Q: Is there a test that needs to be taken before they are placed?
A: There is not one specific test that us pups need to pass before we become a service dog, but rather our entire time in training is monitored on a continual basis to determine whether or not we stay in the program. Did you know that the National average for dogs-in-training to graduate to service dog is only 50%? That's right, a lot of dogs aren't cut out for the job, but you people can't all be brain surgeons either, right?
There are many factors that are taken into consideration when determining whether or not a dog will become a service dog; physical health, skill level, personality traits, behavioral traits and more. Dogs have been released from the program for various reasons including signs of hip dysplasia, not retrieving items, barking, anxiety in public, etc. A pup can be released anywhere from just a couple months old all the way to just before potential placement, it all depends on the specific situation. Of course it's always a bummer when a pup doesn't graduate to be a service dog, but at WAGS they just look at it as a career change – the pups get adopted by a nice family that WAGS approves and they live a fabulous life as a pet.
There are also cases where the pups might not be able to graduate as a service dog, but they can still help someone by being a home help-mate. Dogs that are placed as home help-mates don't go out in public with their person, they just help them around the house. This is a perfect placement for dogs that are great at their skills, but not the best in public. Additionally, there are many people that need this type of assistance and companionship. There have also been a few dogs from the WAGS program that have moved on to be therapy dogs.
So, while there isn't one test we have to take, we are being evaluated on a regular basis. If issues arise, the trainers do what they can to try to resolve the issue(s) at hand and keep us in the program and on track to graduate. Furthermore, none of us graduate if we don't want to. What do I mean? Well, I, Toula, personally really enjoy ‘working'. It makes me happy to help out Jesi (and hopefully my future person) and it is clear that I like doing what I'm doing. On the other hand, some of my pup friends don't really like it – some of them don't even like to retrieve (I know, hard to believe, right?). We can't be forced to do something we don't want to do, so those are the pups that have a career change. We all have our own destiny and WAGS helps us find our way to the perfect place for each of us to live a happy and fulfilling life!
For more information on the WAGS program or if you're interested in being a volunteer trainer, check out the WAGS website here.
Have a question about what it takes to be a trainer or about service dogs?