Monday, June 23, 2008

Choosing a program

I mentioned in an early post I mention that I had been accepted as a potential recipient for the Purdy Prison Pet Program years ago. The reason I did not reapply to the that program when Bastien needed to retire was that program had changed the format of its team training, so it was no longer possible for me to meet their requirements. Especially since I now lived more than 200 miles away. When choosing service dog programs to apply to there are many things one must consider such as:

1.Do they train the type of service dog you need?

Many programs only train certain types of service dogs. It is important to ask if the program trains dogs to do the type of work you require. Many programs train hearing dogs, mobility dogs, and dog guides; but few programs train medical alert/response, seizure alert/response, psychiatric service dogs, or dogs for people on the autism spectrum. Cross trained dogs (dogs that are trained in multiple skills such as guide/mobility dog or mobility/medical response) are also rare.

2. Do they place dogs in your area?

All programs have geographic areas they will or will not serve. Make sure you apply only for those programs that serve the area where you live. If there is program training the type of service dog you need and they say they will accept applicants outside the geographic area,make sure you fully understand and can commit to those terms. You may need to travel to the facility several times before placement, you must attend team training, and will need to be re-certified every so often.

3. Do they have limits on the types of tasks they will train? Do you need any of these tasks?

Common examples of tasks that some programs will not train nor allow their dogs to be used for are wheelchair pulling and keeping a child in the confines of the house/yard.

4. What is the policy on other animals in the home?

Some programs do not allow their dogs to be placed in homes with other dogs. The reasoning behind this can include fear that the original dog in the house will not accept the new dog, concern that loyalty on the part of the handler to the resident dog will interfere with bonding with the service dog, and fear that the recipient will not have enough time or resources to properly care for all of the animals.

5. Who maintains ownership of the dog?
Some programs maintain ownership of the dog for the life of the dog. Other programs maintain ownership of the dog for the working life of the dog, relinquishing ownership only after the dog retires. Some programs relinquish ownership at placement. Still others maintain ownership through the first year. It is important to know who under the contract you sign with any organization owns the dog. Many programs maintain ownership to prevent These highly skilled dogs:
  • From ending up in shelters or other horrible situations in the event something happens to the handler or the dog gets loose
  • To ensure that the dog and partner remain safe to work in public
  • To ensure the safety and health of the dogs they place
  • To ensure the human partner maintains and works the dog as agreed at placement
    6. What training methods does the program employ? Are you willing and able to learn and use these methods?
      Do not apply for a dog that uses training methods you disagree with or are unwilling to learn and use. I have seen many dogs come out of training schools highly skilled and trained only to watch the dog turn into little more than a nice dog because the handlers did not maintain the training.
      7. What is the placement process and can you meet these requirements?
      The placement process each program has it there for very specific reasons. If you cannot or do not want to participate in any part of a particular program's process do not waste their time and yours by submitting an application. If you do not understand any part of the process ask questions!
        8. What costs are involved in placement?
        While many service dog programs are non-profits and do not charge charge for the dogs themselves. Many do require their clients to pay their room, board, and transportation for team training. Also, some may provide basic gear for the dog, but require the client to purchase specialized gear.
        9. What types of support/follow up does the program provide after placement?
        • Do they want the client to submit regular updates?
        • Do they require the team to come back to the training center at specific intervals for follow up?
        • How do they handle training maintenance questions after placement?
        • Will they assist with training additional tasks if needed after placement?
        • What is the procedure for retiring/replacing dogs if needed?
        • What is the procedure for determining if the match is successful or not?

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