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Helping Paws was excited to perform demos with our dogs-in-training and graduate teams at the Land o’ Lakes Kennel Club Dog Show this past weekend. We told our story of the journey from puppy through graduate team, and our foster home trainers and graduate teams illustrated the process delightfully. Following some pics, courtesy of Linda Thuftedal, from the Friday demo.

Our training starts with the Perfect Puppy Phase. In addition to usual puppy challenges such as house training, we teach Watch, the foundation to most service dog skills. Here is Karen with Briar, a six-month-old Golden Retriever, showing us what Watch is all about.


Our Awesome Adolescents work on skills such as following a target stick (used later for positioning), and Get Dressed in both the Gentle Leader and the pack. The dog needs to walk into the Gentle Leader and into the pack, a skill our graduates find very helpful. Louise with A.J. (eight-month-old Golden Retriever) and Dale with Pippa (nearly year-old Labrador Retriever) ably represented our Awesome Adolescents.

Louise and A.J.

Louise and A.J.

Dale and Pippa

Dale and Pippa

Moving into Working Wonders now, with more skills being added and current skills being refined. Jolene and Bauer on the left in this photo prepared to show Tug. Tug is very useful not only for gloves or mittens, but also for coats, shirts, pants and socks.


Gina, also a Working Wonder, and Jane worked on Hold with a dowel. The Hold skill is then transferred to any objects that a dog may retrieve for an individual, holding onto the item until it is securely taken by the person.


The final phase of training is termed Big Dogs. Dogs enter this phase around fourteen months of age and continue to train until they are matched at around two and one-half years of age with an individual with physical disabilities or a veteran with PTSD. Our dedicated foster home trainers keep the dogs all the way through the training process, attending classes weekly and taking the dogs training in public locations.

A key skill for many of our graduates is Brace, where the dog stands firmly still and allows the individual to lean enough on him/her to stand from a seated or supine position. Here is Ron with Torie, one of our demo dogs, showing Brace.


We were very proud to have graduate team Corbett and Rocky as a part of our demo. Corbett told the audience how Rocky, who is eight years old, has helped break down barriers that individuals with disabilities often face in the community. People are more comfortable approaching Corbett when Rocky is with her. Corbett also reminded us all that a service dog is a working dog, and becomes very distracted and unable to do its job when people attempt to pet it, or make eye contact with it and talk in high voices. A good reminder!



Helping Paws is anticipating litters this year, and would love to chat with you about being a foster home trainer! Contact Jo at jsorensen@helpingpaws.org, or 952-988-9359, ext. 65. Pippa is eager to welcome you to the HP fold!


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It’s time to Bid Now! The Helping Paws Auction is filled with great merchandise, practical services, and unique experiences. Remind your friends the online auction closes on February 10 at 9:00 PM CST so they have the chance to offer their support and get some great deals.


In need of Valentine’s Day gift inspiration? Check out the items below or combine a few to create a thoughtful gift and contribute to our cause.

Bachman's - $100 Gift Card

Bachman’s – $100 Gift Card




Massage Envy Spa - One Hour Massage Session

Massage Envy Spa – One Hour Massage Session





R. F. Moeller Jeweler - $250 Gift Card

R. F. Moeller Jeweler – $250 Gift Card





Future Concepts Studio + Spa (Eden Prairie) - $50 Gift Card

Future Concepts Studio + Spa (Eden Prairie) – $50 Gift Card






Engraved Silverplate Jewelry Box

Engraved Silverplate Jewelry Box









Mexican Sterling Silver Pendant with Chain

Mexican Sterling Silver Pendant with Chain









Don’t forget: every bid supports the work we do at Helping Paws!

  •  admin

The Manhattan x Keeley, Huey x Myrtle, and Matthew x Turtle litters brought public training to the Galleria last Thursday evening. Training sessions in public venues are an integral part of the Helping Paws curriculum. Our dedicated foster home trainers provide these experiences  2 -3 times per week for the dogs they are training.

The Twin Cities community has become more and more dog-friendly; one sees pet dogs in stores, and on restaurant patios when the weather is warmer. The expectations for a working service dog in public are much higher than for a pet dog, however, so our foster home trainers start out slowly when bringing the dogs into public settings, building skills and confidence as they go.  The Manhattan x Keeley and Huey x Myrtle dogs are older than the Matthew x Turtle dogs, and you will see in the photos that the older dogs had greater access, and greater challenges, than the younger dogs on Thursday’s field trip.

