By Canine Companion for Independence
Corey Hudson, Director
Well-trained assistance dogs can help transform the life of a person with a disability. Increased independence is made possible thanks to the physical tasks the assistance dogs perform. At Canine Companions for Independence, certified instructors spend years developing their skills to teach the dogs over 40 commands. Plus, the solidified training program, founded over 35 years ago, has many processes in place to ensure the dogs that are placed with people with disabilities are highly trained, healthy and capable of achieving public access guidelines. It all starts when the dog is 15-18 months of age, and joins the training course with professional instructors at one of five Canine Companions for Independence Regional Training Centers. The first two weeks, dogs are screened, undergoing x-rays and medical tests as well as tests to evaluate their temperaments. Some dogs are released at this point due to medical or temperament problems. The others continue into training.
First Semester The first semester, which lasts three months, reviews and builds upon the basic obedience commands the dogs learned as puppies. It is during this semester that the dogs begin to work around the wheelchair and learn the retrieve command. Those that pass the first semester continue into their second semester of training. Second Semester The second three-month semester finishes the commands the dogs will need to know such as pull, and light-switch. They learn over 40 commands and practice working in different environments. During training, the dogs are screened to see if they truly have what it takes to become a Canine Companions assistance dog. Those that do prepare for Team Training, where the dogs are paired with a recipient and both human and dog are trained to work together. Team Training This two-week session teaches the recipients proper care and handling of the Canine Companions dog. After the training session and public access testing, they attend a graduation ceremony in which the volunteer puppy raiser passes the leash to the Graduate and the Graduate officially receives their Canine Companions assistance dog. This six-nine month process helps ensure the success of the team once out in our communities. Assistance dogs that are highly trained barely go noticed when out in public due to their skills and abilities. To learn more about Canine Companions for Independence and assistance dogs, visit cci.org.