Each and every service dog that is trained through our Lead Dog Service Dog Program and Michele Forto and her team has an individualized training plan. We train for autistic, mobility, psychiatric and PTSD (for our soldiers) for service work. In each case, the needs of the individual are met and training of each dog is specialized for their handler’s specific needs. It takes approximately two years to train a service dog and takes a tremendous amount of patience, handling and work from everyone involved, including the family members of the service dog recipient. While on occasion we train a dog you already have, we have found over the years that there are several breeds that work better than others but we are very rigorous in our training program and many of the dogs that enter into the owner trained program do not graduate.
We have found that German Shepherds make good service dog candidates for autistic, psychiatric and mobility service dogs because of their temperament and protective tendencies. German Shepherds have been used for hundreds of years as service dogs and have proven bloodlines. We have found Labradors to be well suited for service work as well. Most of our current service dogs are Labs and we have found a local breeder that provides us with excellent service dog candidates.
Our program is much different than others around the country. In our more than 20 years we have developed a program that works best for the needs of our clients. We have different program outlines in place to best-fit individual needs; we sometimes utilize puppy raisers. We offer a program where warriors help other warriors and a brand new program that we are calling ‘The Pack’ where we work with college students to provide them with a unique opportunity to raise service dogs. We have scholarships available for our soldiers and others on an as needed basis.
Our program works on a semester system. It takes approximately six semesters to fully train and certify one of our service dogs. Each semester is about four months in length and during that semester you will be working with our team in private lessons and public outings. At the end of each semester the dogs are tested and moved to the next phase of the training program.
Lead Dog Service Dogs makes sure that each of our dogs is healthy and has the right temperament to be a service dog. We use specifically bred dogs that come from our breeding contacts from around the country. If necessary, we will travel to our breeders and travel with the dog back to Alaska to begin the training program. Each dog is specially trained for specific tasks according to their partner’s needs.
To apply for a service dog, please begin by reviewing our application process. Once you are accepted into our program we will begin to match a dog that will meet your needs. Once we have found the right dog we will travel (if necessary) to pick him/her up and the training will begin. After you have been matched with your dog and the transition process is complete, we begin training with you and this is where you will learn how to work as a team. We provide follow-up lessons on a regular and as-needed basis, and all of our working dogs must pass annual recertification. We make every effort to ensure that our dogs continue to do the job they were trained to do.
If you would like more information we encourage you to take a look at our application process.