Behind the Scenes: Raising a Service Animal

Have you ever wondered what goes into the training and placement of a service animal?

We frequently receive questions about our process and are often asked how handlers can part with dogs they've raised and grown attached to?

The answer to those questions is yes, we miss each dog placed with a new handler dearly! Yet without a doubt, the incredible effect these animals have on their new owners is truly rewarding.

My husband and I have hosted and trained several service dogs that have gone on to aid new owners with struggles such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and decreased mobility. The very first dog we trained and worked with, Sasha, had a profound affect on us and it was through Sasha that we came to realize just how important our efforts as service dog trainers are.

Sasha's new owner had returned from military deployment and struggled with PTSD to the point he had not left his home in several years. His PTSD was crippling and an immense strain for himself as well as his wife and two young children. When Sasha left our home, she instantly bonded with her new handler and within days they were inseparable.

Several months after the placement we saw Sasha at a Dog Training Elite booth in the Salt Lake City Home Show. She was thriving and to our pleasure, we learned her handler had progressed rapidly. In fact, with her support, he had been able to accompany his family on a trip to Disneyland (fireworks and all) just months after teaming up with Sasha!

Sasha's story energized us and soon after, we selected a puppy to nurture and train next for the Malinois Foundation. Dan and I purchased Tink as a 12-week old F1B Goldendoodle puppy from Angie Wycoff of Sammy's Doodles in Heber City, Utah. 

 

Though Tink was the runt of her litter, she excelled at the service animal tests Angie routinely performs to determine which puppies will make the best partners for an individual in need of a service animal. 

When we arrived home with Tink, she wasted no time exploring her new digs. We introduced her to Rory & Aspen, our own dogs and laughed as she would mimic the big dogs and follow their lead. There are a lot of intricacies in the training of a service animal on the human side, but having older, extremely well trained dogs makes the process much simpler as they will teach the puppy good habits and correct behavior themselves. 

Much goes into the training of a service animal. As soon as our pups have full sets of shots, they are socialized with any and every possible new environment. It's important for them to be confident yet calm when coming across a new experience - so from a very young age they take car rides, meet new adults and children, are exposed to loud noises and meet other animals. 

Tink is somewhat of an old soul, and observes with a quiet calm demeanor. However, when she's not on the job, snuggling is her favorite pastime!

She's now just over a year and a half old, and will soon be placed with her forever person through the Service Paws and Patriots initiative presented by the City of South Salt Lake. Once the match is made, the Malinois Foundation will continue to support Tink's veteran and will provide handler-specific training for a year after placement. This continued support is crucial and sets up each match of dog and handler for success.

Service Paws and Patriots is a three-year campaign with a goal to place service animals in the hands, hearts, and homes of the brave men and women who have served our country, many of whom suffer from PTSD as a direct result of their service. Utah veterans in need of a service animal are encouraged to apply for the program HERE. 

After Tink's placement, the Service Paws and Patriots campaign will present Tink's niece, Marley, to a new veteran next year. We're excited for the great things Tink will go on to do and the opportunity to work with the spunky, little Marley this next year.

If you have questions about The Malinois Foundation and are interested in getting involved or are in need of a service animal - stay in touch with our latest news by following us on Facebook. You can also reach out to (801) 898-3023.