From all of us to all of you, our wishes for a blessed Christmas and a bright new year.

A Message to Program Funders for Service Dog Training

This month we address the third and final issue that relates to the functioning of SD training programs, and that is the issue of funding.  Our message this month is for those private donors, businesses and/or foundations that are considering providing financial support for SD training.

Our experience is that many funders base funding decisions on a couple of factors.  The most common of them are the information on their website, and the “sales pitch” provided at the time of funding request.  In reality, there are many individuals and/or businesses that have made charitable giving a priority, however, they receive many requests and their time is limited.  In the case of an unregulated SD industry, the result is that critical funds often are directed to programs that lack a proper foundation to succeed.

In the past year alone, the FSDS has been contacted by numerous programs who are seeking information on how to set up their program.  Among the more outrageous requests we have received are:

  1. Permission use the FSDS certification test, as the other program has already begun enrolling students, yet lacks a means of certifying the teams.
  2. Use of the FSDS curriculum, as the other program has been offered funding for their training, yet has not set up a curriculum.
  3. Requests to use all FSDS materials at no cost; one program reported that they were awarded $50,000, yet had not yet written their Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws.  They had no P and P or other materials, and were hoping that the FSDS would provide all necessary materials so that (as they put it) they would not have to “invent the wheel”.

All of the above programs had already received funding for their “services”, and were scrambling after the fact to identify a way to deliver the services promised.   It is our belief that this work should be done up front, and the means to deliver services should already be in place at the time that the funds are requested.

In short, our caveat to funders is that if all looks well on the surface of a training program who has applied for funding, we urge you to dig deeper and ask some routine questions in order to ensure that the program you plan to fund is positioned to deliver the services you will support.  We encourage all funders, when approaching SD funding, to specifically ask the following 12 questions of all potential grantees:

  1. Do you have a written policy and procedure manual?
  2. Do you have a written and proprietary curriculum map that includes all standards for your training program?
  3. Are all students provided with a written Student Handbook that outlines all program requirements and expectations?
  4. Does your program have a temperament test that is used to screen dogs for training?
  5. How does your program go about certifying the dogs that it trains?
  6. Does your program collect program metrics to assess the efficacy of your training methods?
  7. Is your lead trainer a graduate of an accredited program that is designed to teach people how to train service dogs?
  8. What type of ongoing training / professional development does your business provide to training staff?
  9. How many requisite training hours does your program require of each student?
  10. What type of follow-up requirements are in place for all graduating teams, in terms of maintaining and recertifying their credentials?
  11. Does your program have cooperative working relationships with other local businesses / groups?
  12. Does the program have a succession / sustainability plan in place to provide for ongoing support of their teams in the event that the business fails?

We believe that if all funders collected this information up front, the return on their investment would be far greater.  We applaud all those who through kindness and generosity have supported those in need and helped to make our community a better place to live.  In these times of pandemic and economic hardship, however, additional care must be taken to ensure that critical funds are directed to those programs with the greatest chance of delivering a positive impact to the community.

An Important Message to Our Teams

Winter officially arrives later this month, and the days are shorter.  When out walking your dog in the evening, remember to wear a light and consider placing reflective tape on your dogs booties.  This will provide your team with greater visibility and help motorists locate you and prevent accidents from occurring.

Collar lights are available from most retailers for a nominal cost and can be clipped to the collar.  Most are powered by button batteries, so remember to remove the light from your dogs collar once you return home, so that your dog does not accidentally ingest the batteries.  Strobe lights are also available, and may be useful for dogs early in their training who may be at a risk for running off.  The strobe lights can be seen from a distance, making it easier in the dark to identify the location of your dog.

Please ensure that your microchip tag, as well as the ID tag with the name of your dog as well as your home and cell phone numbers are fastened to your dogs collar.

Receipts – make certain you are keeping receipts for all items purchased for your SD, as these expenses can be claimed on your tax return.  You will also need to produce these receipts as proof of purchase for flea/tick and heartworm treatments in order to maintain your certification as current on an annual basis.  Please refer back to your signed Code of Conduct, as a requirement to provide these treatments for your SD is a part of this agreement.  The importance of providing adequate medical preventive treatments for your dog can not be understated.

Classroom News

Advanced Class – with the recent graduation of all advanced class teams, and the success of our current students on their CGC and PAT tests, we are excited to announce that our (former) beginner class has been promoted to the advanced class.

At this time, we have ten teams in training.  Seven of those teams are being team trained, and three are being trained for their handler.  Of these ten teams, nine of these dogs are for military veterans in need.  We are proud of our track record of providing necessary training assistance at no cost to wounded and deserving military veterans.  The process of matching military recipients with those three dogs we are program training will now begin now that the class has entered their advanced training.

Henry & Solomon – this team has passed their CGC testing with flying colors!  They are now spending increasing amounts of time at the park to work on generalizing commands around distractions and other dogs. This will set them up for success at performing necessary SD tasks around distractions in public.

