Originally Posted by lionessrampant
See, that's something I've always wanted more info on. Do people ever try to train abandoned or unwanted pups to do these things? What about unwanted or abandoned adults? Is specific breed as important as they would have one believe? I know rescued dogs can be therapy dogs if they get the right training...why can't they do other work? Or do they absolutely 100% have to be "from scratch"?
There is a difference between Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs.
I have two Therapy Dogs, I trained them myself and they go into nursing homes and hospitals (including the Alzheimers ward, which is rough on me but the dogs couldn't care less). They are basically just plain 'ol ordinary nice dogs with good manners who like people that I can rely on to stay calm if someone knocks over a stack of bedpans or if an alarm goes off, they will get out of the way and sit nicely if one of the staff needs to get by to get to a patient or is just going about their work and is moving stuff back and forth in the corridor. Some Therapy Dogs go into childrens areas, either in hospitals or kids read to them. For this the dog has to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test, also a special "hospital environment test" (like they have to be ok with things like wheelchairs and walkers). As long as the dog has a good temperament, this can be done. There are also Therapy Cats by the way!
Service Dogs is a whole 'nother category. It would be nice to think that abandoned dogs can be trained to be Service Dogs, but it is the exception and not the rule. There was a fairly spectacular and appealing case of the "Pit Bull" Neville who was rescued from death in Ontario, and who found not only a new home in the US but also a calling as a police dog.http://www.dogster.com/pet_page.php?i=130060&j=t
This boy is a bomb sniffer. This is one of the most likely types of service dogs that adult dogs with no particular breed can become. Also I would think that since the dog has one adult handler and would not necessarily have to deal with a large crowd of humans, temperament is not that important. The bomb sniffers at airports need to be able to concentrate on sniffing while passengers are milling around.
The other one that I am familiar with are the service dogs who can smell things like an epileptic seizure coming on and they cover their human's body with their own to prevent the human from injury. The most spectacular case I remember (and the one that might change your mind if you think Rotties are vicious) was the story of Faith, who speed-dialed 911 after her owner collapsed, barked into the receiver, and unlocked the door for the paramedics. believe it or not this kind of thing is also not that hard to train, but you have to have a dog who will react to the changes in smell that come off of a human when something is off with the body chemistry.
check pg 8 of this one for full storyhttp://www.darsw.com/newsletter_file...r%20Report.pdf
The guide dogs and search and rescue dogs are kind of at the top of the heap though. They are normally bred for purpose because they need to be extremely intelligent, trainable, focused, and have a 100 % temperament. Just think about the fact that the Guide Dog has to know to lead their human in such a way that a human has head clearance. Search and Rescue dogs have to sniff for stuff under conditions that most dogs won't touch-walking on ladders, on shaky footing, dogs HATE that. And also because some minimum amount of physical strength is required, this pretty much eliminates the smaller dogs, which is why you usually see German Shepherds, Labbies, and other big dogs.
Dogs for the blind are bred for that purpose, are fostered until about the age of 1 to 1-1/2 yr so that they become socialized. The foster gets a special little vest so that the puppies are allowed to go everywhere and get used to people, stores, streets, etc. They are also supposed to teach them some basic commands. After that they start training and still, some flunk out.
So the short answer is, yes, some Service Dogs can be "made" but the really difficult jobs (IMO) are reserved for those who are born to it. And those have to be trained really from birth practically.