Deciding on whether you or someone you know needs a service dog is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life.
Having a professional along the way can help you make the right decisions, at the right times and help you navigate the “service dog maze”. There are a few service dog trainers in Alaska, but none can say, “we have the best, and train the rest!”
At Alaska Dog Works we have been training service dogs for more than a decade. We got our start by training literally hundreds of dogs in various degrees of obedience. Everything from puppy pre-school to advanced competition obedience. In 2003 we were asked to develop a service dog training program in a prison setting and we went about the task of training men to not only become service dog trainers themselves but also the ability to obtain gainful employment once they returned to society. A win-win situation! We taught these men every thing we could about canines–nutrition, animal husbandry, genetics, breed placement and more. Once they passed the course they were placed with a dog to begin training them as service dogs.
In 2006 we opened a training center in Denver, Colorado and even hired two of our past offender-trainers. Aside from our regular obedience clients, we began to develop a service dog training philosophy that is not like any other in the county. Most service dog training organizations/companies have kennels they work with or breed their own dogs that they train and place with clients at a later date, sometimes two years later.
Not us. After a very detailed inquiry process, evaluation and meeting of a potential service dog client, we set to the task of finding the right dog for that person and their needs. It may be a German Shepherd imported from Slovakia, a Labrador from a top-notch Alaskan breeder, a big fuzzy Newfoundland that would make the perfect companion for an autistic child, or even the clients own dog (if they can pass all the tests).
After we find the perfect dog, and yes sometimes adult dogs work just fine, training begins. What sets us apart from the others is that the client and his/her family is involved from day one. Often the service dog in training, often called SIT dogs, stay with us for a period of time then they go home to their family for training then back to us and so forth. This type of training ensues not only a life-long bond that is so important with service dogs but it also allows the recipient to be involved AND make suggestions and decisions that they aren’t able to make with other service dog organizations.
We currently train dogs for medical alert, PTSD, mobility, autistic and psychiatric. We do not train service dogs for seizure alert, diabetic alert, or guide dogs at this time. We work with many military clients and families from all walks of life.
Yes, we are a for profit company. We are this for a couple different reasons. One we are able to work with our clients and develop a financial plan to help pay for their service dog. Most of our clients make affordable monthly payments over the course of a training program. Two, we are allowed to do things our way, not answer to a non-profit board with members that may not know the first thing about service dog training or dogs in general.
Even though we do charge for our services, many of our clients have found creative ways to raise funds, including crowd funding platforms like GoFundMe, bake sales, car washes, etc. Several of our clients have been sucessful in securing full funding from state organizations and even their employers. We can not, however, assist our clients in fundraising for their service dog. To us this in not only a conflict of interest but unethical.
Service dog training is a lot of work, on our part and yours, and we want you to be confident in your decisions. We will do everything possible to ensure a successful transition of a service dog into your life and we will be there every step of the way, from the first day to the last. We hope that you will consider us for your family.
Some of the dogs in training right now in our Lead Dog Service Dog Program:
• Snow. In training for a young man with autism in Anchorage, Alaska.
• Thorr. In training for an adult with cerebral palsy in Sitka, Alaska.
• Cedra. In training for an adult with PTSD in Fairbanks, Alaska.
• Layne. In training for an adult with PTSD in Palmer, Alaska.