him extra extra attention so he knows that Mommy still loves him.

My question to the readers is this…

Have you ever had to retire your service dog and take on a new one? How did your retired dog take this? Did they help train your new service dog?

Sussie, Gunny (Ret.) and Rainy

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Becky 07.22.11 at 6:10 pm

When I retired my first dog, Buzz at the age of eleven, he seemed relieved. He’d loved working and then suddenly, it was hard, too demanding, too stressful. Nothing anyone else would have noticed in him, but it was obvious to me. A couple weeks later I had found and begun training another dog, Chance. Buzz was definitely helpful in training Chance. I think Buzz did more of the training then me! More then anything, Buzz served as a guide, a tremendous source of security for Chance. Every time Chance encountered something he was unsure of, he’d definitely look to see what Buzz was doing, how he was handling it and then mimic him. One of the places that made Chance the most nervous was actually the dog park (one too many fights, I think), but with “big brother” there he’d come out of his shell and romp around endlessly. In fact, since Buzz died, Chance has never left my side to play at the park again. It’s just not the same without his buddy…. but I digress. When Chance took over fulltime for Buzz, Buzz seemed very happy to wait on the couch with his kong for us to come home. It was rare that Buzz would ask to come along. Once in a while, he’d get antsy, so I’d take him and let him “work” someplace easy for a short errand–that really seemed to help lift his spirits. He’d only last about ten minutes before he’d start looking for the door–that was enough, time to go home.
The years have passed and now Chance is a senior himself and helping me break in my newest hero. It’s hard. But, it’s for the best. :)

2 Sharito 07.25.11 at 6:50 am

Sussie, I think it helps imensely that the dogs know each other. Keeping some appropriate work is important to their mental health. There are so many little tasks that still make them feel useful. When Heidi needed to retire it wasn’t due to her health. I needed a big bruiser to pull my wheelchair and help me get up. She was just to petite. At home she continued to “work” bringing me a towel, tissues, mail, books etc. She also continued to monitor me for medical alert. Little Man thought she was his Mom and she definately trained him. He was always verbally sassy, and when it was time for him to retire he just wouldn’t stop “complaining” He was a very Alpha male….he was always impecably obedient and intuitive but would verbalise his opinion. I swear to God it was so funny. ( like a grumpy old man) He told me when he was through. His next job was “guarding” my store in Mexico. He was very good at it. He would follow the kids who might take things, if they grabbed anything they didn’t pay for he wouldn’t let them out. It became a game to the kids trying to trick him! One night we had an attempted break in, in the storeage building. Little Man chased the guy up the ladder onto the roof, and the guy had to leave some of his clothes behind as he jumped from the roof! It took 5 guys and a big blanket to get Little Man off the roof, he just hurt to much to come back down on his own. The other huge act of courage was when one of Mama Menas daughters snuck into the house at night and crept up behind her to scare her. Little Man knocked her down and stood over her not letting her move untill I got there and said it was OK. For all you who think thats aggressive ….he was taught to alert and hold intruders… teeth or violence involved, just body checking and holding.( due to my PTSD, When we get home he goes around the house to make sure the area is secure…..I unlock the door and he checks the house turns on some lights and lets me know if it is safe to come in. If there was an intruder he was to alert, and hold till help came and he was released ) He died feeling useful, he never met my new dog. Heidi was hearding sheep and dutifully keeping the chickens out of the garden the day she died. My new dog Damien is the best I have ever had…and I have had some good dogs! He NEVER leaves my side, even when he’s “off duty”. He even insists on opening the fridge for me when I’m getting my own drink…….he’s trained to bring me juice if my sugar is low, or a bottle of water if I’m thirsty. I know you all are grateful for your Hero’s’ I LOVE MY DOG!!!! Sharon and Damien CGC, SD,BF

3 Sharito 07.25.11 at 6:57 am

Sussie, My prayers go out to you and your husband. Thank you also for this site. Sharon & Damien CGC, SD, BF(best friend)

4 Jerry 07.25.11 at 8:57 am

Retiring my service dog!
Peewee was retired at eight years old. He is a medical alert dog, and he is a very happy and loved pet. Peewee helped train Peanut in so many ways. Peewee lost his ability to work after he developed a food allergy. Peewee will still run and get Peanut if I sneeze (I have no idea why sneezing bothers the dogs but it does) and bring him back from the water dish or what ever. I will be eternally gratefull to Peewee.

