Mini Series Topic #11: Creating an Application Process
This month we discuss the importance of creating an application process to screen individuals interested in either obtaining a dog that has already been trained, or team training with their own dog through your program.
One of the biggest mistakes that young programs make is that the attention given to training comes at the expense of the attention needed for administrative details. The application process is just that…it is a process. It is of the utmost importance that you develop an ability to screen applicants in advance to ensure that they meet DOJ requirements and that they appropriate for training. You will need to consider the impact of a high attrition rate well in advance, and make efforts to select those students who appear to have a higher likelihood of success. Remember that not all applicants who have a qualifying diagnosis are appropriate for SD team training. For example, an individual with PTSD who has a history of uncontrolled and combative behaviors in public will not only disrupt the training process for all other students, but they will also not make effective team leaders, placing not only they and their dog, but the public in peril.
Once you have determined the nature of your eligibility requirements, it is time to build an application packet. The packet should serve to gather information regarding the needs of the applicant, as well as appropriateness for your program. Additionally, you must keep an eye on the legal needs of your business. Remember that the best time to gather signed and completed information is early on in the process. During the time of applications, students who are seeking to gain admission will be more likely to comply with information requests, and you will have additional leverage in gathering this information. Once you have accepted a student and classes have begun, you will discover that gathering information will be more difficult. In this section we discuss some considerations for program applications, and consider this in the broader contest of all individuals who seek to participate in your program on any level.
Factors to consider when establishing procedures:
- Application packets must be tailored to the needs of each type of participant including but not limited to owners who will train their own dog, students who will train a dog owned by your program to assist someone else in need, and volunteers who seek to participate in your training program in some manner.
- Volunteers who will have direct interaction with underage minors should provide a copy of a Class 1 fingerprint clearance card as a part of their application in order to be given consideration; individuals with disabilities who seek to train a dog for their own needs should not be required to produce such a card.
- Steps should be taken to ensure that those who seek the assistance of a SD meet DOJ criteria – a Physician statement of Disability should be signed by their treating physician and included with the application.
- Take care to note that incomplete applications will not be processed – a statement to this effect should be posted prominently just prior to the signature line on your application.
- Reference letters should be obtained for all applicants; 18 months of training is a long time to have someone in your program and exercising due diligence in screening up front is critical.
- Acceptance packets should be separate from application packets, but still considered to be a part of the application process; decide which types of information must be included in each packet. For example, a photo release form is not needed prior to determining if you will accept an applicant, but should be obtained for all those students whom you will offer a seat in your program.
- Consider including a checklist of forms for both application and acceptance packets that communicates clearly what documents must be provided.
- Consider prohibiting students from entering the classroom as a student until all materials have been reviewed and the packets are complete; this does not include a one time class visit during the screening process.
As many of our readers are aware, the FSDS program differs greatly from others in that we set out to establish a mechanism to gain proper oversight and credentialing. We believe that such a move is necessary to ensure the integrity of the program and inspire confidence.
In June of this year the program was approved as a registered Apprenticeship Program by the AZ Office of Apprenticeship. This made the FSDS program one of only two SD programs in the nation to achieve this status, and the only Master SD Trainer program in the nation to become an Apprenticeship Program.
In late Sept., we received our letter of approval from the VA Administration State Approving Agency (SAA) Office. This approval allows military veterans who are enrolled in our Apprenticeship Program to access their GI Bill® benefits.
During the month of Sept. we also received our finalized application from the AZ Coalition of Military Families to be admitted to their Be Connected Program. This is a network of carefully vetted programs that are approved to provide services to veterans and a final approval letter is anticipated in the near future.
As we continue to build our program it is important to us that we remain focused on strengthening our program and building collaborations with others in the state who seek to raise the bar and ensure the quality of services to our veterans, first responders and others in need.
- Always approach the team from the front.
- Observe the 6 foot perimeter rule and avoid coming right up close to any teams.
- Please do not ask to pet the dogs while they are learning to work in public.
If you encounter our military veterans and first responder recipients, please remember to let them know how much their service and sacrifices to our community are appreciated!
Please join us in wishing a very happy 18th birthday to FSDS trainer Lindsey Carlson. Lindsey began with us as a youth trainer and raised a SD that was awarded to a military veteran this past year. Lindsey now works per diem as a trainer for the FSDS while attending college locally. Congratulations on this milestone and our best wishes for continued happiness and success.
We wish to extend a warm welcome to local teen Charlotte Steele and her grandmother. Charlotte is a 15 yr old honors high school student who is interested in pursuing a career as a SD trainer. We are so pleased that she has joined the FSDS family and look forward to her involvement.
Now Accepting Applications
We are accepting applications from individuals in need of a service dog to assist with their needs. We will accept applications from those who wish to train their own dog as well as those who will need to receive a program trained dog. If you are seeking to train with your own dog please be aware that the following rules apply:
Breed Restrictions – due to insurance restrictions we are unable to accept Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers or Staffordshire Terriers.
Age Restrictions – dogs must be less than a year old at the time of acceptance. The reason for this is that training lasts 18 months, and is very costly. Though we do not pass that cost on to military veterans and first responders, the costs to us are real. We need to ensure maximum working life for the team.
Weight Requirements – the dog must be expected to attain a minimum adult weight of 50 lbs. There are numerous case reports of small dogs stepped on at crowded public venues. We also require all dogs to have FOUR on the FLOOR, meaning that they must walk beside their handler and not be carried.
Temperament Testing – in order to ensure public safety we require that all dogs be temperament tested prior to a decision to accept into our training program. A SD must be bright and eager to learn, be even-tempered and absent evidence of any fear or aggression towards public places, stranger or other dogs.
Our experienced training staff is available to help you focus your search to locate the ideal dog for you.
Seeking Student Trainers
Are you a local student age 13 or older who is seeking a high level public service experience? Training a SD for a local resident in need is rewarding, and also a great way to help polish up your future application to a competitive college.
Are you an adult looking to learn to train SD’s, or a retired person who seeks a way to remain connected to your community? This is an ideal way for you to connect while learning a new set of skills.
Contact our facility to learn more at: 602-870-2008
Fall has arrived, and that means Fall clean-up. For those of you who reside in areas where leaves must be raked, remember not to leave piles of leaves laying around that your dog can get into. These piles can harbor spiders and snakes, that could bite your dog.
Halloween arrives late this month, and remember that when preparing for Trick-or-Treaters not to leave a bowl off candy in a place where it can be reached by your dog. Candies that contain chocolate, raising or certain types of nuts (such as macadamia nuts) can be toxic to your dog.
If you are a new SD team and your dog has not yet encountered moving displays in public, remember to stop and allow your dog to observe the display from a distance prior to attempting to get close, as sudden activity of motion activated displays can be scary for a dog.
With Sincere Thanks
We wish to express our sincere thanks to the following individuals and organizations who have supported our program in the past month.
- Valerie Schluter
- DAV Auxiliary Unit 1
- Albertson’s / Safeway
- Desert Diamond Casino