Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence is a voting member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). All of the dogs in our program are trained to ADI standards. In addition, all of the dogs in our training program have specific goals they must complete before becoming a service or therapy dog. These goals are given to our foster families to guide their training from the puppy level to final advanced training. We have five levels of training: Puppy, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Final. Each dog must successfully complete each level before advancing to the next. When entering our program, most of the dogs begin at either the puppy or beginner level.
This level is for puppies ages 8 weeks to 6 months. In this level we begin the very important process of socialization. We teach the puppies to be friendly towards all people and animals. They learn to walk over different surfaces and to not fear loud noises. We introduce unusual objects such as wheelchairs and crutches with lots of treats and praise. They also must learn to tolerate having their feet, ears, teeth, eyes and overall body handled. Basic obedience skills are also introduced. WATCH, MARK, SIT, DOWN, COME, and STAY are a few of the commands the puppies learn before moving into the beginner level.
This level is for puppies that have tested out of puppy level as well as for any new dogs entering the program. In this level we continue to work on socialization and introducing basic obedience skills. As the dogs progress through the level, we add minor distractions to check the dogs on their skills. HEEL, LEAVE IT, PLACE, and WAIT are a few of the commands the beginners learn before moving to intermediate level.
In this level we continue to work on basic commands and adding distractions while training. These dogs must be able to remain focused on a task while toys and treats are dropped on the floor around them. Strange dogs should be ignored unless released to play. When in public, the dog needs to be able to respond to commands and show confidence in different surroundings.
This is the last level a dog will be in before returning to our center to begin final training. In this level we really work on proofing all obedience skills that have been taught in previous levels. We begin training some service dog skills in retrieving and off leash work. Distractions are increased during training to make sure the dogs can maintain focus. These dogs should be able to handle being on a public outing for more than one hour. They should perform all commands while in a public setting.
This begins when the dog has completed the foster family program and is returned to our training facility. Goals are set for each dog depending on the potential placement type. They must be fully competent with all standard commands before being placed with a consumer. Any equipment the dog needs to use is introduced during this level. Outings to various public places that the dog may be visiting when placed with a consumer are also completed.