Our Training Process
The most important aspect of our training philosophy is that we use only positive reinforcement training—avoiding fear, intimidation, or punishment. We take training a step beyond, performing tasks to establish a human-canine bond. It’s all about relationships between a human and their canine partner.
From the time eligible dogs are little bitty puppies—almost the moment they’re born—puppies start their training. At eight weeks, they enter our program and get paired with a puppy raiser. In the initial training period, puppies learn things like:
- Basic obedience
- How to behave politely in a house
- How to ride in a car
- How to act during age-appropriate public outings
- Puppy manners
This phase is meant to focus on training age-appropriate tasks to form confident, self-thinking dogs. Our puppies attend weekly classes at Deafinitely Dogs! or public outings with their puppy raisers and other service dogs in training for the first 18-20 months. Service dogs in training live with puppy raisers and train with them in day-to-day tasks, go with them to work, on trips, and gain exposure to as many different environments as they can.
All of our dogs mature mentally and physically at their own pace. Each dog advances when it’s appropriate for them.
When it’s time for advanced training, typically after 18-20 months, we learn what job they’d like to be trained for based on their preferences. Understanding the appropriate job for a service dog is a very intuitive process, and involves us listening to the dogs habits and abilities.
How Dogs Choose Their Tasks
Our dogs are happiest when they are doing work that they enjoy. Dogs choose their own tasks in ways such as:
- Extremely social dogs are likely appropriate for more than one person and would be suited for our facility dog program.
- Dogs who tend to like to retrieve things may be appropriate as a mobility assistance dog
- Intuitive dogs would be great PTSD dogs
Connecting Humans to their Canine Partner
Once we understand the skills a dog excels at, we introduce them to applicants who need those skills. We also let them choose their person. It’s a very obvious bond when they meet their person. This bond is almost instant, and is a very special moment for all of us at Deafinitely Dogs!.
Once we determine the person they’re partnered with, we add additional tasks in to their advanced training if needed.
Advanced Dog Tasks
Typical advanced tasks that dogs learn how to do include:
- Apply weighted pressure to ground the human
- Interrupt episodes of anxiety
- Pick up dropped items for someone with limited mobility
- Open and close doors and/or drawers
- Wake humans up in the event of a nightmare and turn on the light in their room
Our dogs can even can be taught to make a bed!
After service dogs in training are paired with their human, the new recipient comes in for team training, typically for two weeks. We work daily on developing the skills of the team. In team training, recipients learn how to do tasks such as:
- Reading body language so they understand their dog
- Grooming their dogs and properly care for the health and well being
- Staying comfortable in public with their dogs
- Working with the dog and the task a dog is helping them with
This is also a crucial time to spend time building their bond and just playing together!
Deafinitely Dogs! maintains ownership of the dogs for life. We care for the dogs for life in any situation we’re needed to. For example, if the recipients disease or disability progresses, we will provide additional training to help support their evolving needs, so long as the dog can help with the new need and we’re able to assist with the training.
Following Up After Training
Our follow-up after graduation is extensive. We start by checking in with our teams daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and quarterly to ensure these are successful, happily bonding working teams.
We re-certify our teams every two years to ensure the dog is still performing the tasks needed for the human, and also to ensure the dogs are being cared for in an appropriate way. We help to make sure that dogs are still happily working out in public and able to perform tasks as trained for their partner. This re-certification also helps renew the public access aspect of living with a service dog.
A Part of Our Family
At Deafinitely Dogs!, we feel very strongly that the people we help become part of our family and we keep in touch along their journey. Read success stories of our human and canine matches!