DeAnna & Scooby are working on  communication skills.  Scooby is being trained by the mother of the recipient, and given the recent successes with basic obedience it is time to teach Scooby to obey commands from the intended recipient.   This additional step is a necessary one for all dogs who are not team trained.  We are pleased with the initial progress and expecting great things from this team.

Tina & Socorro are working on going out more to different stores and environments to gain increased exposure to varying sights and sounds.  They are visiting places such as parks near their home to work on generalizing retrieving medication bag around distractions, along with refreshing up on basic commands around kids playing and focusing around distractions.

Brain & Mando successfully passed their public access test on the first try! Mando showed better confidence and the handler is on point with communication and redirecting Mando as necessary. This team took a trip on their own to the light rail and just watched the trains come and go to build confidence.  As more trains came and went, Mando was way more relaxed and next time they can get on the lightrail for a ride.  This is a great example of how an attentive and sensitive handler who is able to respond to their dog can tailor their training to promote success.  As we like to tell our students, slow is fast!

Celia & Caroline took their first trip on the lightrail and traveled to the airport to gain exposure to this environment. This was a very successful trip for this team.   Caroline responded to all commands and even observed other dogs at the airport, and was able to maintain a heel and follow all commands like a pro!   In the coming months they will work on advanced SD skills, and once mastered in the home setting they will travel to various locations to practice those skills with distractions.

John & Simari are making great progress with increasing their public exposure in order to generalize commands and become accustomed to the sights and sounds of public place.  They went to a restaurant for the first time and did great with going under the table and laying there the whole time.  This team has also mastered the art of grocery shopping together, and will soon be ready to take their public access test!

Keeta & Dani will be taking their CGC and public access test in early December.  They have been increasing their public training and visiting different places to continue to generalize commands around distractions. Dani is amazing at retrieving medications from distant locations and bringing them back, along with picking up items and giving them to the handler.  Keeta is training Dani for a wounded military veteran in need.

Lindsey & Willow are at work on increasing exposure to public spaces, sights and sounds as they make final preparation to take their CGC test. Lindsey is a local college student and is training Willow for a military veteran.  This is the second dog Lindsey is training for the FSDS.

Yamill & Bailey have been hard at work on training exercises in different areas to get Bailey to respond in those types of situations. They passed their CGC with flying colors this past month now that Bailey is a year old, and are at work on final preparation for the PAT.  Yamil is a local high school student with a heart for serving his community.  He is training Bailey for a military veteran in need.

Soyini & Coco aced their public access test this past month!  They continue to work around distractions such as unfamiliar dogs,sights and sounds.  They took their first trip to an outlet mall and Coco did great walking into the stores and not smelling the clothes or items on shelves, even encountered other dogs while shopping.  Coco demonstrated impeccable manners, and remained focused on Soyini at all times.  Way to go!

Newly graduated teams

congratulations to both remaining teams, who successfully passed their FSDS certification test this past month, and have graduated from the training program.  Four paws up to our newly certified SD teams:

  • Irmarie and Bruno
  • David and Samson

Wellness Tip

We are please to report that all of our dogs have made it onto Santa Paws’ “Nice List” this year.  Four paws up to all of our dogs.

Here are some suggestions for safe items that Santa can bring to your dog.

  1. properly sized thermal working booties
  2. a new collar and 4′ lead
  3. durable chew toys
  4. quality training treats
  5. durable indoor and outdoor exercise toys
  6. orthopedic mattress
  7. travel mat / blanket
  8. portable travel bowls
  9. safety harness for the car

Some grooming supplies that make great gifts include:

  1. enzymatic canine toothpaste / toothbrushes made for dogs
  2. hypoallergenic oatmeal dog shampoo
  3. a sturdy brush suitable for your dogs coat type
  4. canine ear cleaner
  5. a nail trimmer

Items to tell Santa to avoid include:

  1. rawhide
  2. pig ears or other fatty treats
  3. toys with squeakers, as they can be chewed out and aspirated
  4. plush toys / stuffies – the stuffing can be swallowed and cause intestinal obstruction
  5. retractable leads
  6. any toys that are small enough to fit through the center of a roll of toilet paper
  7. any toys with removable parts that can cause a choking hazard

Keep your hard working, four-legged child safe and happy this holiday season and all year round!

With Sincere Thanks

We wish to say thank you to all of those individuals who have supported our program over the past month:

  • Valerie Schluter
  • Dr. Terry Fossum / CARE Foundation

Our sincere thanks to all those who have provided support and services to the FSDS over the past year.  A very special thanks to the following who have provided major funding support during these troubled economic times:

  • Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand
  • AZ Disabled Veterans Foundation
  • Petco Foundation
  • Subaru Foundation
  • Frances and John Wahl Foundation
  • Tim Ganahl / Hill’s Pet Nutrition
  • Dr. Terry Fossum / CARE Foundation

We are eternally grateful to everyone who has donated to our program.

Photo Gallery

Many thanks to our hard working teams for sending in these wonderful photos to share.