Providing service dogs for veterans and first responders with Occupationally-Acquired Injuries.
PTSD/OSI service dogs have hte power to transform lives. They can be trained to awake a client from nightmares, maintain a perimeter when working in public and interupt a client's anxious behavior to redirect it.
The non-judgemental support of a service dog also provides a benefit.
Service Dogs also act as 'ice-breakers' to increase interactions of their handler with members of the public.
These Service Dogs cost between $20,000 - $30,000 to train. They a provided to clients at no cost and clients are not required to fundraise. Minor costs do exist for service dog placement (such as a small appication fee) and are paid by the client.
This can only be done with the support of the community in the form of donations and volunteer puppy raisers.
The current wait time for a PTSD/OSI service dog from Hope Heels is approximately 24m.
Clients are chosen based on the position on the list and the fit with service dogs that become avaliable. Dogs are never placed based on fundraising efforts.
This waiting period is long due to lack of volunteer puppy raisers.
Hope Heels Service Dogs has an extensive process to determine if a client is suitable to be matched with a PTSD/OSI Service Dog. They first submit an application, then have a phone interview. If successful, then an in-person interview and a home visit occurs. Final acceptance onto the waitlist occurs after the home visit and a client can be disqualified at any point during the application process.
There are a number of requirements of clients to be successful in their application. A selection of these include:
- Being in treatment for mental health (minimum 1/m)
- Does not engage in aggressive verbal or physical conflict with people or animals
- Able to meet the husbandry & training needs of the service dog
- Provide a safe and stable home environment
- Having a non-direct family member as a support person to care for the service dog if needed
- Able to leave the house a minimum 3 days/wk for at least 1 hour per day
Hope Heels places service dogs with Albertans who are first responders or veterans with PTSD or other occupationally aquired stress injuries. The process of training the dog to be a service dog takes between 6-18 months, depending on the team.
As a general policy, we do not allow people to use their own pets as service dog candidates.
Our minimum requirements are that the applicant must:
Have a disability that significantly impairs their ability to function in public in a normal fashion
The disability must have been present for a period of at least 6 months or be of a severity to indicate that the disability is not solely temporary or environmentally based
The disability must be able to be assisted, in that the handler is able to respond to an environmental cue (such as being able to be reminded by a person to take their medication or the use of a cane for balance).
Be able to monitor the behaviour of the dog at all times.
Have the cognitive capacity to be able to understand and consistently implement cause-and-effect relationships
Be physically capable for caring for the dog or implementing a system to care for the dog (including stability in the environment)
Disability must be able to be mitigated by the work of a service dog
Not have any history of intentional animal abuse, neglect or cruelty or have violent behaviour that would pose an immediate risk to the safety of the dog or anyone else involved in the program
Have at minimum a moderate support system and the immediate support system must be in support of acquiring a service dog
Be able to adhere to the minimum standards of service dog handlers, as set out by Assistance Dogs International
Be living in a location within 50km of a Hope Heels program or satellite program
Be able to work with us to use positive (often clicker) training and avoid the use of positive (painful) punishment.
It is a requirement of all of our programs that the person with the symptoms must be able to be the primary handler/trainer of the service dog. The person with the disability must be over 18 years of age.
At no point will eligibility be determined based on an applicant’s religion, ethnicity or any other factor governed by the Alberta Human Rights Act.
It is the responsibility of the applicant to prove (and provide evidence if necessary) that they meet these requirements in order to be considered for the program.
If you have a disability, meet our criteria for our programs that are currently accepting applicants, and you think that you would have the capacity to benefit from training a service dog, please contact us for an application.
From time to time Hope Heels has dogs that are in need of a career change. While they may not have what it takes to be a service dog, they make excellent facility or therapy dogs. We place them with professionals that can use their talents to help others.
Canine Assisted Intervention Dogs can have a major positive benefit for the clients. They can reduce stress, improve mood, increase attendence/punctuality and have been shown to cause significant increases in motivation to participate in and work hard at their therapy.
Some CAI dogs are helpful just through being relaxed and having the clients pet them, but many benefits are also shown with using the dogs in active ways during the session to practice skills and work through problems.
Hope Heels asks for a $1,500 donation to our organization to help cover the cost of producing the dog. This is equivilent to purchasing a lower-priced purebred puppy.
Adult CAI dogs recieve the same high level of training as our service dogs, with work at their placement location replacing the standard service dog public access training. If the dog is a fully trained adult when it is placed, then the professional recieves handling training and the dog recieves training specific to their work location. If the dog is younger than 2 years of age, then the professional who will be working with the dog attends the same training classes and works with the same trainers as our service dog program - but with a focus on their CAI work and placement location.
Hope Heels places CAI dogs and CAI dogs in training at any age from 8 weeks old to 2 years of age. The waitlist times vary based on the supply of dogs.
Puppies/CAI dogs in training are able to be in the facility environment for short periods of training and socialization, but they are not official CAI dogs until they can pass the rigerous testing and certification process (usually between 18 and 24 months of age). During this time they must attend regular training classes and follow the instructions of the Hope Heels trainers. Once graduated, CAI dogs have yearly follow ups for the working life of the dog.
The waitlist for a puppy is generally shorter than for an adult dog and the waitlist for a a friendly, happy dog with more energy is shorter than for a calm/quiet/bombproof 'couch potato' type temperament.
To apply for a Canine Assisted Intervention Dog through Hope Heels, please email info@HopeHeels.com
You will need to complete the same application as a puppy raiser (to let us know about the home environment) and you will also need to let us know specifically how you are planning to use the dog in the workplace. This includes who will be handling the dog at the facility, what kinds of hours of work are you expecting, what types of activities are you wanting the dog to participate in and what are the temperament/behavioral expectations you have for the dog.
All CAI dogs must live with their handler.
Suitable placements for CAI dogs include working with Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Recreation Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Nurses, Psychiatric Nurses or by trained para-professional volunteers that work a significant amount of time per week at charities, not-for-profit orgnizations, health clinics or hospitals.
The handler must be able to attend regular training classes and be open to learning how to work with the CAI dog in their professional setting.
What is the difference between a Canine Assisted Intervention Dog and a Therapy dog?
A Therapy Dog is a pet dog owned by a volunteer, who uses the dog to visit people in theraputic environments. Therapy Dogs often have to pass a basic obedience test and have some temperament testing to ensure they have a base level of suitability for the volunteer work they do.
A Canine Assisted Intervention Dog is handled by a professional (or para-professional volunteer) and works with clients to help achieve their theraputic goals. CAI dogs have much of the same high level of training as Service Dogs and specialized training for the specific facility they work in.
Neither CAI dogs nor therapy dogs are covered under the Alberta Service Dog Act, nor do they have universal public access rights. Based on their training and their work, they may have specific rights to access granted to specific facilities.