Nfld. & Labrador·Video

With long waits for a service dog, some folks are training their own

Beth Pratt has taught her dog to sit and roll over, but Windigo can also retrieve pill bottles and open wheelchair-accessible doors. It all started when Pratt applied to get a service dog to help with her disability. But when she discovered the waiting list was years long, Pratt decided to train her own pet dog instead.

Beth Pratt couldn't wait years to get a service dog from an organization, so she's training her pet instead

How I trained my pet dog to be my service dog

4 months ago
Duration 5:55
Beth Pratt has taught her dog to sit and roll over, but Windigo can also retrieve pill bottles and open wheelchair accessible doors. It all started when Pratt applied to get a service dog to help with her disability. But when she discovered the waiting list was years long, Pratt decided to train her own pet dog instead.

Beth Pratt has taught her dog to sit and roll over, but Windigo can also retrieve pill bottles and open wheelchair accessible doors. It's the result of countless hours of training, far more than Pratt ever planned to put in when she got Windigo as a puppy.

"I never intended for her to be a service dog. She was just going to be another one of my pets," said Pratt.

But plans changed because of her health. Pratt lives with a disability, a neurological disorder that affects her balance and the strength in her hands. It's also getting worse over time.

A few years ago, Pratt decided to get a service animal — in her case, a mobility dog. It could help her in all sorts of ways, from steadying her while walking to opening doors to picking up a dropped purse or cellphone. But when Pratt applied to organizations that provide service animals in Canada, her plans were brought to heel.

"I sent in the form, but then I got a letter back saying they weren't taking applications and the waiting list was five years," she said. "So now they have such a backlog that they won't take applications for who knows how long that's going to be for."

Beth Pratt and service dog Windigo enjoy a break from their training, in Pratt's backyard in Paradise. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

If you can afford it, you can skip the waiting lists and buy a trained service animal, but the cost can run into the tens of thousands. Instead, Pratt chose a different path: she's training her own. 

It's perfectly legal, and becoming more popular as demand for service animals has surged. There's even a new business in St. John's that helps people train their pets to become service animals.

Watch the video above to see how it's done.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zach Goudie is a journalist and video producer with CBC in St. John's.

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