An assistance dog is someone who helps the disabled. They stand by their owners whenever they need them. How do these wonderful dogs get trained for their life of helping people? At the Canine Companions for Independence, these dogs are trained to do all sorts of skills to help their future owners.
There are four main types of dogs. Service Dogs who assist adults, Skilled Companions who aide children, Hearing Dogs to accommodate deaf individuals and Facility Dogs who collaborate with a facilitator and visit hospitals or schools. For a dog to become a handicapped companion they must go through two to three years of training. The two breeds that work as disabled companions are Labradors and Golden Retrievers or a mix between the two breeds. The puppies are first bred within the program and cared for at the homes of the volunteer breeder caretakers until two months of age. Then until about eighteen months, the puppies are cared for by volunteer puppy raisers throughout the states. After the puppies are released from the puppy raisers, they are given six to nine months of training at Canine Companions “college”. They then become assistance dogs and are matched with a disabled individual. After eight to ten years of service, the dog retires and lives the rest of his or her life as a normal dog. If a dog does not graduate in becoming an assistance dog, they are typically adopted by their plan B owner. They can also become facility dogs who don’t require as strict rules.
On July 29th, Bookies Bookstore hosted a Canine Companions for Independence event to educate the community about these amazing dogs. We got to meet five dogs either training or already graduated. There was Rumba, a graduate service dog, three trainees named Davin, Dubarry and Hannah and a puppy less than a year old named Vidia. Rumba had learned several skills in assisting his owner who was in a wheelchair. He could pick up items that were dropped and return them to her lap, he could turn lights on and off and press buttons in elevators or at stoplights. He could also pick items off shelves at the store and carry the bags back to the vehicle.
The handicapped community could never have these wonderful service dogs as their helpers and the dogs could never become helpers without the Canine Companions organization.