An important attribute for a service dog is to remain calm in a public setting.  Sometimes the dog is given a cue to Drop/Stay or Go to Bed; at other times the dog needs to simply “chill.”

Fraser falls asleep when chilling.

Fraser falls asleep when chilling.

Katy and Aida demo Go to Bed in front of a store.

Katy and Mare demo Go to Bed in front of a store.

Jeff and Jenga hanging out quietly.

Jeff and Jenga hanging out quietly.

Brodie, focused and calm.

Brodie, focused and calm.

Dogs at this age (12-14 months old) are perfecting strong Loose Leash Walking and Watch skills – they walk nicely on lead, and focus on the foster home trainer rather than the environment for guidance. This means they are eligible to train in stores with fairly wide aisles, and to work on Under if there are desks/tables available.

Summit has a keen Watch when in Barnes & Noble.

Summit has a keen Watch when in Barnes & Noble. Fraser works on Under.

Minnie remains focused on Sophie as they walk thru the store.

Minnie remains focused on Sophie as they walk thru the store.

Sarah is able to walk Fraser close to shelves - his attention is on her.

Sarah is able to walk Fraser close to shelves – his attention is on her.

Service dogs must never bolt ahead of their partners. Our dogs-in-training learn Wait at doorways and intersections of stores.

Mare Waits for Katy's next cue.

Mare Waits for Katy’s next cue.

Jenga is high-spirited but has learned to Watch and Wait.

Jenga is high-spirited but has learned to Watch and Wait.

Annie and Jill exit together.

Annie and Jill exit together.

A key part of training in public is setting the dogs up for success. The Matthew x Turtle pups are almost 10 months of age. Their public training venues consist of common areas of malls and lobbies of government and community centers. These wide spaces provide distractions but are less challenging than inside stores.

The dogs and foster home trainers spend a lot of time perfecting Watch. In this photo, we are using the dogs as distractions for each other – this is similar to what we do in class, but with the added challenge of the public environment.

A.J., Abbott and Amos.

A.J., Abbott and Amos.

Loose Leash Walking is a tough skill for a dog to master – there are so many other things to see and sniff!  These dogs did well when set up for success in a common area versus a store.

loose Leash Walking in a common area of the mall.

Loose Leash Walking in a common area of the mall.

Abbott doing a left turn.

Abbott doing a left turn.

And, these younger dogs also need to master calm demeanor in public. We practiced chilling at the end of the training session – higher change of success when the dogs were more accustomed to the environment and somewhat tired from working. 🙂

I am relaxed.  There is no dog behind me.

I am relaxed. There is no dog behind me.

Amos and A.J.

Amos and A.J.

Thanks to our dedicated foster home trainers, and to Renee Duncan for capturing this in photos.

  •  admin

Belle, a Helping Paws demo dog, and Elska, a dog in training, were promoting our need for foster home trainers recently at the Hands On Twin Cities event.

Our annual Foster Home Trainer Open House is Saturday March 21, 9:00 am – 11:30 am, at Helping Paws. Current foster home trainers with their dogs, as well as graduate teams, will welcome you and share their stories.

More info to follow – save the date!

  •  admin

“How do you say goodbye to your best friend in the whole world?”

Jake’s Ode to Miles

Howdy folks. Some sad news to report. In the wee small hours of the night this morning, (Tuesday, Jan 6th) Miles passed on to the Happy Hunting Ground. But for him, it would be more correct to refer to it as the Happy Tennis-Ball-Chasing Ground.

Although the cause of death is still unknown, it has been whittled down to either him being run over by an evil-gorilla filled train, or pancreatic cancer.

Let me explain…

Click here to continue reading…

A Day Without Miles Is Like a Day Without….

It’s impossible to complete that sentence using only one word. That is because Miles played such a large part in Jake’s life and was by his side every second of every day. I guess it is enough to use it just as is – a day without Miles is like a day without. It is void and empty and quiet and painfully sad.

Miles Helping Paws Perry Beckstrom passed away on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 at about 1am. Click here to continue reading…

  •  admin

By Maureen Kleckner

“We are not giving the dog UP – we are giving the dog TO.”

