Monday, December 15, 2014

End of the Year Donations

Now is the time to make your end of the year donation! We would love for you to choose to support Susquehanna Service Dogs. Below is a list of ways you can support us this holiday season. Or you can simply make a donation to help our service dogs change lives.

Fill Rudy the Red Van

Help us fill "Rudy the Red Van" with items for our puppy raising program! You can find our full wish list here. The red van will be parked at the SSD Complex for the entire month of December. You can drop your items off at 1078 Gravel Hill Road, Grantville, PA 17028.

Sponsor a Team Training Kit

For a $200 donation, you can provide all of the items that are given to a partner when they complete Team Training with their new service dog. Items include a leash and collar, treat pouch, clicker, food bowl, nail clippers, shedding blade, and more. Donate now or call 717-599-5920.

Sponsor a Service Dog Harness
For a $100 donation, you can provide a harness for a service dog to wear in public with their partner. Donate now or call 717-599-5920.

Name a Puppy

Wondering what to get that person who has everything? Why not give them the right to name a future service dog puppy? for $1,500, you cna name a dog that will make all the difference in a person's life. Donate now or call 717-599-5920. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fill Rudy the Red Van!

These service “reindeer” are waiting for you to fill Rudy the Red Van!

For the entire month of December, this red van will be parked at the Susquehanna Service Dogs complex in Grantville, PA. We’re hoping to fill it full to bursting with items for our puppy raiser program.

Help us fill the red van so service “reindeer” like Nitro, Newman, Hank, and Bridge can fly off with their new partners and change lives.

We’re looking for a variety of items:
  • Gallon Ziploc bags
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • Large cotton balls
  • Clorox wipes
  • Clorox
  • Spic ‘N Span
  • Blue painters tape
  • Fleece blankets
  • Puppy leashes
  • 36-inch dog crates
  • Small puppy Nylabones
  • Large non-edible Nylabones
  • Soft training treats (Pupperoni)
  • Buster cubes
  • West Paw toys (large size)
  • Gift cards to Target or Pet Smart
You can drop items off at the SSD complex at 1078 Gravel Hill Road, Grantville, PA 17028.

Thank you from everyone at SSD and our service “reindeer!”

Friday, November 21, 2014

Living a Fuller Life with SSD Outback

Guest post by Roger Hostetter, a US Army Gulf War Veteran partnered with SSD Outback

First, I would like to thank Keystone Human Services and Susquehanna Service Dogs for this wonderful program.

I am a US Army Gulf War Veteran with PTSD and other medical issues from my service in the Gulf. I received an Honorable Discharge from the Army in 1991, and I spent the next 17 years going from one mental health doctor to another. I forget how many I actually saw before being able to have the ones that I currently have.

 In 2008, I saw a doctor who, within one appointment, diagnosed me with PTSD.  I believe it was two appointments after this that he told me he was leaving and had talked to the doctor that I currently see. I was afraid I would have to basically start all over again, but this doctor picked right up where the other one left off.

A few years after this, I heard about veterans receiving service dogs to help with PTSD. I spoke to my doctor about this and he said he felt it would be something good for me to look into, but that he couldn’t help much since the VA doesn’t help veterans receive a service dog.

So my search began. I found so many places out of state. After years of searching, I discovered Susquehanna Service Dogs.

Since they were a local organization I contacted them right away and asked if they have service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

I filled out an application and had the formal interview and was accepted as a client. I was told the wait for a service dog can be anywhere from 18 months to 2yrs. As time passed, I really didn’t think about it, but knew every day that did pass was a day closer to one day getting a dog.

I received an email in May regarding setting up an appointment to the “Meet the Dogs” session.  Through more emailing, an appointment was made. The day of the session, I had no idea what to expect. When I walked into the room, it looked like a military board-type set-up, a bunch of chairs on one side of a table with one chair on the other side.

They asked some questions before any dogs came out and more questions came after I interacted with each dog. I met and interacted with Outback, Kingston, London, and Slate. When I was asked at the end to rank the dogs from my favorite and working down, Outback was my favorite.  To me this was a very important step in the process and another step closer.    

After this, you wait for about a week to see if you were matched up with a dog or not. I received an email stating I was matched up with a dog and the team training class was going to be sometime in October. I believe this now was early June.

The next several months were slow since I now was waiting on the packet regarding the training class and the name of the dog that I was matched up with.

I think it was early September that I received the packet in the mail telling me that I was matched up with Outback and the dates of the class.

The month of September and those few days in October right before the first class date were very slow.

Next thing I knew though, it was the day training was to begin. Team training was awesome and the entire staff and volunteers really care about the clients and of course the dogs.

