The long global war on terror has wreaked havoc on our veterans. According to the Wounded Warrior Project, since May 2015, a total of 52,336 service members have returned physically wounded. 400,000 returning veterans have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; and approximately 320,000 have incurred Traumatic Brain Injury. The need for service dogs to help our disabled veterans cope emotionally and physically has never been greater.
Cognizant of this ongoing need, we, at Patriot Service Dogs, are working fervently to train as many dogs as we can in our two-year intensive training programs. Our dogs come from generous individuals and organizations who believe in our mission to give a sense of independence to disabled veterans and the military community who are struggling with emotional and physical limitations.
Our service dogs receive highly specialized training to enable them to provide a myriad of services. They are trained to provide over 80 tasks including:
Acclimating someone with PTSD to unfamiliar surroundings;
Turning lights on and off;
Opening and closing refrigerator doors;
Carrying and retrieving dropped items;
Checking rooms or around corners to ensure safety;
Barking to alert a handler to leave an uncomfortable situation.
Although a canine may be donated, every dog cannot become a service dog. In fact, just under 50% do not make it for a variety of reasons such as:
Common Reasons Why Every Dog Cannot Become a Service Dog
1. The dog is not the right size or weight.
A short dog like a fox terrier probably couldn’t reach door knobs or a high chest’s drawer pulls. Although, smaller dogs can be easily trained to become a seizure or diabetic alert dog. However, Patriot Service Dogs don’t train these types of dogs. Similarly, a 45- pound dog won’t be able to pull a wheelchair with a 240- pound man in it. Likewise, an overweight dog won’t be able to get into tight spaces like under a chair or bench. The dog’s size must be conducive to the task he will be performing.
2. The dog can’t hear or see well enough.
If the service dog can’t hear or see the cues given by his handler or be aware of the environment around him, he will not be able to help his partner.
3. The dog has genetic disorders.
If a dog is prone to genetic disorders inherent to his breed, he could develop health issues down the road. Our dogs undergo a series of tests to ensure they are not predisposed to any of these conditions. Their hips are x-rayed and a physical is administered by a veterinarian. When we have a dog donated from a breeder, we ask for proof of good hips and elbows for three generations back to ensure the dog comes from good stock. Plus we require three generations back on donations to help ensure the pup comes from a solid line
4. The dog is shy.
If a dog is naturally fearful, he won’t make a good service dog. Panting excessively, drooling when there is no food, refusing treats, cringing away, or growling are indications that a dog is not comfortable.
5. The dog is overly aggressive.
If a dog overreacts to a small issue such as snarling or growling when another dog passes him, it’s a sign that the dog is uncomfortable and may not make a good service dog.
6. The dog has postural/structural imbalances that preclude him from making various position changes.
If the dog has hip or elbow issues, back pain, or deformed or broken bones, he won’t be able to do the hard work required to keep up with the rigors of daily life presented to his handler.
7. The dog can’t attend to commands or focus and is easily distracted.
A dog who is excessively energetic and can’t attend to commands won’t be able to focus on the needs of his partner. The ideal service dog must remain calm, settled, and comfortable while working so he can concentrate on his duties and perform them well. Our president and lead trainer, Susan Bolton, observes and evaluates each dog on a routine basis throughout the training period to screen for these behavioral issues because we know that every dog cannot become a service dog.
How Can You Help the Qualified Service Dogs Succeed in the Program?
As you can see, Patriot Service Dogs ensures that each disabled veteran receiving a dog will have a partner who can meet his individual needs. Presently, our two biggest needs are puppy raisers/trainers and funding to train and maintain each dog in the program which costs approximately $7,600 per dog. If you would like to help us help disabled veterans, you can easily do so through our website at http://www.patriotservicedogs.org/ . Click on the “Donate” button to submit your contribution or “Applications” tab to complete an application to become a puppy raiser/trainer.
Patriot Service Dogs, Inc is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping our disabled military community gain a sense of independence through their partnership with a well-trained service dog. Our focus is placing service dogs with disabled active, retired or medically discharged military who have given so much for our freedom. We were formed in July of 2009 in Central Florida with initial offices in Jacksonville & Belleview. At the time of our incorporation, we had 7 founding members with an active and dedicated board. To get more informative updates about our organization, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. We welcome your suggestions as well as financial support through our Donate button on this website. If you are interested in volunteering, contact us at 352-514-9903, and we’ll gladly find a spot for you. We hope you will share our blog posts with your family and friends.