At PAALS each puppy is nurtured with love, trained by professionals and partnered with passion on each step of the journey from puppy to PAALS Service Dog.
PAALS service dogs help improve the life of their client. While in training, they also provide education and enjoyment to hundreds of individuals in the community and to our volunteers.
It takes two years, over $25,000 and hundreds of volunteer and staff hours to train a PAALS service dog.
PAALS receives no government or insurance funding. We are totally dependent on the generosity of our donors and volunteers.
The Journey from Puppy to PAALS
All new puppies go through a two week quarantine period to ensure they don’t have a disease that could infect other PAALS puppies or dogs.
New puppies are placed in an environment where they are surrounded by unusual noises, people and objects to begin their training journey.
Usually PAALS starts training a puppy at eight weeks of age after an initial temperament test is conducted and shows the puppy has assistance dog qualities such as interest in retrieving, self-control around other animals, smells, and people, and good tugging abilities.
If progress is not detected the Executive Director may choose to put this puppy on the career change path or release him to another appropriate working role such as search and rescue.
For puppies who continue in the program training sessions to teach obedience and basic task related skills are conducted daily during this time.
Puppies also begin their time with a weekend foster to broaden their experience with different people and surroundings.
From 6 to 9 months, the task training broadens and obedience training continues with a wider variety of commands and tasks.
The puppy begins to take place in more demanding outings such as Summer PAALS and Reading PAALS as well public excursions to increase familiarity and confidence in a wide variety of situations and challenges — such as seeing other animals at the zoo.
At this time, the journey has a fork in the road. Puppies passing the both assessments continue on a service dog journey. Those who do not pass the assessments start on a career change path.
The puppy also takes part in community presentations demonstrating what service dogs can do and educating about the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The puppy may also travel to conferences to learn plane/train ride behaviors as well as “public proofing” at the ADI Trainers workshop.
During this period, each puppy is introduced to several different clients in waiting and a match is made with a specific client. It is often the case that the puppy chooses the client more so that the client choosing a puppy!
Once a match is made, the puppy is trained on tasks necessary to support their specific client.
After graduation, we follow up with our dogs and clients for the life of the team. Clients sign a contract agreeing to maintain the dog’s health and wellness and PAALS staff provides follow-up training and support for all of our alumni. Each team is required to re-certify annually.
(Click on the picture for a short video of Mary and Dapper at team training.)
A puppy may change career paths for many different reasons.
- Hip and elbows X-rays show that the dog may not be strong enough for a working role
- Temperament problems demonstrate that a dog is too shy, too aggressive or too protective
- Skin allergies develop which can be too big a problem to be handled by a person with a disability
- The dog has difficulties with the stress of the kennel or public work
While these dogs may not qualify for service work, they can still provide a well-trained companion as a Career Change dog in our Veterans Important PAALS program, our Pets With a Purpose program or as a Public adoption dog.