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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 01:43 AM Thread Starter
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Where do I start?

To get to the point... I have had a very fortunate life and I now have the ability to do what I always wanted...start a charity.

I currently have a 3 year old GSD that comes from an excellent bloodline. I have trained him myself and I really enjoy working with him. People often compliment me on his behavior, but I am not sure if it is my work as his trainer or just that I have a fantastic dog.

Perhaps I am dreaming, but my wife and I would like to start a charity that trains service dogs and provides them at absolutely zero cost to people who are truly in need. I love GSD's and I love helping people so it only seems natural. I know it takes an exceptional trainer and exceptional dogs to make this happen. So my question is...Where do I start? Where can I find out if I have what it takes to train reliable dogs? Do you know of anywhere I could take on an internship and learn from the ground up?

I guess my question is...how do trainers of service dogs get into the business they are in?

Thank you all very much in advance. I look forward to your insight.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 02:31 AM
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Have you trained a working dog before?

Have you titled a working dog before?

Training a dog for service work is not the same as training a pet dog. You must be able to pick out a suitable candidate by knowing how to evaluate a dog.

Have you any experience working with people with disabilities? Unless you know their needs and why they have these needs you will not fully understand what you need to teach their dog.

You will also need to know and understand Federal, your state, and your local laws on dogs in general and on SDs.

To start a charitable organization you will need to learn how to form a non-profit in your state and then how to become a 501(c)(3) Public Charity with the IRS.

Have you ever taken any business classes or ran a business of your own before? While there are many differences between a not for profit and a for profit business there are also many business practices which they have in common.

Do you have start up funds? Do you believe that you will be able to handle fundraising in the future? Do you have any background in grant writing?

Purchasing, training, vet care, food costs, sheltering, and all the other costs will be high. The average SD takes 18-24 months to prepare for a PWD. If you are lucky you will have some nice SD prospects donated, be able to get the support of some faithful donors, and have some skilled volunteers willing to help you.

*******************************

None of the above need to be answered of course but I post them to give you a general overall view of some of the things that you will face.

You are looking at basically two different careers to learn here. That of SD trainer and that of a founder of a new business.

Quote:
how do trainers of service dogs get into the business they are in?
The better ones begin by working under a good SD trainer or training facility. If you have an organization such as Seeing Eye of NJ or Southeastern Guide Dogs etc. in your area those would be a good choice.

You can go very far by having the basic desire but to learn the skills needed you will also have to put in years of hard dedicated work to put together a solid foundation.

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Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 05:14 AM Thread Starter
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I have been fortunate enough in life to have started several successful businesses. Perhaps "charity" is the wrong word for my intentions as I do not plan on seeking funding or grants. This would be an outlet for me to stay busy in life and to give back to others who are less fortunate. I will handle all funding/expenses of this venture so raising capital is not a concern.

While I have never trained a working dog personally, I have friends with several shultzhund ranked dogs so I understand the demands of training such a dog. Through them, I realize it is critical in receiving proper training from the start.

It sounds like perhaps approaching a charity is my best bet in seeking training. At the very least, it sounds like they could point me in the right direction in regards to seeking further training.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 08:49 AM
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I think the best place to start is to team up with a local organization already doing this for proper guidance on what is required to train these dogs. Then actually try it! I don't think anyone can say if you are or are not capable of doing this until you actually attempt it from start to finish.

Learn the ropes and figure out if you can do it or if you will merely be the financial backer for the project.

I would say to start with, find out what it costs an organization like that to train a dog from start to finish (when the dog goes into the home, and if they continue support for a year or two) and donate that amount to the dog you are attempting to train.

I definitely think it's great to give back and there are lots of different ways to do that. The most important aspect for the project you are talking about is to ensure that if you are the one that wants to do the selection, training, and care of these potential SD's that you are actually capable of it. Some people have the gift and some people don't, no matter how much they want to help out!

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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 09:03 AM
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Please be very careful when picking someone to give you guidance. There are "SD trainers" and organizations in every state and in practically in every general area. But the hard part is to really find one that knows what they are doing and that end up with a fully trained dog that is suitable to both mitigate the handler's disability and be of correct behavior to be worked in the public.

Good luck, we need more people with a desire to make a difference and the willingness to do it correctly.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
Family Companion, Non-Profit Mascot, In-Home Service Dog


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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 09:56 AM
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Good for you. After reading the post about the service dog that attacked a store employee you will really make a difference by doing it right, with the right dog.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 01:17 PM
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Hi James...Wow, what a fantastic venture this sounds like!

ILGHAUS posed some very important questions and necessary factors to consider before you jump into this....this is a great place to come because you are tapping into some very knowledgeable people and a diverse range of them...you will get a lot of great suggestions and ideas.

