Dogs enter our advanced training program when they are around one year old and after successfully completing our Puppy Program. Dogs in advanced training work with our trainers to master over 50 skills and tasks that will help an individual with a disability live a more independent and fulfilling life.
Advanced training takes place over the course of 8 to 12 months, and consists of two levels of testing that each dog must pass in order to be matched with a partner. During the first level of testing, dogs must show basic mastery of over 40 commands, including retrieving, holding, and giving items of various materials and from different surfaces, getting help, coming when called, settling for up to 30 minutes, and many other tasks.
During Level II testing, the skills established in Level I are expanded upon, adding complexity in position, environment, length of time of task, distraction, and/or distance from trainer. During each level of evaluation and testing, the dog’s overall behavioral and social progress, and general health are monitored and reviewed as well.
To help the dogs master these skills, our staff and field trainers meet weekly to work on skills, troubleshoot problems, and provide support, knowledge, tips, and tricks to each other.
Once dogs have passed Level II testing, they are ready to be matched and begin training with a partner.