Disaster Planning

Spring is officially here, and along with the promise of more moderate weather, comes the risk of natural disasters.  Tornado and forest fire season, monsoons, hurricanes, these are just some of the disasters that many of us will have on our minds.  For those of us with service dogs, we have an obligation to protect our best friends.  While Red Cross Shelters have always been welcoming to service dog teams, they also have an obligation to ensure public health and safety.  It is the responsibility of the team to provide the shelter with the necessary information to verify that not only is the dog a credible service dog, but is also up to date on all vaccines and preventive treatments.  Absent this, the shelter may be forced to deny entrance to teams.  This is upsetting for both teams and shelter workers, who work hard to provide services to our community.

There are some practical steps that you can take:

1.  Maintain a folder or binder with all of your dogs important papers, including-

  • Veterinary records: proof of vaccination and preventive treatments
  • County license tag and microchip number
  • Emergency contact information
  • Service dog certification papers and any training records

2.  Store all medications in one place so that it is easy to pack at the last minute, in the event of evacuation.

3.  Double bag all food in plastic to safeguard it from water damage in the event that you must evacuate.

4.  Ensure that you always have an extra bag of food in the house- you don’t want to be down to your last few days and be faced with an evacuation.

5.  If you reside in an area that is at risk of tornado, hurricane or other disasters that may cause destruction with little to no warning, ensure that you always have an extra set of record on your dog at the home of a friend, or stored on a server so that you can retrieve it if needed to share with a shelter.

6.  Have a first aid kit packed with necessary items for your dog.

7.  Have your dogs working equipment in an accessible location so that it can be grabbed at the last minute.

8.  Ensure that booties are in good condition- now is a good time to order new ones if needed.  If your dog will potentially be exposed to debris, they need protective covering for their paws.

We wish everyone a safe season.

Team of the Month

TOTM_apr_2013Congratulations to Nia Dean and Penny, our April Team of the Month.  Penny is an energetic young dog, and Nia has worked hard on helping her to maintain good eye contact and follow commands with distractions.  Penny has learned to focus on Nia when in class, and the teachers report daily improvements.  Four paws up to Nia and Penny for their excellent work!

Classroom News

How time flies!  Thanks to the hard work of our teachers and students, our teams are getting ready for their Canine Good Citizen Test within the next few weeks.  Shortly thereafter, they will take the Public Access Test.  We will also be sending representatives to the campuses of AAEC Paradise Valley and Red Mountain to accept applications from new students.  The new classes are scheduled to begin this Fall, and our new students will have big footsteps to fill.  The current class has set the bar quite high, but we are confident that students at the new campuses will be up to the challenge and will excel.

AFSG_2013_Golf_TournamentMany thanks to those students who participated in the Golf Tournament Event sponsored by our supporters, the Sun City Grand Armed Forces Support Group.  Our teams were on hand to greet military veterans and accept applications from interested individuals in need of service dogs.

This month we will also be present at the Special Olympics Summer Games to provide information on service dogs and accept applications from families whose special children require assistance.  Our student teams will step up once again to provide the public with education on service dogs, and to work on public access training for their dogs.  Events such this are great ways to introduce our dogs to the public and teach them to work with distractions, a necessary part of any training program.

All of our students are working above expectations, and here are some of the highlights from this past month:

Meagan and Maggie are progressing fast, as are Seriani and Riley.  Dominique has worked hard with Brooklyn to help her overcome some of her earlier protectiveness, and thanks to the extra efforts of Dominique she is making noticeable improvements.  Tatyana has shown a real knack for reading the behavior of breezy, pinpointing learning challenges and finding new ways to teach her.  They are currently starting to work on some advanced tasks.  Lisette and Chloe are progressing well, and we really appreciate Lisette for always volunteering to do extra, and for being such a team player and being willing to help out her classmates.  Brianna has worked wonders with Roxy, who was initially a shy dog.  Brianna has such a lovely personality and has helped Roxy to come out of her shell, and she shows signs of becoming a wonderful service dog.  Our youngest student, Whitney, and her SDIT Addie are keeping pace with the rest of the pack.   In fact, it appears that Whitney’s beautiful manners have rubbed off on Addie, who has become a stellar student.  Last but certainly not least, is our Team of the Month Nia and Penny.  All in all, a great month for all.

Eye Exams for Service Dogs

April is the last month to register for the AVCO-Merial sponsored free eye exams for service dogs.  Learn more by viewing the featured story on our site.  We urge all service dog teams to take advantage of this wonderful program.

cn_terri_hardisonAsk the Trainer by Terri Hardison PhD

Question:  How can I teach my rambunctious puppy to be more polite to visitors?

