The South Dakota Service Dog Process
South Dakota Service Dogs will provide service dogs to meet the specific needs of each veteran. In order to do this, we have devised a two-part approach. Each veteran is different and has a specific need for a dog to perform tasks to meet their daily needs, increasing their quality of life. We have found that some veterans find themselves in a very urgent place needing a service animal to help them deal with the mental and emotional tolls that come with PTS. These candidates would be placed in our "Rapid Rescue" program. The Rapid Rescue program will pair a shelter dog with a veteran. The dogs will be paired based on temperament, size, and activity level. The goal is to make this the best, and longest-lasting relationship the pair will have. Once pairing and bonding have been completed, the team will enter into a 25-week training course meeting with our staff members twice a week for training and evaluation. Each week the pair will be given assignments to work on at home integrating the new handler into the training process. At the end of the training program, the pair will go through an evaluation before certification. Once Certified the pair will be required to do quarterly evaluations for the first year to ensure the team is maintaining the highest level of training.
Veterans who have more complex cases or need a multi-use service dog will be placed into our Planned partnership program. This program will partner a young dog who has been trained specifically for that veteran. This process is done with little involvement from the Veteran until it is time to partner the two together. This form of training can take over a year of preparation training the dog for the specific veteran.
When the dog meets the training expectations, the handler will be brought in and go through the commands with the trainer. The length of this training depends on the handler's ability to adapt to the dog and his commands vs. the flexibility of the Rapid Rescue program. This team will also go through certification before graduation from the program. Follow-up with training will occur, but will be less structured than the Rapid Rescue program, and may even be on a as needed basis.