Peanut is very dedicated and he weighs only 6 lbs so going to concerts etc. is so much easier. I could not have a more dedicated friend then Peanut. I’m in my mid sixties now and Peanut is just perfect for me. My family loves him (Peanut may be too cute) and the public accepts him very well. I could go on forever but I’m just not a gifted writer so I will end with this fact: If it were not for Peanut and Peewee before him my life would be so less the it is, and I would not be able to drive a car .

Take care,

5 Katherine 07.25.11 at 1:44 pm

We are coming to that point with Malichi, he still has a few years left but Unfortunately he is getting up in age. It gets to where it is starting to be to much and I can tell, when I retire him he will stay with us he is loved, a friend of mine had a puppy out of a litter of 18 she refused to eat was not doing well, But took to me, She has been with me since she was almost 3 weeks old she has a lot of growing to do, but he has been training her and the pair know each other, they are best friends he and she sleep together play together eat together and seem to share attention together very well. It’s making the transition easier

6 Rachelle 07.25.11 at 2:41 pm

My service dog, Harley was just diagnosed, via the free ACVO eye screening provided to service dogs, with a congenital retinal defect. He is going blind. I just found this out this spring and I’m still coming to terms with it. They say there’s a test ($275) to check the degree of blindness but I can’t afford it. In the meantime, I watch Harley for signs of vision loss (his night vision is not good). I’ve already decided I will have to get a new service dog, and have the breed picked out, but I need to save up the money to purchase a new dog and pay for its training, from standard obedience through service dog duties. This will be very hard because I am unemployed and am having a hard time getting a job due to my disabilities. Not sure what I’m gonna do. In the meantime, I celebrate each day that I still have Harley at my side.

7 Linda 07.25.11 at 7:26 pm

Rachelle, any chance you can do some/all of the training yourself? It would really reduce the cost.

I have done some other dog training, so decided to train my own dog when I found a service dog would help me.

My service dog was attacked by a lose dog and has become dog reactive. I am working on trying to “retrain” him to ignore other dogs, and I am making some progress. However, it may shorten his useful years if I can’t break him of his reactions.

8 Barbs 07.25.11 at 8:22 pm

A friend of mine offered me her Golden. SAM since I just had back surgery, kept walking with me, staying my me, getting things for me etc. SAM was a natural with no training at all. My husband and I had to put him DOWN 10 years ago. Three years later, I got PRECIOUS ANOTHER Golden and she too trained herself and also me! PRECIOUS is always with, getting the mail, but never paying the bills! She retrieves things, knows ASL sign language and knows my pain level, my diabetes and my mental heallth. She picks up on new things. Once I took her to my doc when her vet was gone. My doc told m e she wanted to teach me and to let her. How did my doc know that? He was right!
Rosie and I and PRECIOUS went to Walmart. She was next to me when I passed out, spinning black and all. Someone had taken her from he. The lady wanted to pet her but took her 4 isles over! Now No one touches her! All of my friends alery me. I am surprised how many adults grab my Service dow, call her ‘doggy waggy’, puppy etc.
I wouldn’t ever be without her, she is truly a blessing to me and others.
Barbs and Precious

9 Chris Garver 07.26.11 at 4:24 am

My last Service Dog, Max, was originally a German Shepherd Rescue who had been abused for 2 yrs. We learned last fall that he had a huge mass in his lung, and the vet gave him 3-6 mos. He would occasionally hemorrage a LOT of blood, so I was forced to stop taking him with me in the car. He just didn’t understand, but as the cancer progressed, it began to weaken his hind end and back, so I could no longer even pull up on him, etc. around the house. I simply stayed home, and took care of him as much as possible. We spent his last night on the floor together, with me changing pads under him, since he couldn’t stand. He had been on pain meds for some time, and the vet came here to put him down.I spent the next 3 weeks curled up on the couch, debating on a Hoverround. My hubby insisted on another dog, so we found a wonderful GSD, Cinder, who is fearless. He is still maturing, but already beginning to pick things up behind me, and allowing me to put weight on his shoulders. He had basic obedience from the breeder, and we go to class 2x a week, then the special tasks will be taught to him soon.

10 Bo and Spencer 07.27.11 at 9:16 am

Spencer came to me via Craig’s list. His original owner decided he didn’t want him anymore and gave him to his parents who had just lost their dog. They couldn’t handle having another dog so soon so they advertised him on there – free to good home. Originally, I passed him up because he was 9 years old and I was looking for a 2 – 3 year old.

