Training
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For information on volunteering as a Puppy Raiser, please see our Puppy Raiser page.
For questions or additional information about Saint Francis Service Dogs contact us at info@saintfrancisdogs.org or call 540.342.DOGS (3647).
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The Saint Francis Dog Training Program is the advanced phase of training for dogs that have successfully completed the Puppy Program. Skills that the dogs learned in the Puppy Program are the foundation for the task work taught to them during this advanced training. The Dog Training Program is designed specifically to prepare our dogs for the ultimate goal of being matched with a Partner.

During the dog's time in training they will be taught in stages known as levels. Each level requires the dog to show a certain degree of skill at performing specified tasks. Each level is tested before the dog can move forward to the next stage of training. The testing is based on Standards and Guidelines which are benchmarks for each level. On average, this process takes between 10-16 months to complete.

The dogs in training are placed with either a Staff Trainer (someone who is an employee of Saint Francis) or a Field Trainer (an independent contract trainer). Dogs with a Staff Trainer typically live in the Saint Francis Kennel and are trained during the day. Often these dogs go to sitter homes on the weekends so they can experience life in a normal home environment. The dogs with Field Trainers live at their homes and they receive payment for their services.

Saint Francis runs weekly training classes where instruction is provided. The trainers work in cooperation with one another which creates an atmosphere of support and knowledge sharing. Assistance is always available when extra help is needed.

Trainers come from various backgrounds. Most of the trainers have volunteered at Saint Francis as sitters and then Puppy Raisers. There are also occasions when experienced trainers come to us with skills that are conducive to service dog work. We build on their knowledge and channel it into the specialized field of service dogs. One of the best ways to learn how the Dog Training Program at Saint Francis works is to start at the beginning by raising a puppy.