The Puppy Pathway to service dog success
Milestone 7: Lifetime support
In this ongoing series, we’re exploring each milestone along the Puppy Pathway, a journey of growth, learning, and rewards for puppies in FSD’s assistance dog training program. This month, we’ll look at the final segment of the Puppy Pathway, Milestone 7: Lifetime support.
At Freedom Service Dogs, our work does not end once our clients and their service dogs graduate and go home together. In fact, our relationship with the people we serve continues and grows stronger as we provide lifetime support for each of our active teams, which in 2021 amounted to more than 180 clients and their assistance dogs.
Our lifetime support program ensures that our clients and their assistance dogs continue to function together smoothly, while also continuing to meet Assistance Dogs International (ADI) standards. Our lifetime support services—which are provided to all our active teams at no charge—include refresher training when a dog needs to work on reinforcing specific tasks, supplemental training due to a change in the client’s physical or mental functioning, and behavioral management for dogs that exhibit noise sensitivity on July 4th or become fearful of certain places while on walks, for example.
In 2021, we offered online training support to 29 teams via Zoom calls, and our staff members traveled to Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon, and throughout Colorado to provide one-on-one training for clients whose needs have changed or whose service dogs required refresher training.
As part of our lifetime support program, FSD also provides successor dogs when a client’s service dog retires or passes away so that the client can continue to enjoy the benefits of a service dog. In 2021, we provided successor dogs to three clients whose previous FSD service dogs retired.
Kim and her successor dog, Gravy. Kim has limited mobility caused by arthritis and graduated with her second FSD service dog, Gravy, in 2021. She received follow-up training at her home in Washington to address several issues, including Gravy’s overexcitement around other dogs.
Look back at every vital step along the Puppy Pathway on our Wag Blog