We train dogs for post 9/11 veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and/or TBI (traumatic brain injury) as a result of their military service.
Veterans coping with symptoms may receive benefit from a dog that is trained to help reduce or mitigate signs such as hypervigilance, anxiety as well as balance or equilibrium issues primarily outside the home. We will also consider veterans with service connected MST (military sexual trauma).
Our dogs are specially selected based on their temperament and breed. Most of our Service Dogs will be retrievers or retriever types.
They are generally in training with us about 6 months and approximately 2 years of age when they are matched with a veteran on our wait list.
Our program provides a tailored training approach for a small number of graduating teams each year.
We place our focus on veterans that demonstrate a priority toward improving mental well-being and are committed to a life-long bond with partnered Service Dogs. There is no fee to receive a trained Service Dog. All funding for this program is provided for by The Sam Simon Foundation Giving Fund.
Many months are dedicated to teaching our dogs specific tasks, obedience commands and socializing in public places.
Our dog training places focus on providing tasks that may lessen symptoms associated with PTSD and assistance with mild physical challenges from TBI as a result of military service. Because we offer a more tailored approach to our training, we may be able to provide additional tasks on a case by case basis.
Commitment to regular weekly outings and task training practice is key to the success with a Service Dog. We do not guarantee a particular outcome, but a Service Dog should not only provide a benefit but also companionship. A Service Dog is not a solution for conquering PTSD but a part of an overall treatment plan towards wellness.
Service Dogs are dogs. They are imperfect, supportive, affectionate beings who depend on us as much as we depend on them.
Our program is small and graduates only a few PTSD Service Dogs each year. An applicant accepted to your wait list is also encouraged to consider placing an application with additional programs to improve his or her chance for being matched with a Service Dog sooner.
Cover My Front: Dogs are trained to move from a "left side" or heel position to a "front position", providing a comfortable and friendly perimeter for the veteran.
Cover My Back: Dogs are taught to turn, sit and face the opposing direction from the veteran, promoting healthy awareness by reducing stress and/or anxiety.
Balance: Where balance might be affected by medication used in treatment for PTS and/or TBI, our dogs are taught to stop and stand still in position when they feel a moderate weight applied to their shoulders and hips. This is only for people who need a slight anchor to regain their balance on stairs and curbs. A veteran with balance challenges is taught how to use their dog properly to regain balance again without applying too much weight on the dog.
Stand and Brace: Veterans with back and/or knee issues as a result of their military service sometimes need a little counter balance to help stand up from a chair or when kneeling on the ground.
We teach a dog to stand and remain in position when SLIGHT pressure is applied to a dog’s shoulders and hips simultaneously.
Our dogs are not large enough to bear the full weight of a human. Our veterans are taught how to properly utilize this skill.
We reserve the right to decline an application for a Service Dog if there are companion pet dog(s) living in the applicant’s home. We will consider every application and make reasonable and educated assumptions on compatibility between the companion pet dog(s) living with an applicant and a Service Dog. We will make this basis on gender and temperament as well as the ability of the applicant living with other dog(s) to properly bond with a Service Dog.
We invite you to fill out an application if you are able to meet the following qualifications.
Should you have any extenuating circumstances that may keep you from meeting the qualifications at this time, please contact our office first so that we may talk to you in more detail.
1. Application: Our application is available to be downloaded at the bottom of this page. If you are not able to print it out, please phone our office and we will be happy to mail one. Any information that you share with us will be kept confidential and not shared with anyone that you have not given us permission to do so.
2. Additional Forms: Once we receive your application, you will be mailed: (2) Personal Reference Forms. These must be filled out by local friends or family, over age 21, able and willing to provide immediate care for a Service Dog, if needed. (1 or more) Medical Information Form (if you are regularly treated for a physical condition) (1) Mental Health Questionnaire which is to be given to your licensed mental health provider and will serve as your referral. Once we receive your referral and other forms by mail, we will contact you to discuss options for moving forward with an in-home interview.
3. Home Visit: Within three months of receiving your application, we will schedule a home visit with you and any family in your home. 2 instructors and 1 Service Dog-in-training will spend about an hour with you asking questions that will help us understand how a Service Dog can best help you and fit into your lifestyle. We may ask questions that make you feel vulnerable, but we strive to create a safe, comfortable space in which to openly share.
4. Decision: We take all information shared and gathered into careful consideration before determining if we are the right program for you. If we are not able to place your application on our wait list, we will explain our decision and offer other recommendations where we can.
5. Match: Applicants on our wait list to be paired with a Service Dog will be contacted quarterly until notification of a dog match. An in-home placement or orientation is set up in which a trainer brings your Service Dog and commutes to spend 3 days providing training instruction.
While a Service Dog is rewarding for many, it isn’t going to be the answer for everyone. A lot of consideration needs to be given to the amount of time, ability and finances required to take care of a dog. Having a Service Dog not only means daily training, but also daily exercise as well as a consistent routine. Exercise might include a daily walk of at least a mile, a game of retrieve or a good romp at the dog park. They need to be able to eat a high quality food and get out at least 3 or more times a day to relieve themselves.
A Service Dog is with his or her partner most of every day, going into the work place, school or stores. It is only natural that Service Dogs will attract the attention of the public. They may be curious and want to know more about what they do. It is important to be aware and prepared for these types of encounters including how to respond.
A veteran that lives with family members or friends need their cooperation and support with a Service Dog. Are all members of the household willing to live with a dog in the home? Do they all like being around dogs? Are they willing to assist with the care and behavior of a Service Dog?
We are not able to place a dog where there are family members that suffer from allergies to dogs. All of our Service Dogs will shed fur and none would be considered hypo-allergenic.
Most of our Service Dogs are still adolescents and may make mistakes with their house manners or training. They may need gentle reminders of household rules as well as practice in their obedience commands and tasks. This will require patience and a positive attitude.