The puppies and dogs that become Fidos’ Assistance Dogs are donated by outstanding shelters and an extraordinary group of breeders. These puppies are tested for their temperament and ability.
A Puppy Raiser is a volunteer who provides a home and basic training for a new puppy in the Fidos For Freedom, Inc. Assistance Dog Training Program. During the first year of training, a Puppy Raiser attends weekly classes at the Fidos Training Center to learn how to socialize the puppy and to teach it good household manners, proper public behavior, crate training, housebreaking, and how to eliminate on command.
A Puppy Raiser takes the puppy to the Fidos Training Center regularly for basic obedience and to veterinary appointments; exposes it to various sights, sounds and different populations of people; and teaches the puppy how to walk on various surfaces. A puppy remains in the Puppy Raiser’s home for about 9 - 12 months before it enters the next phase of its training. This time provides the puppy with a chance to enjoy puppyhood, to master all of the commands it needs to know, and to reach the confidence and maturity level that Fidos requires for the puppy to become a valued helpmate and companion for a person who is disabled.
Once it is determined that the puppy is ready to enter into the next phase of the training program, the puppy will enter the Prison Program
Fidos For Freedom has a “partnership” with a federal prison. Under a Memorandum of Understanding, Fidos has placed dogs in the minimum security men’s prison in Cumberland, MD.
In prison, the dogs live with the inmates in the housing units. The dogs are learning:
Advanced skills like:
- How to retrieve
- How to open doors
- How to turn on light switches
All of this is in preparation for the dogs to come home, get their training skills honed, and work with clients, aiding their independence.
The dogs have made a big difference at the prison, putting smiles on people’s faces and offering unconditional love. The inmates also take a correspondence class that earns them a certificate of learning. The class teaches them many aspects of dog care and obedience. The inmates returning to the program for a second year take a dog grooming class. Every two weeks Fidos volunteer trainers drive from Laurel to Cumberland to work with the inmates and teach them how to train the dogs. It is a long day, but always rewarding.
Once a dog in training has mastered certain skills and a client has completed at least 60 hours of training among other things. A ‘matching’ takes place. A special committee within Fidos will match a client and dog depending on what the skills of the dog are and needs of the client are. The committee will make the best match possible for all concerned. Once the ‘matching’ takes place the second phase of training begins for the client.
The training staff carefully evaluates both the clients who are training for dogs, their specific needs, and the dogs who are in training. When the client’s needs and the dog’s size and skills match up, we have a match.
This is an exciting time, but also a time for a lot of work on the part of the trainer, the client, and the dog. The trainer works with the client and dog to customize the dog’s skills to the needs to the client. The dog starts spending time at the client’s home, in their place of business, and other places the client frequents. The client’s family is involved in the training also as needed. When the team is ready, they take several tests. One is the Assistance Dogs International public access test to show they are ready and safe to work in public. They also take and must pass the skills test to show that they can utilize their dog’s skills safely and effectively. We also test the clients on their knowledge about the health of the dog, proper handling, feeding and weight management, grooming, and providing the proper veterinary care for their dog. The clients are taught how to teach their new partner additional skills they may need down the road.
Fidos For Freedom, Inc. and especially the clients of Fidos would like to thank the Breeders who donate their special dogs to Fidos to become Assistance Dogs. Because of these Breeders our clients have been able to live their lives independently with one of the greatest gifts of all: their Assistance Dog! Thank You!
If you’d like to donate a puppy to become a Fidos service dog, please contact Puppies@fidosfrofreedom.org.
Fidos assistance dogs are always on the job! See our Working Teams.