In the summer of 2008, a few of us started on a journey to train a litter of Labrador Retriever puppies to become Helping Paws service dogs. Some of us had been with Helping Paws for a while; others were new to the organization. For all of us, we thought we came for the dogs. Bev and Herb, longtime foster home trainers and supporters of Helping Paws, whelped their first litter of puppies as a caretaker home – the Jack x Sheba litter. Our volunteer caretaker homes foster our breeding females, whelp the litters and care for the puppies until they are seven –eight weeks old.


Joan, Pamela, Mary, Heidi and Dan became the foster home trainers for these puppies. All were new to Helping Paws as foster home trainers. All came with different backgrounds and experiences – as fosters for rescue dogs, as parents with children at home, as employees in a variety of fields. Most had some dog training experience. All came for the dogs.

PP Grad - Class Photo

Helping Paws’ foster home trainers foster and train the dogs for the full two to two-and-a-half years it takes to gain the skills necessary to be a service dog. They attend weekly classes, usually with the entire litter in one class. Maureen was the volunteer instructor for this group of five. This was her first class as lead instructor; she came to Helping Paws a few years earlier for the dogs. The foster home trainers attended class weekly. Bev and Herb dropped by to see the dogs frequently. For the pups’ first birthday, Bev and Herb had a deck party at their home. Sheba and her puppies – the dogs – were the highlight of the evening. Two-and-a-half years goes by quickly. Three of the dogs had career changes due to health or temperament issues – their foster home trainers adopted them as pets. Neville, Rhoda and Theo are “living the life” with Dan, Heidi and Pamela. Bud, trained by Joan, was placed as a successor service dog with Neil, who winters in Florida – he became a boat dog. Joan sees him occasionally at Helping Paws’ events. Bud recognizes Joan; he is fully bonded with Neil.

Neil and Bud Square

Micky is a woman in northern Minnesota with cognitive and physical disabilities. She had just lost her first skilled companion dog, a Lab from Helping Paws trained by Bev and Herb. Kaia, trained by Mary, was placed with her as a successor dog. Kaia awakens Micky to start her day, carries items in a basket for her, and helps Micky do her stretching exercises. Bev and Maureen made the journey with Kaia to see if she and Micky were a match. Maureen took Kaia back for team training. Mary sees Micky and Kaia on her way up north each summer; Kaia greets her and returns to Micky.

mickey and kaia square

Fast forward a few years. Bev and Herb have a second breeding female now, a Lab named Myrtle. When the Huey x Myrtle pups were born a year ago, Mary, Joan, Pamela, Heidi and Maureen visited them on the way to dinner. Yes, we still get together for dinner a couple times a year. The children have grown, the jobs have changed, and we love to catch up on each other’s lives.

Shebas today

Joan, Mary and Heidi are all current foster home trainers for Helping Paws. Pamela plans on returning in the future. Maureen is now on staff at Helping Paws, instructing cases and recruiting foster home trainers. Though the dogs drew us in, the people have kept us there. We bonded with each other through our love of dogs and our desire to help people with disabilities further their independence. As Mary said, “We came to make a difference and impact someone’s life through the gift of a trained service dog – what we didn’t realize was the difference and impact that our classmates made in our lives as well.” From Heidi: “As hard as it was to have Rhoda withdrawn from the program, it was harder to realize that I wouldn’t be coming back to class with the friends that I had made.” Is it hard to give the dog up? Sure. Rob, a former foster home trainer who now assists with teaching our classes, has a different perspective: “We are not giving the dog UP – we are giving the dog TO.” And many of our foster home trainers then foster another dog, to give the gift of a best friend to someone, and to stay connected with the friends they have made through this journey. Helping Paws’ annual Foster Home Trainer Open House is Saturday March 21, 9:00 am – 11:30 am, at Helping Paws, 630 12th Ave South, Hopkins, MN, 55343. Come meet our foster home trainers, our dogs-in-training, and our graduate teams. You’ll come for the dogs…and want to stay for the people.

Learn more about training a service dog.

  •  admin

By Nancy Hiebert

Please join us for a Helping Paws Dog Sitters Information Session:

Monday, March 23, 2015 7:00 pm
Helping Paws Training Center
630 12th Avenue South Hopkins
RSVP: Nancy Hiebert (nhiebert@helpingpaws.org or 952-988-9359 x64)

As you may know, all of our service dogs-in-training, as well as our breeding program dogs are raised and trained by volunteer foster home trainers and caretaker homes.  The dogs live with them in their homes for the duration of their training.

You might wonder, what happens when a foster home trainer goes on vacation?  What would they do if they had a family emergency or an illness of their own?  Fortunately, Helping Paws makes sure that all of our dogs have places to stay whenever the need arises.  Our dogs are never boarded in kennels or veterinary clinics.  Instead, we have a great network of dog sitters.

PuppyTraditionally, all of our dog-sitting needs have been covered by our foster home trainer community.  As our organization has grown and the number of dogs in the program has increased, we have recently added a new volunteer opportunity for dog sitting.  We are looking for 12-15 families or individuals to fill this need by providing vacation homes for Helping Paws dogs-in-training and breeding program dogs.  Additionally, we are looking for a few more families or individuals who would be able to provide vacation homes for females in season (no male dogs in the home) and a few folks without any pets who could help out on rare occasions when a vacation home is needed for a dog that has been exposed to kennel cough.

Benefits to dog sitter volunteers:

  • volunteering directly with Helping Paws dogs – Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers ranging in age from 3 months to 3 years
  • you can accept assignments as they fit with your schedule
  • it’s a great way to ease into becoming a foster home trainer if you think you might be interested in that somewhere down the road

Benefits to our foster home trainers and caretaker homes:

  • having dog sitting available upon request, and at no charge
  • worry-free vacations (at least as far as knowing the Helping Paws dog is in good hands)

Benefits to our dogs:  

  • staying in home environments rather than boarding kennelsGolden Retriever
  • added socialization experiences of staying in different homes with different people
  • being with people who are familiar with our expectations for dog behavior (for example, Helping Paws dogs are never allowed to jump on people or to climb on furniture.)

If you would like some basic guidelines about the program or to request an application prior to the information session, contact Nancy Hiebert (nhiebert@helpingpaws.org or 952-988-9359 x64).

  •  admin

By Maureen Kleckner

It’s finally here – the Helping Paws Foster Home Trainer Open House is this Saturday March 21! 9:00 am – 11:30 am, 630 12th Avenue South, Hopkins, 55343.

25 foster home trainers and their dogs will be waiting to show and tell you what the excitement is all about. We are honored that 4 graduate teams will be there as well, to share what having a service dog means to them.

Come meet us – we would love to show you how being a foster home trainer allows you to give the gift of a best friend to an individual with physical disabilities or a veteran with PTSD. No experience needed; vacation homes provided when you travel.

See you there!

  •  admin

By Maureen Kleckner

Helping Paws’ annual Foster Home Trainer Open House was a blast. 25 foster home trainers and their dogs visited with our guests and demoed the dogs’ skills. We were honored to have graduate teams Leslie/Comet, Andrea/Tate, Corbett/Rocky, Shelly/Cassie and Ahnna/Quincy in attendance, showing our mission in action.

IMG_2118 IMG_2116

Karen and Paul ready the food, and the foster home trainers take their spots.


Graduate teams mingle with foster home trainers before the event begins. Foster home trainer Dale with Lab Pippa (far right) reconnects with graduate Shelly with Cassie (second from right). Dale met Shelly at a Helping Paws activity last year and decided to become a foster home trainer.

IMG_2124 IMG_2129

Well-trained dogs know that food on the table is an automatic Leave It.

Staff member Jo with demo dog Captain. This child asked permission to greet Captain and Captain eagerly complied.

Helping Paws Goldens and Labs

A plethora of Goldens and Labs.

Jaya and FHT Lorrie

Jaya with foster home trainer Lorrie demonstrates Under.


Hugo, the Lab in black, has been matched and will begin team training with his partner in April. Chase, the Lab in white, began training to be a service dog in December. They share the same mom, Callahan, one of our breeding females.

It’s not too late – we still need foster home trainers! Visit our web site to learn more! www.helpingpaws.org

  •  admin

By Renée Duncan

We might be biased, but we tend to think Helping Paws dogs are pretty darn cute. Even when they are working, our Goldens and Labs never come up short on goofiness.

Below are a few exceptionally adorable and silly pup moments from recent past, in honor of “Throwback Thursday.”