Matching and Team Training

Successfully placing a service dog with a lifetime human partner is a careful three-stage process that includes Matching, Team Training, and Graduate Follow-Up.


Accepted applicants come to Helping Paws to work with one or more service dogs in training. On these visits, staff evaluate the potential for a good match between the person’s needs and the connection the dog displays for that individual. Each of our dogs is highly-trained, yet it is the human/dog connection that will guide the day-to-day, lifetime partnership. Our staff is extremely skilled at perceiving when a match is achieved. Sometimes this can involve meeting a number of dogs: One graduate has noted that she initially thought each dog was fine, but when she was finally matched with her dog, “my understanding of what a ‘match’ meant hit a whole new level. The connection was unique and she proved over and over again that we were a team.”

Team Training

All applicants receiving a service dog for a physical disability are required to attend a 3-week course at Helping Paws to learn to work with their new service dog. Team training includes classroom instruction and field trips to practice skills in public areas. Service dogs work each day with their new partner. In the middle of the second week, the dogs move from their foster home trainer’s home to the home of their new partner.

Veteran/first responder with PTSD applicants attend team training Friday, Saturday and Sunday for three weekends. Classroom instruction and field trips provide veterans with the practice and knowledge they need to successfully manage a service dog at home and in public. Working one-on-one with the veteran teams following graduation is an important part of placement.

Team Training is an instructional time and also a time for bonding within each team as well as for the entire class. This supportive environment helps ensure sharing of experiences and eases the transition for each partner team.

Matching and Team Training for Facility Dog

Matching may involve a variety of environments.  Primary handlers may be invited to work with dogs at the Helping Paws training center in Hopkins.  At some point, during the matching process, Helping Paws staff will bring one to three dogs to the facility cite to determine best matches with the working environment. This process usually takes several months to determine the best dog for the job.

Team Training currently consists of one week of daily training, including lectures and hands-on work with the dogs.  During the second week of placement, Helping Paws staff will come to the work environment to oversee the transition of the dog and assess any problems.

Follow-up work is on-going with the facility dog team including both on-cite and public training for the team.  The ADI Public Access Test will be administered 6 months post placement.  Upon successful passing of the test, ownership will be transferred to the agency or facility where the facility dog works.

Graduate Follow-Up

Training continues after the classes end. Helping Paws continues to support our graduates and their service dogs throughout the lifetime of the dog. This includes both additional training as needs change as well as healthcare decisions for the service dogs.

For additional information, please see our Graduate Follow Up page.

Graduate Follow-Up