Answer:  It is common for dogs to exuberantly greet visitors to your home.  Here are a few suggestions for alternate ways to have your puppy greet people.  Remember, puppies are young and always learning.  The more opportunity you have to practice this, the better your pup will become at it.  Good luck!

1: “Say Please” – The auto-sit. If your dog does not yet know how to sit on command, try this simple trick. Take a small, yummy treat and hold it just above the dog’s head. (Not too high or he will probably jump up.) As your dog tips his head back to watch the treat, he will most likely sit. When he does, praise him and give him the treat. (If you are struggling with this, try working in a corner so your dog cannot back up, or while he’s lying down, try luring him UP into a sit.) If your dog already knows how to sit on command, begin rewarding him for offering the behavior unprompted. With practice, your dog will begin to sit automatically to ask politely treats, praise, or other rewards.

You can use this automatic sit to begin teaching your dog to greet politely instead of jumping. Try this: Tether your dog to a doorknob in your house. Approach him to see if he will jump. If he does, immediately and abruptly turn around and walk away. Wait a few seconds and do this again. Your dog should be disappointed when you walk away. Continue doing this until he either doesn’t jump or better yet, sits when you approach. If he doesn’t jump, you may praise him and stay around him. If he sits, you can pet, praise and treat him for sitting instead of jumping.  When your dog has mastered this trick with you and familiar family members, you can begin working him (on leash) with visitors.  In this step, YOU are the doorknob.  Instruct your visitors to only approach if your dog is sitting.  The more visitors, the better!

2:  Shake Hands.  This trick is an easy alternative to jumping for greeting guests. Once your dog understands how to offer a sit and look at you to get what he wants, try teaching him to offer you a paw. There are many ways to teach shake hands, but any way that leads your dog to voluntarily pick up his paw is best. Some suggestions are: simply show your dog a treat in a closed fist. Place your fist on the ground and when your dog “paws” to get the treat, open your hand. Once your dog reliably paws your hand, you can fade out the closed fist and treat by only rewarding him with a treat from your other hand. Other suggestions include gently touching the back or top of your dog’s foot, so he lifts it up. As soon as he does, reward him! As he gets better, only reward him when his paw is in your hand.

Bonus trick: If you and your dog find Shake Hands easy, try teaching “High Four” (Instead of “High Five”!) where your dog raises his paw up and touches your hand.

Safety and Wellness Tip

Water safety is important for dogs, as well as children.  Make certain that if you have an pool in your yard, you do not leave your dogs toys floating in the water as a temptation.  Supervise your dog at all times when outside. If your dog swims in a chlorinated pool, make certain that they are not drinking pool water, and that you rinse their fur out when they are done swimming to protect their skin and coat.   If you plan to go boating, make certain that you have a properly fitted life jacket for your dog.  FSDS certified teams are eligible for a 50% discount on life jackets at Ruffwear.  Contact the FSDS for more information.

Warmer weather also brings mosquitoes, and though dogs are certainly at less of a risk for west Nile Virus than humans, there have been some cases of encephalitis reported in areas of the nation that have large mosquito populations.  To protect your dog, you might consider using VIP fly repellant ointment on their ears, or spray a DEET-based insect repellant product such as “Off” on the vest of your service dog for extra protection.  Talk to your veterinarian about the options that are best for your region.

Foster Families are Needed for Upcoming Classes of Dogs

We are looking for some loving families who are interested in fostering dogs that are accepted into our program.  Homes are needed between summer and late October / early November, when the dogs will be placed with the new classes of students.  Important facts for foster families to know are:

  • We provides all routine veterinary care.
  • All dogs are temperament tested, spayed / neutered and de-wormed.
  • We provide free canine safety training to all foster families.
  • We provide IRS donation letters for any incidental purchases that are made for the dogs.
  • Families are able to follow the progress of their fostered dog throughout the training process.

Interested families can contact us for further information.

Volunteer Hour Opportunities with our Preferred Programs

Individuals who volunteer to assist with any of the following events can complete a Pawsitive-Community-Program-Time-Sheet, and log those same hours in our Hours Bank.  The Hours Bank is intended to assist individuals seeking service dogs through our Pawsitive Community Program.  What a great way to help out two great programs at once.

  • Special Olympics Summer Games will be held from April 25 – 27 at Mesa Community College.  Contact Special Olympics to find out how you can get involved.
  • Susan G. Komen Foundation is looking for volunteers to assist with the Race for the Cure this Fall.  Contact Brigid Eagy to learn more.