Today is the second day of the Trainer’s Conference that we are hosting at the beautiful and serene Camp Hebron. The conference is focused on Suzanne’s Clothier Animal Response Assessment Tool (CARAT™), an assessment tool for creating a profile of a dog with well-defined traits. This tool can be used for any dog, and for assistance dog organizations, it can help with assessing puppies, breeding stock, and potential assistance dogs, as well as help trainers create training plans for each dog.
Although other assessment tools exist, CARAT™ is unique in that it is much more detailed and is one of the few tools with statistical validity. Guiding Eyes for the Blind uses CARAT™ to assess their dogs, and they have found that they could correctly predict whether a dog would be successful in the guide dog program in 87.4% of the cases. Susquehanna Service Dogs has been using CARAT™ since 2008, and we feel it has helped in our formal evaluations of our dogs, as well as helped us see and understand each dog’s behavior. As a result, we can make better choices about each dog’s role in our program.
Over 50 people from 25 different assistance dog organizations are attending the conference. All of them are members of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), a coalition of nonprofit organizations that train and place assistance dogs. All members of ADI must adhere to certain standards and ethics in their training and placement of dogs, and members meet regularly to share ideas, attend seminars and conferences, and work to make improvements in training methods, placement and the use of assistance dogs.
We are very excited to see members from so many service dog groups here at the North American Trainer’s conference. As we all learn more about CARAT™, we will all use similar language when we assess and talk about the dogs in our programs, which is especially important. Many assistance dog organizations build strong relationships with each other and often exchange puppies or use breeding stock from other organizations. If we all use the same language when we describe a dog and its traits and personality, we will have a greater chance of training that dog within our programs and successfully placing the dog with its partner.
The assistance dog organizations at the conference include:
And we don’t want to forget about the canine attendees. Although Camp Hebron does not allow pets, they have graciously welcomed the assistance dogs to the conference.
Prescott from Canine Partners for Life
Padriag from Blue Ridge Assistance Dogs
Jabin from Eagles' Wings Service Dogs
Alepo from Canine Partners for Life
Dexter from Fidos for Freedom
Basil from Susquehanna Service Dogs
We are learning a lot from Suzanne, and we hope everyone is enjoying the conference as much as we are!