Qualities of a Good Handler

The success of a well-functioning SD team depends not just on the training that the dog has received, but the ability of the handler to look out for the well-being of the team.  In past months, we have explored some concrete steps that a handler can take to help to transition a new dog.  This month, we look at those innate qualities of a handler that bring long-term success to a team.

Patience– remember that training is not an end-point.  Dogs teach us patience, and we need to remember that they learn and communicate differently than we do.  A good handler takes the time to understand what their dog is saying to them, and vice-versa.  Re-defining boundaries, helping your dog to feel safe and comfortable with your leadership, these things all take time.

Self-discipline– a good handler must have an ability to understand and follow rules.  They must be consistent and fair.  In a training program such as ours, the dogs have been raised from the time they are young to understand and obey certain rules.  Sudden departure from these rules is confusing to a dog and can undermine their ability to work as they have been trained to do.  Setting up a schedule that is predictable for your dog is crucial- this will provide the dog with a sense of stability.

Calm– we always tell people that a SD is not a small appliance such as toaster.  You can not bring a SD home, plug it in and expect it to function flawlessly.  A SD is a willing partner, trained to work because they want to, not because they have to.  Think of who your best friend is and how you treat them…and then treat your dog better because this is how they will treat you.  Never lose sight of the fact that a SD is working at all times when they are out of the home.  If a handler works 5 days a week and shops, visits and is out both other days, they have in fact forced their dog to work 7 days a week with no hope for a day off.  Though these “day off” outings may be enjoyable for a handler, they are work for a dog.  A successful handler understands this and must learn to relax and give their dog days off.  We also remind our readers that anxiety tends to “travel down the leash”.  A handler who remains calm will have a dog that remains calm.

Responsibility– the sole responsibility for the actions of a team rests with the handler at all times.  The hallmark of a good handler is that they will never blame their dog if things do not go well.  Successful handlers are those that do not focus on blame, but rather look at the cause for any problems, understand why things are happening and accept responsibility for corrections.

Classroom News


Louie and Trevor are litter mates, and are 9 weeks old in this photo. Trevor (R) is being raised by 2nd time student Whitney Pulsipher.

EM Campus– Our Estrella Mountain students are hard at work on Orientation, and are doing quite well.  In addition to our first time students, we are blessed to have one returning student, Whitney Pulsipher, who has returned to raise a second dog with us.  Whitney did an outstanding job over the past two years and graduated with flying colors this past May.  This time around, she is our first student to take a Sequence II course that we are building for her and for students who follow her and wish to do the same.  As a part of this, Whitney took a trip to a breeder this past month to learn about breeding, and perinatal care.  Whitney has already received her new SDIT, a beautiful male Golden Retriever puppy named Trevor.  Whitney will serve as peer mentor for the others in the class.  Four paws up to Whitney for her outstanding work.  The remainder of the class will receive their puppies late Oct or early Nov, so stay tuned for more photos.

PV Campus– on the Paradise Valley campus our students are in the third semester of the program.  This semester they are brushing up on advanced SD skills, in preparation for the new recipients to join the class in January.  On October 14th, students will be present at the GAIN Event at Rio Vista Park in Peoria, starting at 5:30 p.m.  This is the 6th year in a row that the FSDS has been invited to participate in this public safety event sponsored by the Peoria PD and FD.  Our student trainers will provide community education on SD and disability issues, as well as hands on canine CPR and first aid demonstrations as part of their leadership experience.  Readers who are free that evening are encouraged to stop by and let our teams know that their efforts are appreciated.

Thank You

Many thanks to C.R. Bard, Inc. for their generous $5,500 donation.  These monies will be used to help us improve our delivery of online education for recipients with disabilities.

Wellness Tip

This has been a rainy monsoon season here in Arizona, with flooding that has been unprecedented.  In many areas there are still standing water puddles, and these are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.  Also, fleas and ticks are common problems.  Be cognizant of where you permit your dog to run.  Giardia is another concern.  It can be left in bird droppings, and ingestion of even a blade of grass that is contaminated can lead to illness.  Remember to supervise your dog when outdoors at all times, and call your Veterinarian immediately for signs of illness.

Halloween Tips

We remind our readers that many treats are toxic to dogs such as chocolate, raisins and hazelnuts to name just a few.  Halloween candy should be kept in a cabinet that is not accessible to dogs in advance of the holiday.  On Halloween eve, keep your candy bowl on a counter or table that is out of reach for your dog.  Consider keeping your dog in a back bedroom if they tend to spook easy.  Dog costumes may be cute, but small pieces that can be chewed off can present choking hazards.  Be certain to have “eyes on” at all times if your dog is dressed up for Halloween.  Stay safe!