Transitioning a New Service Dog

Welcoming a service dog to your home is a process, not a single event.  This month we provide some practical advice on how to make the transition for a service dog into your home a safe and happy time for all.  The tips provided are appropriate not only for those individuals who have received their service dog from a training program, but also for individuals who are welcoming a new dog into their home to be trained.

1.  A service dog will grieve for its former trainer.  Remember that this is a time of mixed emotions for your dog.  There will be sadness over leaving the former home, and excitement over a new home.  Be patient and give your dog permission to have a case of the “blues” for a few days.

2.  Establish leadership.  The dog must learn that you are the new team leader and must accept this.  Set healthy boundaries early on and enforce them consistently.  It will be helpful to limit visitors and other contacts for the first week or so while you and your dog take time to bond together as a team.  Try not to schedule any appointments until your dog has had the time to acclimate to their new home.

3.  Establish a routine.  Schedule meals, walks, playtime and all other activities that are repeated each day.  A routine provides stability and predictability and promotes a sense of safety and well-being for your dog.

4. Trust must be earned.  In order to be able to work effectively, a service dog needs to feel safe and loved.  The establishment of healthy boundaries coupled with heaping helpings of love and attention will earn you the trust of your dog.

5.  Discipline is not punishment.  Never punish your dog for not obeying, instead reinforce rules and praise them for obeying.  Simply telling a dog “no” is not helpful, that leaves them wondering what it is that you want from them.  Remember that a dog wants nothing more than to please you.

6.  Play with your dog.  Dogs respond well to extra attention and healthy play.  Handing your dog a toy and leaving them to play alone is not enough, schedule some protected interactive play time each day.

7.  Love your dog unconditionally.  A service dog is a willing partner and works because it wants to, not because it has to.  Let this be your mantra.  You will get high mileage out of an extra hug and kiss, or a belly rub.

Classroom News


Over 200 guests attended the graduation ceremony held at the Glendale Civic Center.

Estrella Mountain– this past month the Estrella Mountain class graduated in a large ceremony held at the Glendale Civic Center…and they did it in fine style.  We are pleased to report that all eight students successfully completed the program, and of those eight students. four were graduating seniors.  Out of a total graduating class of 54 students for this campus, our student seniors comprised 7.4% of the graduating class.  These four students earned a combined total of over 20% of all scholarship monies for this campus.  We are so proud of them and of all of our program graduates.  We have also learned that several of the students will be staying with the program as peer mentors for next year, and one will return to raise a second dog with us as an advanced student, with a special curriculum designed to provide her with new challenges.  We look forward to starting the new class on this campus in August of this year.

Paradise Valley– our Paradise Valley students are to be commended for their fine performance this past year.  This summer they will continue to attend classes and field trips on a weekly basis to gear up their dogs for advanced training next year.  Students participated in the Estrella Mountain class graduation this past month to show their support for the graduating students, and to meet the intended recipients for their class who were in attendance.  On May 26th they will take their Canine Good Citizen Test, and Public Access testing will be scheduled to take place shortly thereafter.  Stay tuned for results.

Graduation 2014


Sheriff Joe Arpaio presents the Good Citizen Award to 10 yr old Parker Cebulski. Parker has volunteered with the FSDS since age 5.

May 17th, in a ceremony sponsored by APS and attended by over 200 people at the Glendale Civic Center, our students and recipients graduated from the training program.  On hand was Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who presented our youngest volunteer, Parker Cebulski, with the Good Citizenship Award.  Parker has been a volunteer with the FSDS for five years, and has attended numerous events with his mother to help out.  We are proud of Parker for demonstrating such a positive attitude and setting a good example for other youths.  Sheriff Joe also visited with the Labradoodles that were donated by his MASH Unit to our program after being rescued last summer from a hoarder.  Many thanks to Sheriff Joe for his kindness and support of our program.  Also receiving awards of recognition for their program support were KC Wright, DVM from Apollo Animal Hospital, Kat Croteau DVM on behalf of Arizona Humane Society, Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand, APS for their sponsorship of the event, Sheriff Joe, Bruce Watkins from the Arizona Department of Education and FSDS Co-Founder Miriam Peterman.


Service Dog “Charlie” was awarded to military veteran Tom Linton.

This year our recipients ranged in ages from 17 – 73.  Included in this group were military veteran and hero Tom Linton, EMT hero Mario Hernandez and Sue Sisley MD known and loved for her tireless efforts and donation of countless hours of unpaid time to our community.  The FSDS training program is a “Pay it Forward” program, and for each dog awarded this past month there were a minimum of 250 hours of volunteer service and good will returned to our community to “earn” the dog.  Our graduates received their dogs at no out-of-pocket cost, along with approximately $750 worth of gifts each to help them set up their new dog.  These gifts included a custom beaded collar and matching lead, working booties, certification vest, a working harness, toys, training treats, food and an array of grooming supplies.  Many thanks to Hamilton Pet Products, Atta Boy Pet Food, Petz Place in Goodyear and Goober Pet Direct for their generous donation of items for these gift baskets.

Safety Tip

Remember that this is the most dangerous time of the year for rattlesnake bites.  When snakes come out of hibernation and are relatively dehydrated the venom is more concentrated.  If you reside in an area known to be frequented by rattlesnakes, be certain to look before you allow your dog outside.  Stick to paths for our walks, and avoid tall grass or bushes where snakes may hide.  We recommend a short 4-6 foot lead for walks that will keep your dog close to you.

We are proud to announce…

The FSDS has experienced 100% staff retention for the coming year.  Not only are all staff returning for the new school year, but we have hired new staff.  We are pleased to announce that we have hired Lisette Borja, recent student graduate, to work as an Intern Instructor on the Estrella Mountain campus.

Thank you!


AFSG SCG members present the FSDS with a donation to help provide service dogs to military veterans.

Our sincere thank to the Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand for their generous donation of $10,087 to support our mission of providing service dogs at no out-of-pocket cost to military veterans.

A million thanks to APS for their generous sponsorship of our Graduation 2014 Event.  Their generous $10,000 gift allowed us to cover the cost of graduation as well as some gifts of equipment and supplies to all of our recipients to help them get started with their new service dogs.

Many thanks to photographer Alyssa Barton, who donated her professional services as the photographer for our recent graduation.  You can locate her online at: