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Dogs are acquired from a number of places (shelters, breeders, etc) and must be under the age of two. When considering a dog, the evaluator gives the dog an aptitude test to determine whether or not the dog has a chance to complete the training and be successfully partnered with an individual. If the dog tests successfully, SDU accepts the dog and a project plan is created for it.

Canine Acquisition

Once a client has completed the online application, two members from SDU will conduct an interview to assess the client's needs and living situation.  Once the client is accepted, they are oriented to the process and given a general timeline to complete training after they are paired with a service dog. On occasion, a client will have a dog that they want to have trained for them. It is not the preferred path. However, if the dog can pass the assessment requirements, it may be considered.

Client Assessment and Orientation
Client Basic Training

During this phase, the client will begin working with their assigned dog. Initially the client will learn the mechanics with skills that the dog has already begun to understand. This training may happen in multiple locations, including places that the client themselves go frequently. This could also include home visits and training. Ideally there will always be two trainers present while the client is training with a dog.

Basic Dog Training 

Our Director of Training, Mary Owens, ensures that all dogs have learned a set of basic skills prior to being paired with an individual with special needs.  Many of the skills learned in this process will translate to specific skills needed for the special needs training.  Mary is continually researching the science behind canine training and all trainers work with Mary using her methodology and process.

This is the time, when the client and dog work together, along with their trainers, to take the basic training and use it to learn to meet the unique needs of the client. Home visits will be more frequent and home stays of a few days at a time may take place during the training. Once the client has learned how to handle their canine partner and has demonstrated skill to be able to teach new skills as they are needed, the dog can move into the client home permanently.

Client Dog Service Training
Graduation and Ongoing Support

Upon graduation, it is important to understand that the dog remains the property of SDU.  This allows SDU to take possession of the dog should it become necessary when the client is hospitalized or for some reason the home environment becomes unsafe for the dog. The client assumes responsibility for the care of the dog, feeding, grooming and medical needs at this time. SDU remains available to the client permanently for consultation and assisting when a new skill is needed for the dog to support the client. If the dog should outlive the client, SDU will find another living situation for the animal.

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