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Our Training Program

Our approach is unique - we adopt dogs from shelters, and we focus on the POSITIVE. This means rewarding our dogs for desired behaviors so they will give us those behaviors again. If they get it wrong, we figure out a better way to teach it. We never punish or use force.

Why do we train this way? It gives the dogs their best lives. They can learn without being afraid to make mistakes. This creates a creative Service Dog. A dog that will always want to give its best, which one day could save your life.

The training program takes approximately 12-18 months to complete and is divided into four stages.

Our Training Program

Stage 1: Foundations

Initial Steps:

  • Two-Week Quarantine Period: Each dog starts with a quarantine period to ensure health and safety.

Key Training Areas:

  • Confidence Building & Learning: We focus on helping the dogs build confidence and learn how to learn in a new environment.

  • Manners Training: Essential manners are taught, including responses to basic commands and leash walking.

  • Exposure to Daily Life: Dogs are introduced to common household appliances and experiences to get them accustomed to everyday life scenarios.

  • Socialization: This involves exploring various social experiences and interactions with people, animals, and different surfaces.

  • Desensitization: Identifying and working on specific stimuli that may require desensitization for the dog.

Behavioral Learning:

  • Stationary and Off-Leash Behaviors: These include attention/eye contact, name response, hand touch, and more, in low-distraction environments on our campus.

  • Leash Walking Skills: Teaching long-line loose leash walking, including collar grab/attaching leash and responding to leash tension.

  • Kennel Manners: Focused on maintaining calm in the kennel and responding appropriately to kennel-related commands.

  • Cooperative Care: Training in body handling, chin rest, brushing, and other care-related behaviors.

Exposure Training:

  • Dogs are exposed to various settings such as home environments, different types of people and animals, and various physical surfaces.

  • Outings include visits to pet stores, hardware stores, parks, and vet offices for exploratory purposes and to identify stimuli needing desensitization work.

Assessment for Progression:

  • To move to the Basics phase, dogs must successfully complete a Foundations Assessment in three different locations on our campus. This assessment includes responding to various cues and commands, displaying appropriate kennel manners, and showing progress in cooperative care and desensitization aspects.

Stage 2 - Basics

Following the Foundations phase, our dogs progress to the Basics stage. Here we focus on refining obedience behaviors and determining each dog's future path.

Key Objectives:

  • Obedience Behaviors: We reinforce common obedience behaviors such as name and sit response, heeling (walking close by), targeting (touching an object when prompted to), and introduce more complex tasks like duration and moving behaviors in various environments.

  • Stationary and Moving Behaviors: Expanding on the foundational behaviors, dogs practice these in the presence of distractions, both on and off-campus.

  • Manners and Cooperative Care: This includes settling in a house, crate training, loading and unloading vehicles, and basic grooming tasks like bathing and nail trimming.

  • Behavior Modification: Unwanted behaviors identified in the Foundations phase are addressed through specific modification techniques.

  • Desensitization: Continuous work on desensitizing dogs to necessary stimuli ensures they are comfortable and focused in any setting.

  • Foster Home Transition: Dogs ready for this stage can transition to foster homes. This step is crucial for them to adapt to a home environment.

  • Exposure Training: Dogs are exposed to different types of people and environments, such as staff meetings and dining out experiences, to build their comfort and adaptability.

  • Exposure Training: Dogs are exposed to different types of people and environments, such as staff meetings and dining out experiences, to build their comfort and adaptability.

  • Outings and Socialization Outings are designed to build attention to the handler around distractions and continue the dogs' socialization. These include visits to parks, parking lots, and indoor locations like hardware stores.

Criteria for Progression to Intermediate Phase

To advance to the next stage, dogs must meet several criteria, including:

  • Demonstration of Learning: Completion of Drop on Recall (DOR) in different campus locations and success in targeting various objects on cue.

  • Socialization and Manners: Attending staff meetings with distractions, showing appropriate greetings with staff members, and continued progress in behavior modification plans.

Stage 3 - Intermediate

As dogs become more adept, we introduce specific assistance dog tasks. This phase is critical for:

  • Task Training: Depending on their path, dogs learn tasks like retrieving, alerting to sounds, or interacting with people.

  • Public Outings: We introduce dogs to a wide range of public environments to enhance their adaptability.

Criteria for progressing include successful outings in different public locations and performing assistance dog tasks reliably.

Upon successful completion, dogs are ready to be matched with their client and proceed to stage 4.

Stage 4 - Advanced

In the final stage, training becomes more client-specific, focusing on tasks and behaviors tailored to the future handler's needs. This includes:

  • Personalized Task Training: Each dog learns individualized tasks to assist their future handler.

  • Client-Specific Outings: Training outings are tailored to replicate the client’s daily routines and environments.

After completing this stage, we conduct a 12-week in-home training period once the dogs have been placed with the client. Once the team passes all of their assessments, they receive certification.

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