Coming to Class
Once accepted into the program to train with a service dog, veterans will be invited to attend the 10-day in-residence training program held at our campus in Smithtown, NY. By the time a student arrives for class, their pre-selected service dog has already undergone extensive custom training.
This process begins when the dogs are puppies, as part of our prison puppy training program. Inmates begin working with puppies on standardized commands, and teaching the four foundations of service dog tasks: retrieve, tug, push, and brace – all part of the VetDogs training curriculum. Volunteer weekend puppy raisers take the puppies on the weekends to socialize them in many different situations so they will be comfortable in a variety of settings: stores, restaurants, public transportation, sporting events, concerts, etc.
Once the VetDogs service dog training team understands the needs of an applicant (several months prior to the student attending class), they will work on advanced foundation tasks that will specifically help mitigate each student’s particular disability. Opening and closing doors, retrieving a variety of items, turning on and off lights, and providing balance and stability are just some of the specific tasks dogs can be trained to do. Once the student arrives for class, the dog is transferred to their new handler, and the bonding begins.
During class, students will learn how to lead their dog; gain an understanding of pack theory; basic learning theory, which will address the commands the dog already knows; and advanced learning theory that will comprise advanced commands.
Students will also learn how to work with their dogs in various settings that include walks; mass transit situations, including train platforms, subway, and bus travel; outings to malls and other stores; and other types of real-world situations.
Upon completion of training, the newly created human–service dog team will return home to start their new life together. They will have begun to master all of the techniques they need to be successful—from retrieving a dropped wallet or phone, to nightmare interruption, to being comfortable in new and different situations. The veteran can feel confident and independent with a new companion by their side.