Saint Francis Service Dogs 2022 Annual Report
Behind the Scenes A Closer Look at the Training House
As you come up the winding drive of our beautiful 18-acre facility, one of the first things you see is a small house where big things happen. Inside the walls of our Saint Francis Training House and under the watchful eyes of our expert trainers, our dogs learn all the commands and tasks they need to know to be placed as a faithful partner to the people we serve. “Having an indoor space that allows us to control variables like intensity of distractions as well as a physical environment that supports the tasks we are teaching is critical to our work,” says Saint Francis Training Program Manager, Tiffany Moeltner. Inside the front door of this special structure is a large room with mirrored walls that help the trainers perfect and teach stationary and moving position work. Equipment like wheelchairs, rollators, walkers and crutches are within easy reach as our dogs are taught how to handle the multitude of real-life situations they may encounter as a service animal. Staff trainer Debbie Clifton says, “I use every inch of this house for training. All of the dogs’ tasks can be taught in the training house and then can be taken out into other practical settings.” The kitchen, bathroom, and even the doorways throughout the house serve an important purpose. A tug rope
on the refrigerator allows dogs to practice the command “refrigerator” that could be used to retrieve medicine for their future partners. The task “bump” is learned as dogs close cabinet doors and drawers. Doors and doorways help teach “tug” and “go ahead.” All of this is eventually put together as our dogs in training learn to understand the sequencing of commands just like a partner would use in their own home. “This training space is so helpful in supporting our dogs being able to generalize these skills in a new household,” says Tiffany. Along with giving the dogs in Advanced Training a “home” to learn in, the house serves many other purposes. It is the space currently used for our weekly puppy class for the littlest ones just beginning their journeys. Our advanced trainers meet weekly at the house as well, where they share challenges, ideas and techniques. All of our dogs’ observations and testing take place in the training house, giving them a familiar place to hone their skills. The attached kennels and fenced in fields also serve as a haven for the dogs that live at Saint Francis during their training. All of this combines to make this small space a very big part of what we do!
To see video of how the training house is used, scan the code now!
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