Skilled companion dogs are usually dogs released from service dog programs. They are selected for excellent temperament, are generally in good health, and have good manners and basic obedience. Some may even be task trained or may be trained to perform tricks.
These dogs are ideal for children with disabilities who are not yet ready to steward a service dog for themselves. Skilled companion dogs do not work in public access. They are wonderful pets that make loving companions for children, giving them nearly infinite unconditional positive regard. Well-trained dogs can also attract the attention of other children, encouraging social interaction between the child with a disability and neighborhood kids. He ceases being the "disabled kid" and becomes the "kid with the really cool dog."
Most programs will select the best of their dogs who do not make the grade for service work for skilled companion dogs. These dogs may have minor health problems, a reduced work ethic, or some issues with public access that put them out of the running for service work but do not interfere with being a skilled companion. These animals are prized pets that are specifically set aside for children with disabilities. To find a skilled companion dog, contact service, hearing, or guide dog programs to see if they have any available.