COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Brutus, NBC4’s Puppy With A Purpose, is preparing to become a full service assistance dog through Canine Companions.
Now, Canine Companions is providing a behind-the-scenes look at the training dogs go through before they are paired with their future handlers. It’s a process about two years in the making, and the dogs are versed in around 45 different cues.
The first 30 cues are taught by their volunteer puppy raiser, who the dogs live with for the first 18-months of their lives. Those are things like “sit,” “down,” and walking on a leash. Once that first 18-months is up, the dogs are returned back to campus, where the focus shifts to more active working skills.
“They can push close drawers, they can push those automatic door buttons, they can learn to turn on and off light switches,” said Devin Ortiz, the training manager for Canine Companions’ North Central Region.
In addition to the working cues, the trainers are also getting the dogs out into the community, and evaluating their personalities and confidence levels.
“That could be local stores, restaurants, parks, and early on, it starts really basic, we’re just doing some basic obedience things to make sure the dog can work in the setting,” said Ortiz.
The trainers said they treat things like a game for the dogs, which makes them even more eager to learn. Once they master their cues and pass their evaluations, they’re ready for placement with their future handler. It’s a bittersweet reward for those who have been part of the process.
“It really is the best feeling to just see all of that hard work transfer over to a client, and just see a dog that wants to work, is engaged, and they just look up at their client like ‘I can do anything,'” said Ortiz.
Brutus has a couple more months left of more formalized training, and coming up in November, we’ll share a more detailed update on what he has learned so far.