Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers train for 2 to 2-1/2 years to become full-fledged Assistance Dogs. They attend classes weekly with volunteer Foster Home Trainers who take the puppies into their homes and hearts at age 8 weeks. Classes focus on learning the more than 70 cues the dogs will use to assist their lifetime partners.
Assistance Dogs learn early to watch attentively for cues plus basic skills such as sit, drop, stay, come, and walk nicely on a leash. They progressively learn more advanced skills, such as retrieving, opening and closing drawers and doors, turning on light switches, helping with clothing, and many more tasks that help support the independence of their future partner. By the time a dog is ready to be matched, he or she can pick up items as small as a dime and as thin as a credit card, help a person transfer into a wheelchair, retrieve a phone, and search for help in an emergency.
Throughout their training, Helping Paws dogs in training live in a home environment with their volunteer Foster Home Trainers. The dogs are purposely exposed to many environments and experiences–such as restaurants, business offices and community gatherings–as they learn to stay focused on the person who needs them most, their lifetime partner.
If you are interested in applying to receive a service dog, please read our Eligibility Requirements. .