After seeing the third post about him I decided to take him in and train him myself. As it turned out I couldn’t have chosen a better companion. He taught himself mostly to do what I needed done as I needed it. He has warned me about spasms before they hit, helped me up when I fell in places where there was nothing for me to grab onto anything to get up, helped me get out of bed when I couldn’t move my body myself,,,. And the list goes on.

He will soon turn 12. A year ago he became violently ill. Unable to afford a vet bill, I fought it with everything I knew to do and with information from friends and the internet. He would show signs of getting better only to get ill again as I would try to introduce his dog food back to him again. Finally, I took him to the vet and found out that the manufacturer had changed the ingredients and Spencer was allergic to most of them. This was what was making him sick. By this time his digestive system was almost destroyed.

With is new knowledge, I was able to get him well again. However, he never regained his full strength. I have had to put him into semi-retirement and will be bringing another dog in after we settle down in our new home.

Spencer isn’t adjusting well to semi-retirement. Every time I go out in my wheelchair or with my cane, his looks tells me that he is suppose to go with me. However, he can no longer keep me from falling as was evident this past January when he stepped away and let me fall in the snow. He had never let me fall outside before. Inside I always had a wall to use at least to slow the fall with so I never required his help there.

I am not sure how he will handle it when I put him into total retirement. Where we are moving he will have friends – both two and four legged – so I am hoping he will handle it better.

I am not sure if I can train another or not. I would like to as I don’t need one to do everything they train service dogs to do but I do need assistance in some areas that cross over into areas like say a balance dog wouldn’t necessarily be trained to do.

Anyway, now that I have written a book – lol – thanks for the post and for the site.

Bo and Spencer

11 Allice Allen 09.27.11 at 10:12 am

Hi everyone, I too thank you so much for this website, I found out yesterday that my Little Girl, service dog for my PTSD, Panic/anxiety disorder and more. I got her 13 years ago she was my mothers pet, we bonded and I began to train her because I was not too limited them physically as I am now. She had her second heart attack this last weekend and we put her on new meds, but without testing we think she might have stomach cancer we including her vet do not want to put her through tests at this point. But now I need to retire her, I tried 1 year ago when she was diagnosis of congestive heart failure, but every dog that friends of family tried she will not allow them to the point of fighting, biting them. Without her I can not go outside alone let alone go to the store even sick she still wants to do her job. What do I do? I can not afford a new dog even from the Humane society due to increase in costs to adopt and now I live in an apartment and I am not sure I am physically able to train a new service dog especially while Little Girl is alive. Do you have any suggestions? I am out of ideas. Thanks everyone. Allice & Little Girl

12 Cindy Morgan 11.06.11 at 1:07 pm

Dear Sussie,
My SD Elmo was retired after being of service to me for 10 years, she was a great dog and adding a successer dog was very difficult. On August 4th this year I lost her to cancer to the rear leg, I am wondering if a blog could be started on loss of a SD. Thanks
Cindy, Jake and Elmo(at the bridge)!

13 Carol 06.09.13 at 1:19 pm

My Hershey is just shy of 8 years old. She is my hearing dog. She is starting to show signs of…..well….. just being tired. She drops to the floor to lie down every chance she gets when I have stopped walking or moving for more than a moment or so. During trips in the vehicle she is asleep before we have gone a block or two. In her past busy years she would not miss a thing. In the stores where she lies down she stays awake to alert of approaches or speakers.
I have not taught her to alert to approaching sirens in the car as I taught her myself and couldn’t figure out how as I do not hear then until almost past.
However, we met Hershey II just 3 days ago. For some reason the series of shots that was due was not given, so I obtained them and provided the pupppy with the vaccines. She will be home with us in 6-7 days. Due to the length of time to teach obedience and then service tasks I am thinking Hershey (I) will be looking to slow down…..I am hoping. We have a couple of family pets, of which Hershey has taught to alert to cars and people approaching the house, knocks at door, phone ringing etc. I am hoping she will realize II will be needing her to help with the training.
My heart is aching and I am so sad. I do not want to hurt Hershey’s feelings and am unsure if this is the right time and/or thing to do right now.
Anyone with thoughts and answers it would be appreciated.

14 Vickie 07.23.13 at 8:41 pm

My SD has cancer. And I have to retire her very soon. But it FEELS like Im giving up on her! She is 17yrs. She still does a great job of alerting. How do I get her to understand that Im not throwing her away?

15 Sussie Due 07.24.13 at 12:41 pm

She will let you know when she is ready. Keep in mind that dogs accept death better than we do. We are the selfish ones, not them, when it comes to “letting go”.

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