Updated: Oct 2
Dogs have long held a special place in our hearts as faithful companions, offering unwavering love and companionship. However, for people with disabilities, dogs can be even more than beloved companions. They can be the key to independence, freedom, and a life filled with possibilities. At Compass Key, we celebrate service dogs and how they unleash independence for the human side of this team. From their rigorous training to their expansive tasks and skills, these four-legged heroes contribute to breaking down barriers and empowering their people to live their lives to the fullest.
In this blog, we will embark on a journey to explore the remarkable role that service dogs play in the lives of people with disabilities, and the journey that these teams take in working through our program. We hope to provide a valuable resource of information for our clients, and an insight into what our program is all about.
What is a Service Dog?
Service dogs are not like your average pet. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to perform work or a task for a person with a disability. Service dogs can be trained to assist people with a wide range of disabilities, from physical to psychiatric. No matter the type of service dog, all will have undergone extensive and specialized training to provide assistance to people with disabilities.
Compass Key has a comprehensive training program, and our service dogs acquire an impressive range of skills. From basic skills to complex tasks, they learn to respond to a large variety of cues, perform at least three trained tasks directly related to their handler’s disability, and to behave consistently and safely in a wide range of public environments. This training instills the reliability and discipline necessary to become trusted partners, capable of enhancing the quality of life for their handlers.
What Makes Compass Key Unique?
For someone searching for a service dog, the number of organizations and possibilities can be overwhelming. While there may be many different organizations and trainers to choose from, Compass Key is truly unique in the flexibility of options we offer our clients. It can be difficult to find an organization that will work with dogs already privately-owned by the client but at Compass Key we are happy to, as long as the dog meets our guidelines for temperament and health. We will even help clients find and select a dog to purchase, and we also sell fully trained service dogs who are purchased from responsible breeders and receive extensive training from our trainers.
Clients with privately owned dogs then have the option of going through our program in a true “owner-trainer” fashion, doing all of the training themselves with guidance and testing from our trainers, or sending their dog to one of our trainers for a board and train where their dog will be taught all of the skills needed in our program. Clients are also able to choose which format of lessons work best for their lifestyle, whether that be in person, virtual, group, distance training, or a hybrid combination.
Another major area of flexibility at Compass Key is the range of tasks we can train a service dog for. Many organizations often focus on one or two areas, such as mobility or guide dogs, and the set of tasks the dog is trained for are usually predetermined. At Compass Key we train service dogs to mitigate symptoms of many disabilities such as: autism, anxiety disorders, diabetes, epilepsy, hearing impairment, multiple sclerosis (MS), narcolepsy, post-traumatic stress (PTS or PTSD), severe allergies, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and many other disabilities. The set of tasks taught to the dog is also personalized to the individual client’s needs, and created in collaboration with the client.
But at Compass Key, the training isn’t only about the dog. Handlers are an active part of the service dog team training process, and must handle their dog through each phase of the program. Compass Key trainers guide service dog teams through the phases of our program.
Phase 1 – Basic Skills
Phase 2 – Advanced Skills
Phase 3 – Disability Skills
Phase 4 – Public Access
Phase 5 – Physical Support Skills (Optional)
Phase 6 – Travel Training (Optional)
Service dogs are not simply pets; they are remarkable partners who transform the lives of people with disabilities. Through their specialized training, these extraordinary canines enable greater independence, enhance daily living, and empower their handlers to overcome obstacles that would otherwise seem insurmountable. They embody the true spirit of companionship, offering unwavering support, and a source of steadfast strength.
In future blog posts, we’ll delve deeper into the world of service dogs, exploring their training at Compass Key, the various roles they fulfill, and the heartwarming stories of the lives they touch. Together, let us celebrate the invaluable contributions of these remarkable animals and gain a deeper understanding of the profound impact they have on the lives of their handlers. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about our program visit our FAQs. Or if you’re ready to jump into the program, let’s get started!