At Service Dogs for America most of our dogs are whelped on-site at the Jud campus. We prefer to breed Labs and Golden Retrievers, as these breeds are smart, loyal and very patient.
We start training puppies at 6-8 weeks old with five basic commands – heel, sit, stay, down, come. At five months old they are introduced into the ICAP program, where they stay and train for about three months with one team, consisting of three to four inmates. This is a 24/7/365 day program. The dogs rotate back into the Jud campus at intervals, working with our trainers and volunteers.
By the time they reach one year of age, our dogs will have learned over 30 commands. Many times at this point we can detect what type of service dog they will be. Our service dogs are fully trained by the time they reach two years old, at which point they are ready to be paired up with their human life partner.
Once approved, clients must travel to Jud and stay on campus for three weeks of team training. This is done with the individual and the service dog, along with our trainers. Both service dog and client must pass a public access test before team certification is completed and the client can return home with their service dog.
Volunteers are also crucial to the success of our training program, providing additional social interaction with our dogs and assistance around campus in countless other ways.