Baby photos of future assistance dogs
Joan Photo by Joan Brady/joanbradyphotography.com
Bred, donated and/or rescued for assistance dog training by paws4people.org, these "baby pictures" will be shared with the children and veterans matched with each dog.
But until then, the puppies will receive comprehensive training. Training begins at the Training Center in Wilmington, Del. The specific training is proprietary, but includes learning how to navigate different surfaces and challenges and how to handle stress. At around six weeks, they curl up in a transport van and make the drive to the Puppy Development Center, currently in Georgia. There, they continue with socialization training as they work students who are autistic at the Lionheart school, with both puppies and students getting more comfortable with new situations and people.
At 16 weeks, they pile back into the van and are met by inmate trainers at Lakin Correctional, in West Virginia. It is here that the core of "command set" training happens. Each dog will learn 110 commands before being matched with a "client."
After 12 - 15 months of socialization and command training, they will each be matched with either a child or a veteran. From that point, the puppies will be trained specifically to meet their new "handler's" needs.
During that specialized training, the dogs remain in prison. These pictures will help the newly matched children and adults get through that initial separation.
Read more about paws4people assistance dogs at joanbradyphoto.wordpress.com
— Joan Brady
Joan Brady is a professional photographer; mentor and advocate for current and former foster children; volunteer with paws4People, Fairfax Families4Kids, and others; and a resident of Great Falls. Reach her at email@example.com