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When it is determined that a puppy is ready, they leave their puppy educator and begin advanced training at the RSB Guide and Assistance Dog School. By this point they have already been trained to ignore distractions, obey commands and be comfortable in most situations. The RSB team now assesses what path will best suit their attributes. Some will become guide dogs for a blind person, others will assist a returned veteran with PTS – it all depends on each dog’s particular strengths.
Dogs making the cut for the OpK9 program then work full-time with qualified RSB trainers to advance the skills they will require. Much thought and planning also goes into matching the right dog to a veteran on the waiting list.
Matching the right dog to the right veteran is crucial. They need to be a team in every sense of the word and a dog’s temperament, physical size, strengths and many more factors are considered.
While there can be similarities, each veterans PTS is very much an individual experience. OpK9 dogs and their veteran undertake intensive training together. They work on the veteran’s unique needs. Emphasis is placed on the dog detecting the triggers that signal when they are required to intervene.
When an OpK9 dog senses their owner’s trigger, it is trained to perform a specific task to help alleviate the symptoms. This may be by making eye or body contact to comfort their owner and divert their attention, this brings the veteran back to the present moment.
For someone with PTS, what may seem a small problem to others, like misplacing their keys, can be the tipping point that triggers an episode. OpK9 dogs can also be trained to retrieve lost objects such as a wallet or turn on the light if a veteran is experiencing night terrors.
The time, effort and expense that goes into training an OpK9 dog to assist a veteran battling PTS is huge, but every hour, bead of sweat and dollar is worth it when you see the results.
OpK9 Assistance Dogs are trained to assist with household tasks.
Next Time – Graduation and Beyond