How We Train Your Dog
At Retrieving Freedom, we have a very specific training program to make sure the service dogs we train are as ready as possible to help our recipients. Our training program, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. The other pieces are formed with a natural bond between the dog and the recipient.
We train service dogs to help veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries sustained during their service, children with autism and individuals living with diabetes. The key to our success is matching the dog to the individual who can get the most benefit from that training.
Service Dogs for Veterans
Being disabled in a combat zone and forced to return to society as a civilian can be a very difficult struggle for many veterans. The initial stages of rehabilitation stages are well planned and implemented, but they fall short when a disabled veteran comes home. Returning from a deployment in a combat zone should feel like a win, yet the limitations of a physical disability or post-traumatic stress can cause anything but a celebration.
Our goal is to provide independence to the lives of these special veterans, and fight to reduce the 22 veteran suicides a day with the 24-7 support a service dog can deliver. The service dog will not only help veterans with daily tasks, but provide companionship to help them cope with any emotional overload they may be experiencing.
Aiding with PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a common disorder that impacts hundreds of thousands of veterans, causing anxiety and fear that causes changes in the body. This anxiety triggers the body’s “fight-or-flight” response, even in situations where no danger is present. This leads to a host of difficulties, ranging from higher stress levels to difficulty sleeping.
Retrieving Freedom’s service dogs are trained to interact with individuals when they start to feel panicked, position themselves between a veteran and others, and interrupt night terrors. The results come in the form of a non-judgemental living being that can provide unconditional love 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Other Ways Service Dogs Help Veterans
Veterans who are living with limited mobility or use an orthotic or prosthetic device can also benefit from the training Retrieving Freedom gives its service dogs.
Service dogs can help you by:
- Providing orientation to any prosthetic limb that needs to be retrieved
- Giving veterans something to brace against or place their weight on for support
- Pulling and stopping wheelchairs
- Heeling that is matched to the speed of the veteran, even ones using crutches for mobility
- Aiding in the completion of specific tasks, such as:
- Opening and closing doors, refrigerator doors and dryer doors
- Retrieving items from the refrigerator or the dryer
- Untying and removing shoes and socks
- Picking up household items like phones and remotes
- Getting groceries off the shelf and placing items in a shopping cart
- Push elevator buttons
- Pushing panic buttons in case of emergency
Service Dogs for Children with Autism
No child is impacted by autism in the same way. The Centers for Disease Control* estimates that one in every 68 children lives with autism, each falling at various points on the autism spectrum.
Retrieving Freedom trains service dogs that are matched to meet the needs of a specific child. Not only does this help the child excel, but it can reduce lifelong costs associated with the child’s care.
How Service Dogs Aid Children with Autism
Aside from helping children with autism become more social and improving verbal skills, our service dog’s training also helps individuals with Autism in several other ways.
- Dogs are taught how to track and find a child in any location if they become separated from each other or if the child is separated from its parents.
- Tether Training: The child is tethered to the dog’s service vest via a strap on their belt or on a harness. If the strap ever becomes tight, the dog is trained to sit or lie down and act as an anchor any time the child pulls forcibly on the tether.
- The dogs help relieve anxiety by snuggling with the child in times of stress to provide comfort.
- The child can instruct the dog to retrieve items, which helps develop a bond between the dog and the child and gives the child a constructive activity to do with their companion.
Service Dogs for People with Diabetes
For adults and children living with diabetes, monitoring blood glucose levels is a task that is necessary multiple times every day. The consequences when blood sugar levels get too low, referred to as hypoglycemia, or too high (hyperglycemia) can be dangerous to the person’s health. That’s where the training we give our diabetic alert dogs comes in.
Retrieving Freedom trains diabetic alert dogs to alert their companion when blood glucose levels are either too high or too low. The dogs can do this by detecting a unique scent the body produces before and during a blood glucose event. These alerts allow the individual to take the necessary steps to adjust their blood sugar levels to where they are supposed to be. The dogs also provide companionship and emotional support for their companions.