We've gotten an email from NSD about what we can do in this preparation period.
1) Plan ahead. Service dogs have a lot of guidelines in place when they are out of jacket and families will have to adjust some things in their household in order to accommodate.
That, we expected. For the dog to be effective, the training has to be maintained. So we've got to step up and make sure that we're doing what's necessary and not reinforcing undesired behaviour.
2) Get your child used to wearing a belt.
I hadn't thought of this one, but it makes sense. The anti-bolting training requires the dog to be attached to a belt around the child. Since Alex is a bolter, this is something we'll need to work on. I'll be picking up some belts ASAP.
3) Plan for when to walk your service dog (30 minutes, twice a day).
We'd done some thinking on when to incorporate walks into our routine. First thing in the morning, before Alex leaves for school. (Although this will mean getting up earlier.) And after school, with Alex. That way, we're having the minimal amount of walks in the cold and dark (for winter weather). Not to mention, we're more likely to have plans after supper, so this way the walk is not likely to be disrupted. And if necessary, we can always add an evening walk. (I don't think there's such a thing as too much walking for a dog.)
4) Be aware the service dog is for the designated child, not siblings.
That message we have received loud and clear. Nathan knows that the dog is working for Alex and is not a family pet. We're working on a transition plan for him.
5) Do not buy toys for your service dog. NSD will provide what is necessary and there will be an opportunity to purchase appropriate toys during training.
Again, this makes sense. If the trainers can give us our dog's favourite toy, that will help the transition. And there are a lot of inappropriate toys on the market. This keeps down enthusiastic errors.
6) Do not get other pets until you've had a chance to talk with the trainer. If you have cats, doggy proof your home by getting them used to having their food bowls off the floor.
I guess even a service dog can't be expected to resist a ground level bowl of cat food. We have been talking about getting another cat for Nathan to focus on, but always planned to speak with the trainers about the best way to integrate. I'm assuming that one of the selection criteria for our dog is tolerance for cats (since we already have Ceili) so hopefully adding a second won't cause too many problems.
7) Don't plan parties right after Team Training for several weeks.
The dog and the whole family will need time to get used to each other. It's best if that happens during as regular a routine as possible. I would like to do a bit of a Victory Tour and take Alex and the dog round to all the places who helped us with fundraisers, but it can wait until we've all settled.
8) Don't plan to take the service dog on long distance travel for the first 4-6 months.
This is a little trickier as we've been planning our summer trip to Calgary for over a year. We'll talk it over with the trainers. The trip would be 3 months after the dog arrives. Would it be easier if we drove? Flew? All questions to ask and things to work on.