About Our Dogs
We train our dogs for various kinds of partnerships:
Public Service Dogs (including Hearing Dogs)
Public service dogs empower people living with mobility disabilities by performing such tasks as retrieving dropped items, turning lights on and off, opening doors and tugging off clothes – tasks that would otherwise require a human caregiver. They also can be custom trained to meet specific needs.
Hearing dogs alert people with hearing disabilities to sounds such as a child crying, an oven timer, a phone or doorbell ringing and, most importantly, the life-saving sound of a smoke alarm. Certified public service dogs have legal access to most public places where other dogs are not allowed.
Home Service Dogs (including hearing dogs)
These dogs are trained for the same skills as our public service and hearings dogs but are used only in the home. Home service dogs often go to younger clients and may be the first step to having a public service dog in the future. These dogs do not have the legal public access that certified public service dogs do.
Professional Therapy Dogs
These dogs provide therapeutic support in settings such as schools, mental health practices, nursing homes and occupational and physical therapy clinics. They are typically used in therapy sessions with individuals to help promote calmness under stress or to motivate clients to achieve therapeutic goals. These dogs do not have the legal public access that certified public service dogs do.
Home Therapy Dogs
These dogs provide emotional support and companionship to families with special needs. They usually are not usually to perform specific tasks, but they receive thorough temperament evaluations and obedience training. These dogs do not have the legal public access that certified service and hearing dogs do.
Sometimes, in spite of being carefully selected and evaluated, some dogs have to be released from our training program for certain behavioral or medical conditions that emerge later. Career-change dogs may be trained by other agencies for new careers in drug/bomb detection or search and rescue, or they are adopted out as pets. You can find a list of our dogs currently available for adoption at Petfinder.
Selecting and Training Our Dogs
We get many of our dogs from shelters, giving these deserving animals a “new leash on life.” We also have dogs from our own breeding program, from other breeders and from people needing to rehome their pets. Prospective dogs undergo extensive evaluation before being accepted into our program to ensure that only healthy dogs with suitable temperaments are placed with clients.
Summit Assistance Dogs has a number of dogs in our training program at any given time. They are living in different types of environments, depending on their levels of development and training. Puppies will spend most of their time up to the age of about six months in a Puppy Raising Foster Home, while most of our older dogs will move through our Monroe Correctional Facility Training Program.
Our dogs are re-assessed along the way by our trainers to make sure they still have suitable temperament and behaviors for further training. If dogs are not progressing well or are exhibiting behaviors we avoid, such as a prey drive or over-excitement with other dogs), we adopt them out to approved homes to live as pets. We take the decision to “career change” our dogs very seriously, but we also want to make sure we provide the best dogs to make our clients’ lives easier, not more challenging.
Once our dogs reach a certain level in age and development, they are moved into advanced training with our professional staff trainers. The trainers assess which types of assistance the dogs are best suited for and happy with. Some dogs naturally “alert” to sounds or visitors, while others love to retrieve things. Then when a dog is ready, it is matched with a waiting client and further trained, if necessary, to perform any special tasks the person may need.
Prison Partnership Training Program
There is no doubt that service dogs change lives for their partners, but they also change lives behind bars. Since 2010, Summit has had a very successful partnership with the Monroe Correctional Complex, where carefully screened and selected inmates are training some of our dogs.
Dogs are placed with inmate pairs for nine weeks, during which time Summit trainers work with the inmates twice a week, honing their dog-training skills. Having inmates do initial training frees up countless hours of time for Summit’s professional trainers, and the inmates, who are not paid, learn job skills, social skills, communication and responsibility.
At the end of the nine-week session, a formal graduation ceremony is held at the prison, and the dogs return to Summit for their advanced training with Summit’s professional trainers. To date, ___ of Summit’s graduates since 2010 have gone through the prison program.