URBANDALE, Iowa -- The Puppy Jake Foundation brought six golden retriever puppies to Iowa from Florida last week and they have just started training them to become service dogs for veterans. The foundation is run by volunteers who foster and train the dogs. It can cost about $20,000 to train a service dog.
"The dogs go through training just about two years, 18 months to two years. Again training every week. We have quarterly retreats. We take them on trips out of town so they can experience airplanes and subways and large crowds, loud noises. And it's pretty rigorous," Founder of Puppy Jake Foundation Becky Beach said.
Trainer Robert Reid said they spend a lot of time socializing the dogs.
“So when they go places with the veteran, like the grocery stores or target or a restaurant, they know how to act. A lot of times the best compliment we get for a dog that’s actually done well is the dog will get up and walk out of a restaurant and people will be like there was a dog here?” Reid said.
Each dog learns all the same skills for the first year and some of those skills include the recall process and impulse training.
"By putting your hand out there and having them touch it, it starts the process of recall. Say they're across the yard and eventually you should be able to put your hand out and they will come and touch it,” Trainer Colleen Homan said.
Homan said impulse training helps with being around food and foreign objects a person drops in the dog's territory.
Beach said they learn even more specific skills for the veteran they eventually will go home with.
"The dogs wake their veteran up during a flashback or night terror. And what they do is they can sense when something is going on whether it's thrashing or sweating or whatever. They'll lick their face or rub their leg," Beach said.
Beach said a service dog can totally change a veteran’s life and there is nothing like the relationship they form together.
"It changes their world. It makes them want to go out in public. It makes them feel safe and secure. And just to have a buddy with them, it means the world," Trainer Kathy Fiala said.