A Message to New Students and Parents
First, welcome once again to the FSDS training program. Over the past few months we have had the distinct privilege of watching our new students on the Estrella Mountain campus grow. We are very pleased with the progress that the students have made in Orientation and know that you are looking forward to receiving your new puppy this month. We have a wonderful group of students in this class, and credit must go to the parents who have raised this exceptional group of young people. How proud you must be to see them step up to make such a huge contribution to the community.
This will be both an exciting time for all of you, but the thought of training a dog to this level can be a bit daunting as well. Know that we have complete confidence in your ability to not only succeed, but to excel. Students in years before you have faced the same feelings and have discovered along the way just how strong and capable they really are. We have secured beautiful, strong and healthy purebred golden retriever puppies with excellent temperaments for this program. The puppy you will receive has passed through a rigorous screening process, starting with breeder selection. We remind you that they are still puppies though, and there are several pointers we would like to share to help you get through the “puppy phase”.
Things to Remember
- Puppies have a weak immune system– like human babies, puppies are born without a fully developed immune system. This means that they are susceptible to illness. This does not mean that your puppy is not healthy- it is just a fact of nature that illness happens from time to time. Giardia is a problem that sometimes plagues puppies, and statistics say that as many as 50% of puppies will develop Giardia. Giardia is carried in bird droppings. If a puppy were to step in grass or ground that was contaminated and lick their paws, they may become ill. Do not panic if this happens. A simple round of antibiotics cures most cases- a few may need repeat doses but that is less common. Good hand-washing, cleaning the bowl after they drink and preventing other pets from eating or drinking from the same food will dramatically reduce any risk that this will spread.
- Puppies are like goats! They love to chew, and golden retrievers are notoriously vigorous chewers. Monitor them closely around shoes, furniture, bedding, walls and just about anything else that is available for them to chew. Watch your puppy as you would watch a toddler. Keep things away from them. I suggest that you have an ample supply of chew toys and have one readily available at all times for your puppy to chew on. Get down on all fours and scoot around your home (sounds strange but it works). This will give you a dogs eye view of hazards. Tie up those loose electric plugs, cords for curtains and blinds and anything else that presents as a safety hazard BEFORE your puppy arrives home.
- Puppies have small bladders– schedule frequent potty breaks. At this age they may not ask to be let out, but if you take them out they are more likely to go. Praise them generously when they go outside.
- Puppies have sharp little teeth- watch what you put near their mouths. Fingers, toes, earlobes, noses and all other body appendages should be carefully guarded. Nipping is not cute, particularly for a service dog.
- Puppies require patience- lots of patience. They do not have a grasp of our language. Imagine if you traveled to a foreign country and people gave you instructions you did not understand. In essence, when your puppy arrives in your home that is what just happened. Keep commands brief.
- Puppies may not like kennels– if you are placing your puppy in a kennel at night to protect them from getting into anything that could harm them, they may bark in an attempt to convince you to let them out. This is called “demand barking”. As hard as it is, don’t give in. They will soon figure out that barking is not an effective strategy and they will stop.
- Puppies love attention– and sometimes they jump on you to get it. Turn your back when this happens. One day your puppy will be grown and paired with a recipient who may have bad balance. Jumping can knock a person with disabilities over and cause injury. Jumping is never permitted.
- Puppies need discipline– and this can not be emphasized enough. Discipline is not punishment. Your puppy needs immediate consequences for undesirable behavior, and your response has to be consistent. Set boundaries and enforce them the same way each time. We use positive reinforcement only. When your puppy demonstrates an undesirable behavior, tell them no and show them what they should do. This is a key step in training. Provide ample praise for correct behavior. Devise a predictable daily routine and do your best on most days to adhere to it.
- Puppies need lots of sleep. A young puppy may require up to 18 hours a day of sleep. Schedule activities accordingly. Bring a mat with you for when you are out so that your puppy can lay down and take a nap.
- Puppies need time to adjust to their new home. There is a natural tendency to want to “show off” your sweet little baby, but you must resist this when they are new. Visitors can bring Parvovirus in and infect your puppy, so until they are 4 months old and have had all of their shots limit contact with the public. Puppies also need time to bond with their new families, build trust and adjust to the new routine. Too many visitors is disruptive of this process. We suggest photo sharing with your friends at this young age!
