Becoming a K9s For Warriors service dog is a more intricate process than most may think. Depending on the age of the dog, the journey will differ slightly, but each dog must pass several steps before graduating with its warrior. K9s For Warriors requires that the canine pass through these steps to ensure they're the best lifelong partner possible.
My ’87 Ford Escort was jam-packed with boxes and Hefty bags filled with all the clothes and George Michael CDs I owned. My mom was in the driveway crying softly; my five brothers and sisters standing at her side, sad and confused. Just a week earlier, I had been planning on living at home while I attended the University of Florida, a few towns over. But now, after one fight too many with my father, there I was – 18 years old, sad, scared, and furious – fishtailing my way down our ragged dirt road, heading for the sanctuary of my cousin Chrissy’s couch up in Jacksonville.
If you are familiar with K9s For Warriors, you may know about our dog sponsorship program. The revenue brought in by this fundraising method is impressive and with the price it takes to train one warrior-dog team around $27,000, each penny raised is very much needed. Donors who choose to sponsor a dog receive the incredible honor of naming the service dog they are supporting.
Pairing a dog to a warrior is an intricate process that combines the professional expertise of both warrior and dog trainers. Each dog under consideration for our program must pass an extensive health, history, and behavioral evaluation. The goal is for a dog to maintain good health, so it will be able to serve a warrior without any complications. Most of the dogs that graduate go on to live healthy lives full of purpose and happiness. But, as many of us know all too well, the unexpected can strike without warning; it’s life!
If you’ve followed K9s For Warriors during the last year, then you’ve probably heard about the PAWS Act. It’s a bill introduced last year by Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis, pushing the VA to fund service dogs as a PTSD treatment option for post-9/11 veterans. Although we are the nation’s largest and leading service dog organization, we simply do not have the resources to accommodate the tens of thousands of veterans who could benefit from having their own service dog. The need for this l
A warrior receives a service dog, trains, graduates, and then returns home with the dog. Once the warrior gets settled, he/she discovers in what situations the dog will provide the best assistance. Warriors are not required to take their service dog everywhere with them. K9s For Warriors does not enforce a policy that states that warrior-dog teams have to be together for a set amount of hours in a day. It is true, however, that a warrior can bring their service dog in any place the public is permitted. Many warriors bring their dogs to work with them.
In order to be a successful service dog, there are specific qualities that a canine must possess. One of the most important characteristics is confidence. Warriors rely on their dogs to get them through moments of high stress. Dogs that become fearful easily could increase a warrior’s anxiety levels instead of decreasing them. Service dogs also need to be calm. If a dog is aggressive, it can create a negative experience for the warrior while also becoming a safety liability.
K9s For Warriors provides service dogs to post-9/11 veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war.
Sometimes we hear individuals referring to our service dogs as support or therapy dogs, which is not correct. Although service, emotional support, and therapy dogs all do very important jobs, they are very different.
What is a service dog?
As a service dog organization, we are in the business of providing highly-trained dogs to disabled veterans who absolutely need them. As hard as it may be to imagine, there are individuals out there who try to pass their pets off as service dogs. This is shameful and is very degrading to those who actually need a service dog to live their daily lives. The topic of fake service dogs is controversial. Although, legally, service dogs are not required to wear vests, at K9s For Warriors, we always tell our warriors to have their dogs “vested” while in public.
The training of our dogs is performed on a daily basis by an excellent group of trainers. Trainers work with our dogs in three different phases: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. Dogs in the beginning phase train in basic obedience, socialization, and kennel manners. The intermediate phase introduces public access training and going out to places with trainers. They also start their task training, learning commands such as block, cover, and brace.