Here at SSDI, we believe in intelligence, not obedience. We use training methods that allow our dogs to predict the world in a logical way to make informed decisions about their actions. We teach our dogs concepts, an understanding that can be transferred and applied to situations the dog has never encountered before. These concepts are used by our dogs to navigate their environment with confidence and autonomy.
We teach commands to our dogs during the training process as a foundation in order to teach the body positions and body movements necessary for task training and public access. Once our dogs are trained, the goal is to only use commands in situations where you want the dog to do something contrary to what the dog would have naturally predicted (ex: You walk up to a restaurant table and want the dog to lay next to a table instead of laying underneath it.).
Additionally, we believe in individualized training programs for each of our dogs. Our dogs are not purpose bred for service work, we do not operate a breeding program; instead we rescue dogs from local shelters (what we call "the largest breeding program in the world"). Since each of our dogs has a unique history, there is no one cookie cutter that could fit all of them. We use the unique motivators of each dog to match training rewards as they progress through our Service Dog Training Program. We utilize all forms of training; behavior capture, social learning, lure training, shaping, behavior chaining, mimicking, and more to optimize the dog's understanding.
SSDI operates as a non-profit rescue and we specialize in rescuing, rehabilitating, and training large breed dogs. We look for dogs with the drive to work that are eager to please, regardless of their previous background and subjective characteristics.
The dogs that enter our training program have the drive to work and have a job. The dogs rescued from shelters thrive in our program because their drive to work surpasses that of which a nonworking home could provide. We find our rescue dogs to be the hardest working and most loyal. By giving our dogs a job that matches their own drive, they are motivated to progress through our training program and be successful after graduation.
We work alongside local animal services centers to rescue dogs unsuitable for general adoption due to their work drive, we evaluate surrender cases, and we directly rescue others in need.
"A service dog is a finely tuned instrument, but the handler still must learn how to be a musician" (Starfleet Service Dogs, Inc.). Service dogs work in a dyad; something that consists of two elements or parts. The handler is one part and the dog is the other. They must both possess the abilities and knowledge to successfully interact with each other and the world around them to be part of an effective working team. Our Service Dog Training Program gives our dogs the tools they need to succeed with a knowledgeable handler. Our Service Dog Handler Training Program gives our clients the skills needed to benefit from one of our dogs. In this program clients learn about animal care, training theory, body language, communication, service dog legislation, and more. Our goal is to give our clients information so that they feel confident in themselves and in their service dogs so that they feel inspired to live a fulfilled life.
Spock walking with the treats he picked out and paid for with his handler's credit card.
Kathryn and Katehi in handler training.
Tiberius being evaluated at the shelter.
Before any person or animal is to be expected to help anyone else, they must first be happy, free of worry, and have all of their needs met. All of our Academy Trained dogs are rescued from local shelters, and we recommend that our Owner-Assisted Trained and Owner Trained clients rescue their prospect dogs. The rehabilitation process consists of creating individualized nutrition, veterinary, and exercise regimens.
Our clients are at the core of how we operate. By mitigating our clients' disabilities and allowing them to live more fulfilled lives, our dogs provide independence which allows for more realized opportunities.
We give dogs a second chance at life by rescuing all academy dogs and recommending to owner-assisted clients to consider rescuing their canine candidate. All of our dogs have health insurance plans to assist in rehabilitation and readjustment of dogs recovering from illness or injury in order to allow them to succeed in our training program. We also commit to ensuring the welfare of all dogs that enter into our training program for the entirety of their lives.
We find, raise, train, and provide academy trained dogs to those who cannot be a direct part of the training process through our Academy Trained service dogs. We provide expertise to guide Owner-Assisted and Owner Trainers through finding a prospect and our program. By placing and training our service dogs, we are giving clients the chance to re integrate themselves into society.
We change the lives of the dogs in our program by giving them a clearly-defined purpose. We teach them as individuals and create a strong communication and bond between themselves and their handler. We meet their needs mentally, physically, emotionally, and medically while providing them with a predictable and stable environment that allows them to progress successfully through our program.
We strive to improve the lives of our clients by providing individualized task training to benefit each client's specific needs. We take great care in matching each handler-canine team by evaluating the dog and handler's personalities, motivators, communications styles, as well as physical parameters.
The dogs that enter our training program have the drive to work and have a job. The dogs rescued from shelters thrive in our program because their drive to work surpasses that of which a nonworking home could provide. By providing a constructive and rewarding outlet for our dogs, their lives are more fulfilled.
Jedi and Ashley in front of the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Many of our trainers are C.G.C. Evaluators which allows us to test and title the dogs in our program in the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program, CGC, AKC Community Canine (the advanced level of CGC), Urban CGC and Trick Dog tests. We believe all dogs should be good canine citizens, we use these recognized American Kennel Club tests as additional progress markers and accomplishments for the dogs in our program.