I am a service dog trainer and I have worked for several organizations over the years, some bigger...some on the small side. One of them that I worked for sounds very much like what you want to do. It was funded solely by one person who, like yourself, was fortunate in life and work and wanted to give back. Here is how the organization ran:

1. There was a board of directors that were appointed in order to help make decisions...these people were picked for specific reasons, but they all had an interest in dogs/service dogs/charitable causes.

2. The person that "funded" the organization did not do ANY of the training...he loved dogs, but also realized that it takes YEARS to become a knowledgeable and PRODUCTIVE SD trainer and he had SO much on his hands as it was...so, he hired trainers that have a track record of producing well-trained service dogs.

3. There was a separate secretary that handled all of the "paperwork"...THERE IS A LOT OF PAPERWORK involved! She processed client applications, donations, etc.

4. There was another person that handled volunteer services and fundraising. A non-profit will die without volunteers and people that are dedicated to the "cause". Even if you don't necessarily need "fundraising"...you will need to generate interest and excitement about your services...and a lot of the time people DO want to give and this will help you stay "relevant".

5. The service dogs were given at no charge to the client. The client did, though, have to abide by a contract that says they will attend maintenance training sessions and provide for the dogs nutritional, exercise, grooming and veterinarian needs.

6. We found a vet willing to donate their services for the life of the service dogs, so if the client lived near this veterinarian, they got the vet costs at no charge as well.

*** You also need to get a GOOD lawyer, decide what types of SD you will train (you can't/won't train them "all"), decide what types of dogs you will use and where you will get them from, and last but not least, you will need to figure out "where" your organization will be "housed"....will you buy property and build a training facility and kennels, buy an old warehouse and rehab it....etc, etc.?

LOL...so, as ILGHAUS mentioned this is a HUGE undertaking...I too suggest mentoring/volunteering under an already established organization in order to start understanding the intricate process of not only training service dogs and counseling/working with people with disabilities, but running an organization that does. You might find that taking on an entire organization might be too much...you may want to start out by donating your money to one that you like and possibly being on the board of directors, etc.

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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 02:20 PM
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Lots of good advice here and I do not know anything of this area, but I would just caution about giving the dog away free of charge to people requiring a service dog. I am afraid that sometimes it is better for people to provide something, work for something in order to cherish it and make it their business to care for it properly.

If someone has such a need as not being able to cover the cost of the dog. At least the cost of a working-line pup, which gives nothing for the years of training and maintenance, than how will they pay for the dog's food and veterinary care?

Also, I think that if they work for it, want it bad enough, they will be more likely to continue the work you have begun with the dog.

And, even the poorest people feel more empowered when they purchase/earn something rather than are given something.

Just something to think about.

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 11:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JamesBahn View Post
While I have never trained a working dog personally, I have friends with several shultzhund ranked dogs so I understand the demands of training such a dog. Through them, I realize it is critical in receiving proper training from the start.

It sounds like perhaps approaching a charity is my best bet in seeking training. At the very least, it sounds like they could point me in the right direction in regards to seeking further training.
I wanted to say that training a service dog is COMPLETELY different than other types of working dogs. When training, the foundation you build is extremely important for high level dogs. Schutzhund, service work, etc all have differences in the basics that you work on at the earliest stages. What behaviors you want to encourage, discourage, what types of training methods you use.

I have an owner trained service dog. Before I began training her for service work, I had done extensive obedience training with her and multiple trainers. I worked with some who did competition obedience, and some that did schutzhund. As the service training progressed, I learned TONS about the "wrong" and "right" things I had done early. I blessed with an amazing dog, and if Tessa hadn't been so amazing I don't think it would have worked out.

Now I'm currently training who I hope will be her replacement. I'm doing a LOT of things differently as I've learned in the process. But you don't have that luxury when you're training for someone else. Who ends up with the dog may have never had a dog before, know nothing about dog training. Most people need extensive training just on how to maintain the training you've done. If you make a mistake, its not you that will be paying for it but the disabled individual partnered with the dog.

I'm with the others that your best bet is to start out volunteering for a reputable organization. You might try the forums at Service Dog Central and ask for recommendations of reputable organizations in your area. Like all things in life, not all of them are reputable. Some are even well known for placing poorly trained dogs. So its important to know you're with an organization that is going to teach you what you want to learn.


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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-29-2011, 11:45 PM Thread Starter
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I had no doubt that posting my intentions on this forum would lead to some very valuable advice and that is exactly what all of you have provided me. I thank you all very much.

It seems clean that my best bet is to focus on foundations that are currently up and running to seek training as a trainer. As I continue my investigation, I imagine I will post my progress on the forum and hope that perhaps you guys can give me more specific advice as I continue on this journey.

One last question for the people who currently train SD. Overall, how rewarding do you find your work?
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