That’s right! Big or small, shaggy or sleek, fast or slow, every dog has the makings of a hero. That’s the message from Jennifer Arnold, founder and executive director of Canine Assistants, an organization that trains service dogs. Arnold was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 16 and had trouble obtaining a four-footed helper because the demand was so much greater than the supply. With the support of her mother, she founded the non-profit Canine Assistants, in Milton, Georgia, in 1991. Today, the organization places between 75 to 100 dogs a year.
Since 1997, Milk-Bone has sponsored the school through a portion of the proceeds from the sales of every box of the popular treat.
Training at Arnold's school is geared toward using the remarkable canine brain, heart, and, body to help the disabled. But, Arnold points out, every dog has the potential to be a hero. Here are some of her tips for bringing out the best in your canine pals.
- Teach Don’t Train: While most dog owners make the mistake of conditioning their dog to do a certain behavior when cued, Canine Assistants dogs are taught to think for themselves.
- Find the Fun: Canine Assistants teachers play fetch, hide-n-seek, or tug-of-war with their dogs — letting them both win AND lose — to keep the dogs happy and responsive to their handlers.
- Speak “Dog”: Canine Assistants teachers know to listen carefully for changes in a dog's bark. Subtle changes could mean the difference between a bathroom break or a life-and-death emergency.
- Champion a Choice: Canine Assistants hero dogs will choose to let themselves get brushed or be given a bath because association with treats makes these actions desirable for them.
- Focus on Focusing: Just as Canine Assistants hero dogs exercise their cognitive skills by learning to identify new toys by name, you can develop your dog's cognitive prowess with games and exercises designed for mental stimulation.
Find a dog trainer near your location and take the Canine Good Citizen test for your dog.