DWW Silver is busy growing up and learning! In the first three months of puppy assistance-dog school, he has had to learn how to walk nicely on a leash, meet other dogs and people, and develop both his at-home and out-in-public manners.
The basic cues and skills he will need to learn at puppy school are: NICE, NAME, BUSY BUSY, EAT UP, FORWARD, DRESS, KENNEL/OUT, RELEASE, SIT, DOWN, STAY, COME HERE, LEAVE IT, WATCH ME, EXCHANGE GAME/PLAY, RETRIEVE, PUPPY YOGA (on back and on side), GROOMING, THANK YOU, LURING, and TARGETING.
Because those are a lot of commands to learn all at once, in his first three months, DWW Silver has focused on learning his name, Busy Busy, Nice, Eat Up, Sit, Down, Stay, Come Here, and Leave It. According to his puppy raiser mom, he is laser focused when it comes to training, but he has a goofy, silly side that really comes out when he plays. He loves special treats, like peanut butter, bananas, and strawberries, and he is a very sweet, loving boy.
The training that goes into an assistance dog is a lengthy project. Each puppy is placed in loving, individual puppy-raiser homes for the first 12-14 months, followed by adult-raiser homes for the following 12 months. Always appropriate for the age of the puppy, training is a slow and gentle process, gradually building on skills that they have mastered, and allowing plenty of time to just be a dog. During the first 12-14 months, the primary goal is for the puppies become well-socialized to as many environments and circumstances as possible, developing the social skills and training to be a welcome canine citizen wherever they go. Once they graduate from puppy school, they move onto Big Dog Assistance school, where they continue their regular social exposure to calmly handle any situation or environment, and they attend their advanced training, eventually determining and specializing to their specific role.
An assistance dog needs to develop great impulse control and be able to focus, and not every dog is a good fit for this work. Dogs With Wings breeds and trains their own bloodlines of yellow and black Labrador retrievers for this work, breeding carefully for health and the right temperament. And while they may have as many as 50 dogs in training at any one time, it is important to note that they only have the capacity to place a limited number of dogs per year, and these dogs are in high demand so there is always a wait-list. The numbers of dogs that can graduate are dependent on how many puppies progress through the program, how many volunteer puppy and dog raisers are available, and, as always, what funds are available for training a dog to get its wings.
Dogs With Wings works hard to train dogs to do the seemingly impossible. They are a hardworking team that works toward fulfilling their mission to enrich the lives of people with disabilities by providing them with highly skilled assistance dogs that increase their mobility, foster independence, and further their contributions to the community.
If you want to be part of this team doing such valuable and rewarding work, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved! Dogs With Wings is always looking for committed puppy and adult dog raisers. They have a full explanation of what is involved in this role on their website. If you cannot commit to this one year, 7 day/week volunteer position, there are other volunteer opportunities you can apply for within the organization, including short term boarding, becoming a whelping home or a breeder holder. They are also currently running an information campaign at Londonderry mall, for which they are seeking volunteers. And, of course, Dogs with Wings cannot fulfill its mandate without funds. Consider sponsoring a dog like DWW Silver, donating items from their wish-list, participate in their fund-raising efforts or offer a cash donation. Follow this link to see the ways you can help them out: https://dogswithwings.ca/helping-us/
For a low-impact way to participate in their mission, follow Dogs With Wings on their social media platforms, and amplify their message with your likes and shares, and at the same time, enjoy regular updates about the amazing difference these dogs make in their lives of their people.