Next Step Service Dogs has new dogs in training!
Meet Sammy, a one-year-old Standard Poodle, as he waits patiently for a command from trainer and founder of Next Step Service Dogs, Sally Montrucchio. Notice how focused he is on his handler’s face. Next Step dogs are taught the command “here,” which means that the dog comes close to the handler and looks up at the handler’s face. This leads to the behavior of “automatic check-in,” which means that every so often, whether or not the dog is actively involved in performing tasks, the dog looks into the eyes of the handler. Automatic check-ins insure that the dog will look up at the handler’s face to see what the handler is doing at the time and to determine if the handler is expecting the dog to perform any tasks.
This is Stickers, a Labrador Retriever, demonstrating how relaxed he can be during a command to “chill.” All the Next Step dogs know when they are getting ready to work, because they learn to “get dressed,” which means that they don their head or chest harness and service dog vest, designating them as a service dog in training or a certified service dog.
Stickers is actually the pet dog of an active duty service member who has requested that Next Step train Stickers to be a service dog. Next Step will train veterans’ or active duty service members’ pet dogs to be service dogs, provided the dogs pass the prerequisite breed, age and temperament tests.
And this is Ringo, a young German Shepherd, being temperament tested by Sally for affection, to make sure he will be suitable for becoming a service dog. Affection towards humans is only one of many qualities the temperament test that Next Step uses to evaluate its dogs.
As you might imagine, Ringo passed his temperament test with flying colors, and he is now an integral part of the 2014 training program.
Now we see Wendy, a mixed-breed dog, who was surrendered by her military family when they could no longer care for her. Here she is seen learning how to negotiate an escalator, which is initially intimidating for a dog, but with an experienced handler, such as Sally Montrucchio, the event becomes just another day in the life of a Next Step dog.
Dogs in the Next Step program are always evaluated on a day-to-day, case-by-case basis, so that each dog is given many opportunities to succeed as a service dog. Training dogs to enjoy learning, think creatively, and thrive on working are important tenets of Next Step Service Dogs. This philosophy creates happy, healthy and intelligent dogs for veterans and active duty service members in their pursuit of leading successful lives, in spite of PTSD.
Even Sammy, as he learns the command, “speak,” can attest to how excited and happy he is to be a part of this program!
We hope you can be as happy and excited about this program as Sammy seems to be! Please feel free to contact us or let us know in the comments what you think!