Outback’s first day at his new home was on Thursday, October 10. That late afternoon and evening was very rough for me. Hank, our little dog was barking just about nonstop. I didn’t know if the barking was aggressive barking or what it was. I tried a lot to get him to stop barking. Sometimes he would stop and shortly after, he would start right back up.

I was really frustrated and was almost to the point of calling Amanda [SSD’s training coordinator] and telling her that the next day, I would be returning Outback and dropping from the class. But I got myself calmed down and recorded 3 different barking sessions for either Amanda or Ryan [one of our dog trainers] to watch and help me.

The next day, which was Friday, Amanda watched the recording and told me that she sees Hank wants to play. There was no aggressive barking here at all. I’m happy to say that Outback and Hank are now best friends. They play a lot. Hank thinks he is as big as Outback.

Within a few days of Outback and me being around each other all the time, I could see a bond forming which has grown and continues to grow. I knew that he knew what he has to do for me and he just needed to get used to me instructing him on what to do.

I was nervous about our Public Access Test. In the back of my head though, I knew we would be okay since our practice test was good.

The morning of our Public Access Test, I kissed Outback and told him that today was a big step for us and that I would do the best that I can for us. He did great. I was told we both did great. After we passed, I gave him a kiss again and told him I love him and that we are a team now.

We have been out to a lot of different places, such as Walmart, the VA Medical Center, Kmart, Sears, some restaurants, and the gun show in Lebanon.

The gun show was something that I would have never gone to alone. I decided to try it out with Outback. He did great there. It was very packed. I had my focus on him the whole time that I really didn’t think about how packed it was. Outback and I even met Governor Corbett.

At restaurants, I still want to sit the way that I do—my back toward a wall or at least facing a majority of the people and including the door. But I have found that even with Outback in a down-stay as instructed, my focus is still on him throughout the entire time we are there.

There are still places that I will not go and I will not subject Outback to. I look out for him as he does for me.

Once again I want to thank everyone that made it possible for Outback and me to be a team, which has also made it possible for my life to be a little fuller.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lucky Dog Casino Night

Are you ready to get in on the action at Lucky Dog Casino Night? We’re so excited to invite you to Lucky Dog Casino Night on November 22 at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey! We had so much fun at last year’s event, and this year should be even better!

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a reception, dinner, and silent and live auctions. This year, we have some great silent auction items for you, donated by our supporters. We have items from Climbnasium, Naylor Wine Cellars, Dog Is Good, Hill’s Pet Nutritio, Bold Lead Designs, and Pizza Grill, among many others.

After dinner, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., you can play complimentary casino games! You’ll receive a free voucher for chips. Try your luck at the craps table, go for a royal flush at the poker tables, or beat the dealer at black jack. If you run out of chips but want to keep playing, we’ll give you another voucher. At the end of the night, we’ll have prizes for the people who win the most amount of “money.”

Service dogs and service dogs in training are welcome, of course, but we ask that you leave your pets at home.

Tickets are available online. We hope to see you there!

Event Details

November 22, 2014

6-11 p.m.

Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey
4650 Lindle Road
Harrisburg, PA 17111

$100 per person
$150 per patron (includes listing in program)

Business casual

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tips for Going to a Restaurant with your Service Dog

Yesterday in Team Training, our partners ate lunch with their dogs for the first time, and next week, they’ll be eating in a restaurant for the first time.

People with service dogs have public access, which means they can take their dog anywhere that’s open to the public. This includes restaurants, which as you well know, normally do not allow dogs.

Here are some tips for taking your service dog or service dog in training to a restaurant.

Think about your dog when choosing a table
While you’re in the restaurant, your dog is going to be tucked under the table in a long down-stay. Ideally, your dog will fall asleep. When you’re choosing a table in a restaurant, keep your dog’s comfort in mind. If a table has one leg in the center, your dog may not be able to lie comfortably under the table, which means she’ll be less likely to remain in a down-stay while you’re eating. If you’re being seated by a hostess, don’t hesitate to request a booth if you see that your dog won’t fit comfortably under the other tables.

Be mindful of other patrons
When you’re walking into the restaurant and going to your table, be mindful of the other patrons. Don’t let your dog sniff other people. If the restaurant seems like a challenging place for your dog, you can hold a few treats in front of your dog’s nose to keep them focused until you get to your table.

The same goes when it’s time to leave. If your dog has been lying down for a long time, the first thing they’re going to do when they stand up is shake themselves. Try to have your dog stand where they won’t send fur flying in all directions. For example, if you’re at a booth, ask your dog to stand while they’re still tucked under the table. 

Watch out for food on the floor
Inevitably, food ends up on the floor in restaurants. And chances are high that if there’s food on the floor, your dog will find it. Keep an eye out for anything on the floor that might distract your dog.

