The FSDS began it’s first training class in early 2009, on the campus of a local HS. The training concept was to create a hands on learning experience that permitted youths to acquire skills as a SD trainer by attending classes and training a SD under supervision. The dogs trained in this program were then awarded to local Arizonans, with preference to military veterans and First Responders. This became a reciprocal mentoring experience, with the youths mentoring their intended recipients, and the recipients mentoring the youths and teaching them the value of service to their community.
In January 2016 we transitioned the program from a HS based program to a community-based program. This permitted us to allow entrance to all youths across the Valley, not just those situated on a particular HS campus. This also opened the door for us to accept adults who were seeking career training. At that time, we began to fortify our professional development training, which has evolved into a full time 2 year, 4,000 hour Service Dog Training Academy.
We realize that oversight and credentialing are a vital part of establishing credibility, and that our training program will only be as good as the trainers in charge. After many years of hard work, we are pleased to report that the FSDS program was recently accepted by the AZ Office of Apprenticeship as a formal Apprentice Program.
An apprentice program is an earn while you learn program. This sort of “immersion experience” provides comprehensive and supervised training. Our program combines both didactic and skills training to provide a well-rounded experience. Advantages of apprenticeship include:
- a paycheck for the apprentice
- on-the-job skills training
- comprehensive didactic training
- a national industry certification upon graduation
We are currently the only SD training program in Arizona to achieve this status.