- Be considerate of your teachers– do not expect house calls to correct problems. Imagine if your science experiment was not working. Would you call the science teacher and tell them to get over to your house to fix things? Would you expect the math teacher to travel to your home because your equation would not balance? Urgent and emergent questions will be answered, our teachers have been generous with their time and are always happy to answer, over the phone, those questions that truly can not wait. We are here to support you and you have access to any information that you will need to problem solve- but approach this with the mindset that this dog is your class project. You are learning how to become professionals, and one day your future clients will call you with all sorts of questions. As issues arise, you are learning the correct response by working through things under guidance. If the teachers were to step in to correct things for you they would be short-changing your education. Trust in your abilities, and turn to us for guidance. No matter what the issue, we will provide clear instructions on how to approach things. Your next class will be a great follow-up and a way for the teacher to observe your puppies response to particular strategies.
- Enjoy the journey– raising a service dog is a magical journey. It will have its ups and downs, but this is an experience that you will never forget. There will be days when you ask yourself, “Oh what have I gotten myself into?” Work through it, look into the eyes of your little best friend and realize that it is worth it. For our students who have stuck with it, in the process of working to change the lives of others, they have found that their own lives were changed. In some cases, they have saved lives as we receive reports from recipients of how during medical emergencies their dog responded to save them. There is nothing in this world more gratifying than to save the life of another. Bear that in mind.
Estrella Mountain Campus– congratulations to our students on an outstanding job with Orientation. The dogs will be arriving in their new homes prior to Thanksgiving and everyone is excited. Our lead teacher, Mrs. Wiley has bravely welcomed five of these puppies into her home to jump-start the training. Three puppies have been in foster care with one of our recent successful graduates, Dominique Sollazzo and her mother Tina. Many thanks to them for opening their homes and their hearts to our puppies. As a qualified trainer, Dominique has also been at work on potty training and basic obedience commands. The final two puppies are currently with our lead teacher on the PV campus, Sally Cebulski.
Paradise Valley Campus– our students are at work on advanced service dog tasks, in preparation for the recipients joining the class next semester. This past month, our PV students also joined us at the Peoria G.A.I.N. Event as part of a leadership experience. Students provided hands on demonstrations on canine first aid and CPR and service dog skills. Additionally, these students mentored the new students from the EM campus. Kudos to all of these students for a job well done, and our thanks to their parents who juggled their busy schedules to allow this to happen.
As we alluded to earlier, Giardia has been an issue in the community with new puppies. Remember to wipe your dogs paws after they come in from outdoors to prevent them from becoming ill if they lick their paws after stepping in bird droppings. You may not see visible signs of droppings, as these organisms are microscopic. Keep water bowls clean and contact your veterinarian for any signs of diarrhea.
Our sincere thanks to the Sollazzo family, Dominique and Tina. These wonderful folks have welcomed three of our new puppies into their home and are fostering them until our new students are ready to receive them. They have gotten them through the toughest stages- waking up in the middle of the night to potty, potty training, mastering “sit, down and stay”. We are so appreciative of all that they have done.
Many thanks to Mika Shimazu and our friends at Blue Dog Bakery for their recent donation of an entire case of Blue Dog Bakery Treats. For several years Blue Dog Bakery has provided our dogs with wholesome natural treats and they are a real favorite with FSDS dogs-in-training.
Our heartfelt thanks to our wonderful friends at the Sundt Foundation, who recently donated $2,500 to help support our youth training program. The Sundt Foundation has donated to help support our youths and dogs since the start of our program, and we are so grateful for their continued support.
Donations are needed to help us purchase needed supplies for our new puppies. These adorable little babies will not remain small for long, and are all expected to achieve a weight of between 75-100 lbs by the end of the first year. Thus, they will rapidly grow through collars, booties vests and other supplies. Donations are needed to provide initial and replacement items for these puppies. If you or your business would like to help out, please contact us. Remember that all donations are tax deductible.