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Phases Of The Training Program
All potential clients must be diagnosed with PTSD and or TBI by a licensed psychotherapist or medical doctor. Clients must also have a written statement from their psychotherapist saying that they are capable of caring for a dog.
Phase One: Dog Selection.
While some clients may have dogs that will qualify to be trained as service dogs, others may not. The client will go through a dog selection process. Dogs will be chosen from shelters and rescues, and each dog will have the opportunity to interact with the client. After the interaction process, as a team, client and trainer will choose a dog. The dog will then be adopted by Dogs & Tags.
If a dog is not selected the first time, the client will wait until a more appropriate dog is found. Any dog not placed with a client may be returned to the original shelter or rescue for adoption. Only the most ideal dogs will be kept for possible selection by another client.
At this time the client will sign a contract stating that they will be responsible for the dog and will follow through with all phases of the training. If the client misses too many classes or is not caring properly for their dog, the dog will be removed from their care, and the client may be dismissed from the program immediately. If at any time during training the client gets into trouble with drugs, alcohol, or law enforcement or if the dog is placed in danger at any time the dog will be removed from their care, and the client will be dismissed from the program immediately. After the contract is discussed and signed, the dog will go home with the client for two weeks to start the bonding process.
Phase 2: The training will start.
The client will learn how clicker training works. They will begin attending weekly classes, 1 class in a group setting with other clients and one private lesson. At this stage, we start with obedience training with clicker training. They will learn how to use positive reinforcement training to teach the dog what is expected of them. The client will be responsible for teaching their dog all of the commands and hand signals they will learn at their group and private lessons weekly. They will train their dogs every day a minimum of three times a day at home. Depending on the progression, obedience training should be complete in four to eight weeks.
Phase 3: Public access.
The client will get a training vest for their dog and will be able to get public access. This phase will vary from client to client as not all clients or dogs will progress at the same pace. The client will now come to one group class a week and meet with their trainer in a public place for public training. The chosen establishment will depend on the client’s ability to work in public. As the client and dog become comfortable in a place with little activity, the team will continue to progress to places with more activity, dependent upon the team’s ability. During this process the client will learn how to read their dog and see the cues given by their dog while the client’s emotions go up and down. During this phase, the client will be taking their dog everywhere with them.
Phase 4: Maintenance
At approximately nine months. The client will no longer need to attend weekly classes. They will now just continue with daily maintenance training. However, they will still have the ability to come to the facility and train any time they feel they need some direction. During this phase, the client will be more comfortable going in public with their dog. Phase 4 will be completed in approximately two months, and the client will then have their dog transferred into their name.
After all phases of the training are completed, the client will complete a certification test. A public access test assures that the dog does cue and that the client has learned the dog’s cues and is comfortable being in public. Once they pass, they will return annually to re-certify until the dog is retired from service.