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.”
All non-veteran applicants 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 applicants attend team training one to two Saturdays a month over a four-month period. 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.
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 on this website.