Service dogs are normally retired after around 7 years of service. As the dogs are commonly paired with their families around 18-24 months of age, retirement generally occurs around age 9. With the giant breeds we train and place, we conservatively estimate the service life of the dog to be between 5-7 years, depending on a variety of factors.
What previous anchoring dog teams have experienced is that the initial anchoring behavior is readily employed in the relationship early on, but tends to become less prominent over time. The autistic child becomes accustomed to not being able to run beyond the length of the tether. Staying close to the service dog and the adult team members becomes naturally more rewarding for the child, and habit-forming. The overall goal is that the child’s wandering behavior will decrease significantly as time goes on.
By shifting the emphasis away from the anchoring behavior, the dog becomes more of a transitional liaison for the team. The public recognizes your child has special needs, and the social-interpersonal aspect of the team comes to the forefront.
Anchoring dog teams in the field have found that the dog gradually transitions into more of a companion for your child, rather than a guardian for their safety. This transition is a natural progression of their relationship and can last until your service dog retires. And when the time comes, AAD is also here to help you plan for your service dog’s well-deserved retirement.