Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SSD Team Training

At the Dauphin County Conservation District, eight service dog teams move around the room. You can hear commands and clicks as partners and dogs practice skills together. One partner tells his service dog to "Leave It" when the dog starts to investigate an object on the floor. The dog obeys, receiving a click and a treat. In a separate room, a hearing dog practices with her partner. A timer is set to go off at varying intervals and the hearing dog must alert her partner every time it beeps. She successfully alerts every time.

This is just a very brief snapshot of the Team Training we held from June 8 through June 19. Team Training prepares partners and service dogs to begin their lives together. Throughout the past two weeks, teams listened to presentations about training and working with service dogs and had plenty of time to ask questions and practice with their service dogs. They also did home visits. Team Training gives partners and their service dogs a chance to bond and start to learn each others' habits.

This year, we had a large class - eight partners and dogs, including two hearing dogs, one balance dog and five service dogs. Five partners were receiving successor dogs. These five individuals had previously had a service dog through SSD, but their dog may have passed away or is ready to retire. All eight teams have successfully completed Team Training and took their practice access and skill tests yesterday. Today they're visiting the Whitaker Center to practice working as a team in a fun, public place with lots of distractions for both dogs and partners.

On Wednesday, teams will take their final access and skill tests and then sign the papers that will make them official SSD teams! Each partner has worked so hard and risen to every challenge, and we have confidence that they will all be successful in their lives as service dog teams.

We wish SSD Roanoke, BeBe, Larch, Sadie, Bryce, Sedona, Jonagold, York and their partners good luck!

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