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Training Protocol

Service Dog Training Start to Finish

Service Dog Training is a lengthy process. It typically takes over two years to fully train a service dog to task and work reliably. Every stage of training is extremely important. Throughout training, we keep logs and journals of where each dog is in their training. We log which milestones they are meeting and mastering at every age. Of course, not every dog is the same but certain specific basic markers should be met by each individual age in order to meet the goals to become a successful service dog. Training for service dog prospects should be a FUN process.

Puppies in their First Four Months

Puppies are either placed with their first puppy raiser (sometimes nicknamed "preschool puppy raiser") or they are working towards a solid routine with their owner-trainer. Puppies should be socialized in a variety of environments. They should be exposed to other people with disabilities, children playing nearby, obedient dogs working near them, and a variety of sounds. During this time, they should be working on housebreaking, self-control, boundaries, leash intelligence, handling, manners, and basic commands. They should understand shaping, luring, and some body cues. Problem-solving exercises start now and should be used throughout the entirety of training. Many puppies during this time work towards their S.T.A.R. Puppy Title as it benefits their training.

Four to Twelve Months

Puppies are either with their owner-trainer or are now placed with a new puppy raiser (sometimes nicknamed "elementary puppy raiser"). Puppies will start preconditioning exercises for their future tasks. Many will master some basic tasks during this time. They will work on obedience skills in specific environments that they may struggle with due to a possible "fear phase". Much of training during this time consists of handling skills and positive associations with work and handler. They should be able to achieve daily life and routine skills. They should understand some more advanced body cues. Problem-solving exercises become more advanced. Many of the puppies during this time work towards their CGC titles as it benefits their service dog training greatly.

Twelve to Eighteen Months

Puppies are either with their owner-trainer or with a new puppy raiser (sometimes nicknamed "junior puppy raiser"). They should be mastering intermediate skills and certain tasks. They should be able to pass their public access test during this time with "flying colors." Some puppies' "fear phase" extends into this stage but should be very minimal and not cause any disruption whatsoever. "Fear phases" should not surpass this stage of training in order to possibly succeed in service work. Puppies should be preconditioning the tasks they will have to wait until two years old to learn. Their manners in public should be mastered. They should be able to reliably work in multiple settings. Mistakes happen but none of which are disruptive. Most mistakes during this time are typically communication and handling errors. Problem-solving exercises become more challenging for the dog and encourage more independent thinking. Intelligent disobedience is introduced.

Eighteen to Twenty-Four Months

Puppies are either with their owner-trainer or are with a new puppy raiser (sometimes nicknamed "advanced puppy raiser"). During this time, dogs should be working on reinforcing what they already know and given challenges that test problem solving in situations where they need to use even more independent thinking. Intelligent disobedience is becoming more clear to the dog now. Maintaining new skill sets is important during this time. This creates a reliable foundation for the tasks they might begin to learn at age two. 

At Two Years

Dogs are either with their owner-trainer or with their final trainer before going home to their forever handler. Dogs should have now mastered all preconditioning exercises for tasks that they had to wait until the age of two to learn due to the safety of their joints. Dogs should be reliable in all settings previously worked. Obedience should be spot on in these environments as well. All tasks learned before this point should be mastered. Dogs should pass their tasking and intelligence types tests. Dogs should be able to listen and respond reliably as well as reliably think independently. After reliably understanding the tasks they might have had to wait until two to learn, dogs will be considered fully trained and graduate. After this time, they will still have follow ups every so often to ensure the reliability of the dogs functions, routine knowledge, tasks, intelligence, communication, relationship skills, independent thinking, mannerisms, and health of the dog. 

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