OUR TRAINING PROCESS
The training process to become a certified service dog for post-traumatic stress disorder is a lengthy one. Because OTTS hand-selects dogs from shelters, most start out with a list of problem behaviors such as jumping up and pulling on the leash. We start with the basics, teaching the new dog how to walk through a house properly, ask to go outside, go in and out of a crate, and avoid jumping on people. Every dog gets long walks and lots of exercise. They get quality dog food in the right amounts to get them to their ideal weight.
It takes about three weeks to lay a basic foundation after which the dog will transfer into the service dog training program. At this point, we re-test the dog to ensure it is capable of attaining service dog status. If not, the dog will be offered to a veteran in search of a companion dog. If the dog passes the re-test, the real work toward becoming a full-time service dog begins, which may take a year to complete.
It is important to note that a dog cannot be trained to execute a list of commands for just any person. The veteran for which the dog is being trained must work with the dog even while the dog is in the full-time care of the trainer. The veteran and dog must form a strong connection and relationship of mutual trust and respect in order to work together. OTTS’s trainer facilitates this bond and trains both veteran and dog on how to do the tasks required to navigate the world together.
Mike Rowland has over twenty years of animal training experience and has prepared service dogs for a multitude of jobs, including athletic competitions, therapy service and search and rescue. It is through his efforts that our program is possible. Mike’s mantra is “good dogs are born, not bred,” and he has developed a system that he refers to as “dogality” to identify the characteristics needed to make a successful match between veteran and dog. OTTS selects and rescues dogs only from shelters (as opposed to breeders), and in this regard, we are able to save dogs and provide them with new lives at the same time we are helping veterans. Mike plays a critical role in selecting a dog with the right temperament and personality to work with a particular veteran, and he oversees the training program that prepares our dogs for their new lives as service dogs.