Service Dog Selection and Placement
Glad Wags obtains our service dogs through working closely with ethical breeders donating dogs, shelters, and adopting through local rescues such as Sooner Golden Retriever Rescue. We choose candidate dogs based on the lifestyle, preferences, and needs of our service dog applicants – because each individual and their needs is unique, we do not ascribe to a one-size-fits-all approach in matching candidates to their dogs. All potential service dog candidates are assessed using Volhard temperament testing in a neutral, non-shelter environment; they are assessed for innate ability (for example, retrieving potential for a dog that needs to be able to retrieve) steadiness, intelligence, non-reactiveness and work ethic.
Upon being selected for candidacy as a service dog, they are placed with dedicated volunteer fosters who have been training with Marj in obedience on their own dogs for several years. These volunteer fosters work hard to teach the dogs house manners, public access manners, and basic obedience to a highly reliable level. This stage in the dog’s training lasts as long as necessary to establish each dog’s public access and personal competency and also allow the fosters to determine any individual quirks and training strengths or weaknesses the dogs have. Our service dog people are also involved in this stage, imprinting the dog on their person, and teaching the service dog applicant dog handling skills and troubleshooting any issues or concerns the team might have.
At this point, the dogs are then fostered with one of our three trainers – Marj, Jessica, or Autumn, to be taught the specific tasks for which they will be used. This stage lasts a varying period due to the difficulty of teaching whatever tasks the dog needs to know, and a high level dog will be in task training for much longer than a dog required for fewer, more specific tasks. At this point, our service dog applicants meet their dog at weekly classes and they learn to work together on obedience, task training, and public access. Some visits are arranged to make sure the dog is going to work in-home as a part of his team.
When the dog has learned all of his tasks and responsibilities, the dog is sent home with the service dog applicant, and they begin proofing the dog on their tasks and responsibilities in their home environment and in real life as well as honing the handler’s skills as a dog trainer. Our service dog teams continue coming to classes and working towards ever improving the team’s efficacy, the handler’s skillset and the dog’s reliability. We offer continuous phone and training support for our teams, and teams are expected to continue on in classes as a training resource for the both of them for as long as the team can. We believe that training is a lifelong process and it is important for teams to continue honing their skills with us, or in the case of relocation with a reputable trainer that will be able to provide support.