Twelve new dogs start their first semester of advanced training today! They’re joining seven dogs who are already in advanced training.
Last night raisers gathered at our kennel to officially turn in their dogs for this next step in their training. The dogs will now live at the kennel from Monday through Friday, going home to their raisers on weekends and holidays.
Each dog was fitted for their new collar. Every dog in advanced training has their own unique collar, which helps us, raisers, and sitters tell the dogs apart. Dogs from the same litter are often in the kennel at the same time, and they can look a lot alike!
Each dog also was fitted in their new green advanced training harness. During the dogs’ first 18 months, when they’re with their raisers, they wear the purple puppy-in-training harness. Green marks the next step in their journey.
The most exciting part for the dogs was meeting their new roommate. Often roommates are siblings, and they have fun romping and playing together in their kennel run and outside, just like they did when they were tiny puppies.
Play is an important part of our dogs’ day. Kennel life can be stressful for dogs. Not only is it a new environment, but it’s completely different than their home with their raisers. We make sure the dogs get to play in the field several times a day, and we put bones and chew toys in their kennel runs. We also have Walk and Cuddle volunteers, who do exactly that with the dogs. They take the dogs for fun, relaxing dog walks, play with them in the field, and cuddle with them in a separate, comfy area. Our Walk and Cuddle volunteers have been known to just bring a book and snuggle with the dogs while they read. Playtime and the Walk and Cuddle program help to reduce kennel stress.
Although life at the kennel can be stressful for the dogs, it’s an important step in their service dog training. It gives us a chance to see how the dogs handle living in a new environment. When they become working service dogs, they’ll go to live with their new partner in a new environment with a completely different routine. We need to have confidence that our dogs will be able to handle that change. It wouldn’t be fair to either the dog or the partner if the dog became too stressed because of the environmental changes. So living at the kennel is an important part of the dogs’ training, but we do everything we can to make it fun and enjoyable.
What will the dogs do in advanced training? The first few weeks are devoted to reviewing and polishing all 26 cues the dogs learned with their raisers. The dogs will also retake their 12-month evaluation, which lets us see if anything has changed in the past six months.
As we get to know each dog, we start to get a feel for the type of work they might do best. We put them in a balance harness to see if they mind it. Balance harnesses have a hard handle for a person to hold, and the dog must be completely comfortable with this new equipment. We also test the dogs for hearing work. Not only does the dog need to recognize sounds, but they have to want to respond to those sounds. We see if the dog is interested is psychiatric service dog work or if they like to work next to a wheelchair. Our goal is to discover which type of work the dog likes best. We want all of our dogs to enjoy their service dog work.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, our new advanced training dogs will go out in public to places like Giant Food Stores, the mall, or Target. There, they’ll work with our public training volunteers, which will give us a chance to see how well the dogs work with different handlers.
This is an exciting time in these dogs’ lives! Raisers can expect sleepy dogs when they pick them up this weekend. Thank you to all of the raisers who dropped their puppies-in-training off at the kennel last night!