Transition Training is where the magic happens
By Carol Davis
Pawsitive Teams Co-Founder
The most frequently asked question service dog trainers hear is, “How can you give them up?” For 25 years, my answer has been, “It’s like with your kids. They grow up and move out of the house, but they’re still very much part of your life.” That’s how I feel every time I successfully transition one of my service dogs in training to a new partner.
The service dog training model Pawsitive Teams has built is unique in that the trainer of the dog leads the entire transition training process with the new partner. We work with each disabled student three times weekly for approximately three months and structure our sessions to encourage the bond and trust between the dog and the new partner. I feel a lump in my throat whenever I see my dog look to the new partner for guidance rather than to me.
We build for success, starting with low distraction activities in our training center. Sessions in the home focus on adapting the skills the dog already knows, such as opening a door which is difficult from a wheelchair, to the specific needs of the partner. We also stress the importance of the partner providing basic care of the dog as well as giving the dog a balanced life, including adequate exercise. Both the dog and the human partner learn to depend on each other. This is where the real magic happens!