April is the month of the military child, and children hold a special place in our hearts here at Guardian Angels. Many of our recipients suffer from PTS, and as a result, their children can be impacted by Intergenerational PTS. (more…)
The volunteers at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs are critically important. In fact, when I first started the organization, there was little to no funding. Therefore, I depended a lot on what volunteers were willing to do and capable of doing for me. They were a huge asset in many capacities, such as writing thank you notes, helping with cleaning and feeding the dogs, etc. Some of them even became our volunteer founding board members that are still with our organization today. (more…)
Robert Brown, an Army veteran, and Guardian Angels volunteer, has worked with the organization for almost three years in a variety of capacities. (more…)
Sarah, a Military Sexual Trauma survivor, served in the Army from 2005 to 2007. Sarah had an accident, falling from a height of about 19 feet. During this time, she requested compassionate reassignment due to her husband at the time being ill. After her husband passed away, she got out of the military. “I stayed basically locked in my house, failing to adapt to civilian life,” Sarah said. (more…)
Exercise is a crucial part of the physical and mental health of your dog. When exercising with your dog, safety is key to preventing injury or long-term physical issues. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we’ve put together some tips for safely exercising your dog, providing them with physical and mental enrichment.
Why is Exercise Important for a Service Dog?
Exercise is important for all dogs – especially service dogs. Since these dogs are working every day, they need mental and physical down time just like people. It keeps them in shape and allows them to release any excess energy they may have. We all need a way to have fun, be physically and mentally fit, so some well thought out, safe exercises are the answer. When receiving a service dog, it’s important to prepare your home including scheduling time for exercise.
Most of our dogs and lots of pet dogs love for their human to throw a ball. This is a great way to exercise your dog, and you too! Everyone loves seeing how athletic their dog can be by jumping up in the air to catch a ball, but when throwing their ball or other toy, only throw it low and straight away from you. Jumping up isn’t so bad, but the landing puts tremendous impact on their muscles and joints. They can tear ligaments or have long term joint inflammation that leads to early, crippling arthritis. If you truly love your dog, then respect him by practicing this exercise correctly so your dog won’t injure themselves by jumping up.
Depending on the disability of our recipients, there are also automatic ball launchers that can be used in place of throwing the ball for their service dog. You can teach the dog to drop the ball right into it and it will launch back out providing entertainment for your dog. Regardless of your ability to interact with your dog physically, you should always be with him while playing to further your bond.
Build a Confidence Course
For a more imaginative activity, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs builds confidence courses for our service dogs. These are both a physical and mental release for the dog while also serving as a team building exercise between the dog and handler or recipient.
To put these courses together, we build different platforms, steps, sway bridges, tunnels, wobble tables, tunnels and tires. It’s best to build them just a foot or two off the ground to be sure they stay safe if they jump off. These courses are only limited by your imagination. You can switch it up, go at it forward and backwards, etc. Just have fun while building your bond.
With a confidence course, you will need to go slowly at first, allowing the dog to ease into it. We do everything with positive reinforcement, helping them to find their comfort zone. These courses are great exercise for both the dog and the recipient.
Practice Obedience Drills
In addition to throwing a ball or using a confidence course, you can also go through the dog’s obedience such as sit, down, heal, recalls, etc. Practicing their obedience training with positive reinforcement is a great way to keep their skills sharp, exercise them physically and mentally, while also helping you and your dog learn to work well together. Bonding with your service dog is a crucial part of your relationship with them. If you are making it fun, they will always enjoy working for you. It is also a crucial part of being a pet owner in general.
Play Time Activities to Avoid
You never want to encourage your dog to jump or lunge for a treat or a toy. When you do this, you are teaching them to jump on the person holding the toy or treat. If the dog is big, then they could knock the person over or scratch them. They could also accidentally catch your hand or fingers with a tooth which never feels good. This type of activity is not proper communication with your pet because you are telling him/her that it’s okay to jump on people sometimes, but then in other cases, jumping won’t be allowed – very confusing messaging to the dog.
If the dog just came in with muddy feet and jumps on you right before you’re all dressed up about to go out, then you’re going to be mad at the dog for jumping when you are the one who taught them to jump on you in the first place. For many reasons, we strongly advise against teaching them to jump or lunge like this when playing.
As explained above, you don’t want to launch toys up in the air for them to catch. While dogs are fabulous athletes and we enjoy seeing them demonstrate their abilities, dogs do not realize that they can become injured from jumping into the air and hitting the ground. When they jump up like this, they can tear their equivalent to their ACL. It can also put tremendous impact on their joints, which can shorten their working life.
Always be aware of the temperature when you are playing outside. If it is too hot, only throw the ball 4-5 times. Many dogs are so ball driven that they would continue to catch the ball until they fall over with a heat stroke. If it is snowy and freezing weather, be sure to bring them in after a few minutes of playing so they can warm up their feet and toes again.
Want to Learn More About Service Dog Exercises? Contact us Today!
At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we are proud to serve as a service dog non-profit where we have helped hundreds of recipients regain their lives. We are dedicated to providing our service dogs with the best training and care. Contact us today to learn more or see if you are eligible for a service dog!
Guardian Angels is proud to partner with The Colorado Technical University Patriot Scholarship program.
This “Best for Vets” winning program provides full tuition degree programs to our active-duty service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers, including non-medical attendants of a service member living with a service-connected disability.
Each year, the Patriot Scholarship provides 50 full scholarships to deserving recipients. These scholarships include: full tuition to any CTU degree program, a new laptop computer, all course books, in hard copy or electronic format, a dedicated student success coach as well as specially trained military education advisors, 24/7 technical support and tutoring is available, and recipients of the scholarship have the option to study online or at one of CTU’s campuses.
The application period opens this year on March 1, and you can apply online through June 30th. Recipients of the scholarship will be announced on November 10th, with courses beginning in January and February of 2024.
To apply, visit: coloradotech.edu/CTUPatriot
Natalie C. Vines, Lieutenant Colonel (Medically Retired), is a Texas native who grew up and attended High School in Plano, Texas, and excelled in band, softball, basketball, and soccer. Natalie is paired with her service dog Bugg through Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs. (more…)