But what if you want to go to a restaurant that offers things like peanuts to patrons and encourages people to throw the shells on the floor? This might be a good time to simply leave your dog at home.

Keep one eye on your dog at the buffet
Buffets can be very tricky to navigate with a dog. You have to hold the leash, serve yourself food, and carry your plate. It can be a balancing act! You can always leave your dog at the table with a friend or family member and ask them to hold your dog’s leash while you get your food. If you take your dog through the buffet line, keep a close watch on your dog because you don’t want them sniffing at the table or stealing a lick or a piece of food. As you move through the line, you can put your dog in a “down” while you serve yourself. This will keep your dog’s nose far away from the food. Then you’ll just need to balance your plate and hold your dog’s leash as you walk back to your table.

If your table is near the buffet and you know your dog has a solid down-stay, it can be very tempting to leave your dog unattended at the table while you get your food. However, while you might know your dog extremely well, you don’t know the other people in the restaurant. While you’re at the buffet, a child (or an adult) could pet your dog under the table, they could try to feed your dog, or someone could whistle or talk to your dog, all of which could easily distract him. It’s always best for you or someone you trust to stay with your dog at all times in a restaurant.

Have you taken your service dog or service dog in training to a restaurant? Share your tips in the comments.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Team Training: Learning to Work Together

After spending about 18 months with their puppy raisers and another 6-8 months in advanced training with our professional trainers, SSD Cobalt, SSD Kingston, SSD London, and SSD Outback are ready to work. These four dogs have been working with their new partners in Team Training since Monday.

During the first day of Team Training, we spent the morning talking about the process of Team Training and Susquehanna Service Dogs and learning about clicker training and shaping (our training methods). And then after lunch came the moment everyone was waiting for. It was the moment when each person gets their dog for the first time. It’s one of our favorite parts of Team Training.

Our volunteers and trainers brought the dogs in one at a time. As the dogs came in, they made a beeline for their partners, and their tails were wagging so fast they were just a blur. Watch how happy Kingston is to greet his new partner.


To help the dogs learn exactly who they need to pay attention to, we had each person give their dog lots of treats during this first meeting. After each team had a chance to start bonding, we began working on basic cues, such as the dog’s name, sit, down, and come.

For the first week of Team Training, our teams learn several new cues each day. We also practice behaviors like getting in and out of a car, using an elevator, going to a restaurant, and handling greetings with all kinds of people.

Today is such a beautiful day that we spent most of the morning outside. Each team worked on loose leash walking through the grass and then went through several cues, including sit, down, stand, and pressure (the dog lays across the person’s legs), and up.

Today is also the first time that each person ate lunch with their dog. To get ready, we practiced the cue “under,” where the dogs go under the table and lay down.

Over the next week and a half, our service dog teams in training will take their new skills out in public. We’ll visit the local malls and have lunch in restaurants and food courts, and by the end of the two and a half weeks, each person will be well prepared to take their public access test with their service dog. 

Each team is doing great! We're looking forward to the rest of Team Training!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gold Star Behavior: Heel

All of our puppy raisers teach their service dogs in training 26 behaviors. However, there are a few that we consider “gold star” behaviors. These are the behaviors that we would love for all of our dogs to know by the time they come to the kennel for advanced training. These gold star behaviors are “lap,” “visit,” “heel,” “back,” and loose leash walking.

Right now, all of our puppies in training are working on “heel” in puppy class. When the behavior is finished, the dog should swing his hind legs around until he’s standing parallel against his handler’s left side.

We have a very specific way of training “heel.” All of our dogs start learning the behavior on a heel box, which is a one foot square box about six inches high. The dogs put their front feet on the box, which then acts as an anchor for the dog’s front paws while they learn to move their back legs counter clockwise. Once the dog puts his front paws on the box, the handler starts stepping counter clockwise around the box, clicking and treating the dog for moving their hind legs. Gradually, we hold the click until the dog has taken several steps. Eventually, the dog will pivot the entire way around the box until they’re in the heel position at their handler’s left side.

Watch SSD Laura move her back legs all the way around the box. Note that at this point, we’re not using any cues.


The behavior isn’t finished yet. Now we take the box away and start the process all over again with a board or piece of paper on the floor instead of the box. SSD Laura’s puppy raisers used a square board. Watch how Laura continues to move her back legs around the board.


Finally, it’s time to remove the board or paper. At this point we can add the cue “heel,” if the dog is moving into the heel position consistently. Look at how Laura snaps into the heel position regardless of how her puppy raiser moves.


As you’ve probably guessed, it takes time for the dogs to learn “heel,” since there are so many steps. Dogs that come into advanced training already knowing “heel” will be able to start learning other behaviors sooner than dogs that still need to work on the behavior.

We’ve seen lots of dogs in puppy class who are on their way to finishing this gold star behavior!