Medical Service Dog Pairing by Guardian Angels

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs pairs dogs with recipients using a thorough approach to ensure the recipient is paired with the service dog that will best meet their needs. We aim to provide a successful, lifelong match between the service dog and the recipient.

Initial Application Process

The process begins with an application form, which collects important information about the potential recipient. This includes medical diagnosis, lifestyle, and specific tasks needed from a service dog. Our Recipient Relations Department carefully reviews each application. We will go through the application question by question with you to ensure that we learn everything about your environment and your needs.

The application includes various questions such as if you have other animals and/or small children in the home, your hobbies and interests, how active the applicant is, whether you work or enjoy recreational activities, and more. This allows us to determine the right match for each recipient. For example, if you work around heavy machinery or enjoy going to the gun range, we would avoid pairing you with a dog afraid of loud noises.

Our service dogs are trained to work appropriately in public, but that doesn’t mean they can regularly cohabitate with small children or other animals. Some dogs are perfectly fine with other animals or children, so we must fully understand your lifestyle and environment to ensure we pair you with the right dog.

We also ask if you plan to start traveling, hiking, walking, or running again or have plans to begin a new hobby or venture, such as boating. Your honesty and transparency during the application process help us to ensure we find the right dog with the right energy level to help mitigate your disability and also so we can find the right dog to become a seamless part of your everyday life and environment now and in the future as your life changes.

Without this detailed information, a service dog could be placed in a home or environment where they are experiencing tension or other distractions that could affect their ability to alert or assist you.

Once the application is accepted, the next step is to conduct in-person interviews and assessments. This allows us to get to know the individual better and understand their unique needs. We also conduct a thorough evaluation of potential service dogs to ensure they have the necessary temperament and skills for the specific tasks the recipient needs.

How Our Dogs Are Trained: The Basics

Our dogs are trained through an expertly crafted proprietary program where we evaluate them at each stage. This training lasts about 15 months, allowing us to learn what the dog likes to do. We work on desensitizing the dogs to common distractions they can experience in public, but we will not force our dogs to do anything they don’t want to do. We work to ensure they are properly socialized and desensitized to common situations so the dogs are prepared for most everyday occurrences.

We also test the dogs with children through our Puppy Huggers program. These are members of the community who come on Saturday mornings to help us further socialize the dogs. This allows us to determine if the dogs want to play with children or if they are uninterested or avoid children. Throughout our entire training process, we observe the dogs closely through their behavior and body language to see what works best for them and what doesn’t work for them.

After the Application Process: The Waiting List

Once you’ve completed the application process and we deem you an appropriate potential recipient with needs that we can teach a service dog to meet, then you will be placed on the waiting list as long as your environment meets all of our required criteria for the service dog to be in a proper working situation.

The time spent on the waiting list can vary depending on how many other people are on the list and how long it takes us to ensure we have the right service dog for you. A range of variables that affect the wait time are taken into consideration, but in most cases, we try to keep the wait to less than a year.

Zoom Calls and Recipient Training

We will begin orientations with you over Zoom as we get closer to pairing you with your service dog. During these sessions, you will begin to learn the expectations in place for you as the recipient. It’s important to understand that when you are paired with a service dog, you are 50% of a team. Learning and practicing these expectations long-term is crucial to ensure your training on our campus goes smoothly and that your time as a team with your service dog is productive for both of you. It takes work on our end and on yours to ensure your team’s success. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we work to provide our recipients a “hand up,” not a “hand out,” so we do expect you to listen to our guidance, rules, and protocols.

Once a match has been made, our team begins training for both the recipient and service dog. This includes teaching the recipient how to give commands and recognize alerts from the dog, and educating them on proper care and handling of their new partner.

Depending on your specific needs, you will provide us with scent samples. We will provide you with a packet of information on collecting these and sending them back to us. We’ll use these samples to train the service dog to ensure they recognize the scent to alert to. Once completed, you will receive a phone call with about a month’s notice to schedule your in-person training and orientation at our campus.

We’ll schedule your travel arrangements, and you will come to our campus for ten days.

After Pairing and Beyond

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we are always here to help. We check our teams quarterly and re-test the service dog annually to ensure you have all the necessary resources and information to succeed.

We also provide reference guides and videos to ensure you have a resource you can refer to whenever needed. Additionally, a trainer is available during working hours, so you can call to ask questions. Our veterinary team is available 24/7 for an emergency or a medical concern with the service dog.

We will offer you every bit of support you could ever imagine, but you have to play your role in the team by following our expert guidance and protocols. Without this structure, you can quickly untrain your service dog. Without regular practice, the service dog can become complacent with their skills and alerts, leading to issues of how they assist you in your daily life.

Visit our Service Dog Application page today to learn more

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