Service dog summer school looking for volunteers


[Dave Miller]

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Posted May 12, 2022 | By Ocala Gazette Staff

Patriot Service Dogs (PSD) is looking for volunteers to host service dog puppies in training over the summer for “Service Dog Summer School,” according to a May 3 press release. PSD will provide fun training opportunities and support, while volunteers will get the chance to help change the life of a disabled veteran.

Volunteers will take home a six- to eight-month-old puppy from June 15 to August 15 and help expose them to the human world, the release explained. The pups already know over 20 commands, sleep through the night and are housebroken.

PSD is a local organization based in Marion County that has been helping veterans get the highly trained service dogs they need since 2009. To date, PSD has placed 50 fully trained service dogs with veterans without ever charging them a penny.

Dogs involved in the PSD program spend two years in training before they are carefully matched with a veteran applicant. Most of those two years are spent training with incarcerated women in the WOOF Program (Women Offering Obedience and Friendship) at the Lowell Correctional Facility in Marion County.

While the women are excellent service dog trainers, said program officials, they cannot expose the puppies in training to the world they will have to work in to help a veteran—that’s where volunteers come in.

Volunteer puppy raisers host PSD’s future service dogs in their homes and expose them to things they never see or hear in prison: children, vacuum cleaners, kitchen floors, grocery carts, etc.

The Service Dog Summer School program offers volunteers the opportunity to host a puppy for two months with the full support of PSD, who provides food, a kennel and necessary gear—bowl, leash, service dog vest—as well as expert training and on-call advice (and a PSD t-shirt).

They will also host an “End of Summer School” graduation party with two tickets to the Class of 2024 graduation and an exposure scavenger hunt to help guide training.

Volunteers must follow all PSD rules (e.g., no human food, no harsh corrections, no letting dogs on furniture), attend 1 hour training sessions in the Ocala area every other week, answer check-in phone calls on off weeks and complete puppy evaluations.

To apply, fill out the PSD volunteer application form by visiting www.patriotservicedogs.org/psds-service-dog-summer-school/ and clicking the appropriate link under “How To Apply.”