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What is the Process of Training a Service Dog? - A Brigadoon Service Dogs News Article (2014)

Training a service dog is a lengthy process. At Brigadoon, service dogs are trained from puppyhood and up until they are around 2 years of age. Training a service dog is also a costly process. It is estimated that the costs are around $30,000 per dog.

Here are the steps a Brigadoon service dog would likely undergo to become trained as a service dog:

1. The puppy is born! Some service dog puppies are bred in the program, some are donated by breeders, others are adopted, and some are shared through a service dog co-op program. For this example, we’ll say that our puppy is a collie puppy from a Brigadoon litter named Ramona.

2. Ramona is temperament tested. Tests might include making a loud noise to see how she’d react, or calling her name and seeing her response. Congratulations Ramona, your temperament is a good fit for a potential service dog!

3. Ramona goes to her puppy raiser. Although there was the potential for her to go to the prison program, Ramona has been designated to a volunteer with 2 children and another dog. There, she will do basic obedience training, socializing, playing, cuddling, and growing. Ramona will be introduced to many things, people, and situations. At Brigadoon, puppies are with their puppy raiser 24/7! The idea is to get her familiar and thus more confident with many different things, and to start her with her training. All the while, Ramona will enjoy a wonderful puppyhood with a skilled and loving puppy raiser.

4. Ramona is one year old! She now returns to the centre to undergo temperament, health, and trainability assessments. If she passes these, she will enter her formal training. If she does not pass, she will be adopted into a loving home.

5. Ramona passed! She now enters her formal training, where she will learn more advanced tasks. She will also get lots of practice doing public access training. This means she will visit many places in public and begin to work on what will be required of her when she takes her public access test. During this time, she will also likely meet several different prospective handlers, who might be a match with her.

6. Ramona and a service dog applicant have made a good connection, in terms of lifestyle, character, and needs. They are a match! She will now be trained to assist her person’s needs.

7. At age two, Ramona has finally completed her training. She is now gone to her handler's home to spend an intensive weekend of bonding together. On Monday morning, she and her handler will begin team training. This process, which lasts two weeks, will teach Ramona’s handler many things such as grooming, healthcare, feeding, handling, training, exercising, and public etiquette during the time. As well, the two will get lots of practice learning to work as a team. 8. The two weeks are over and it is now time for Ramona and her handler to take a public access test. This test will assess Ramona and her handler’s competency out in public. Ramona must demonstrate skills such as the ability to walk by food, keep at a heel in a busy area, and ignore distractions.

9. Ramona and her handler have passed! Now that Ramona and her handler have passed their public access test, they are ready to begin working as a team. They finish off their two weeks with a graduation ceremony with the rest of the teams, and are approved as official service dog teams. There is still a lot of work ahead for Ramona and her partner, but she is ready to face the world as an official service dog!

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