As you work through our application process, you’ll be providing us with the key information that will determine your ultimate success. With a clear understanding of your goals and objectives, we’ll be able to craft a program that you’ll be excited to participate in since it relates to your specific needs.
Once accepted into the program to train with a service dog, you will be invited to attend the two-week in-residence training program held at our campus in Smithtown, New York. With a 2:1 student/instructor ratio, each student receives individualized training relevant to their home environment and lifestyle.
This process begins when the dogs are puppies, as part of our prison puppy training program. Inmate handlers begin working with puppies on housebreaking, obedience, 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. When the dog is approximately 14 months old, it returns to the Foundation so it can move ahead with its advanced training.
Once the certified America's VetDogs training team understands the needs of an applicant (several months prior to the student attending class), they will build upon the foundation task and work on advanced tasks that will specifically help mitigate each student’s particular needs and how the dog can provide a calming effect and sense of security for its handler.
During the first week of class, students are introduced to basic commands and the four foundations of service dog tasks in preparation for receiving their new PTSD service dog. On day two, they get acquainted with equipment and handling techniques and then are introduced to their dog. For the remainder of the week, they work on the fundamentals of communicating and working with their new partner in various environments both on campus and in other training environments. Training also includes basic obedience, discussions on dog care, etiquette and more.
As the class carries over into week two, students will gain confidence in leading their dog; have a clear 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 country walks; mass transit situations, including train platforms, subway, or bus travel; outings to malls and other stores; and other types of real-world situations.
Prior to the completion of class, each new handler and dog team will have to pass the Assistance Dog International Public Access Test. The test is to determine if the dog is safe to be in public and that the handler demonstrates that he/she has control of the dog at all times.