How Our Program Works
We are dedicated to providing psychiatric, medical alert and mobility assistance dogs to those in need. Most of our dogs are Labradoodles or Labrador Retrievers and are between one and two years old when placed. Each dog is carefully matched to the candidate and their training is tailored specifically to meet the needs of the applicant they will go to..
Stage 1: Application & Interview
Applications for service dogs are received and reviewed by the Training Director and a Client Liaison. Assuming the reviewing team decides that Diggity Dogs is the appropriate organization to meet the applicant’s needs, the client is contacted to schedule an interview. We endeavor to contact every applicant withing five to seven working days of receiving their application. After the interview is complete, each applicant is sent an acceptance packet or a letter explaining why we do not believe that they are the right fit for our program. Our acceptance packets include all program contracts and in-depth information regarding the specifics of the services we provide and the participation required by the applicant.
Stage 2: Program Contract & Deposit
Upon receipt of a signed contract, a medical referral form that has been completed by a medical professional, a letter of reference, and a $2,000 deposit, the applicant formally becomes a Diggity Dogs client. If the applicant is able to pay for the cost of their dog, they provide the balance due within two weeks of their deposit or organize a payment plan with us and move on to the fourth stage. If not, the applicant then begins to fundraising initiatives or begins searching for a business or individual willing to sponsor them.
Stage 3: Dog Selection & Personal Training Profile/Needs Assessment
Once enrolled, our team begins working with a client to clearly understand their needs so that a personal training profile is put into place. Then Diggity Dogs selects which of the dogs in training would be best for the applicant. From that point forward, the dog is preparing specifically for the client they are destined to assist. Most of our dogs learn a core curriculum of 100 to 130 commands before beginning to prepare for a client’s specific needs.
Stage 4: Uniting the Team
The placement portion of the program begins with our seven day intensive training course. The applicant receives their dog as soon as they arrive and participate in a one-week intensive training course at our Shelburne Falls, MA training center.The course commences by introducing you to your dog and showing you what the dog has been trained to do. It is also design to ensure applicants have a solid theoretical foundation, including a thorough understanding the following.
Dog History: The Evolution of Dogs, The History of Service Dogs
Laws & Regulations Applicable to Service Dogs & Service Dogs in Training: National & State Laws, Rights & Regulations, Housing Laws, Rights & Regulations, The Rights of Others (The Public)
Dog Communication: Understanding How Dogs Communicate, How to Communicate with Dogs, Dog Social Behavior Standards
Dog Health: Spaying & Neutering, Vaccinations, Dental Care, Nutrition, Nail Care, Grooming, Annual Veterinary Care
Dog Handling & Equipment: Dog Handling: Best Practices, Understanding & Using Crate Training, Collars, Harnesses, Leashes, Clickers, Toys, Treats
Training Methods & Theory: Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning, Luring, Capturing, Shaping, Marking Behavior, Generalizing
Dog Development: Important Developmental Stages, The Importance of Socialization
Basic Obedience & Manners Training (on & off leash): Come, Sit, Stay, Down, Off, Up, Heel, No, No Begging, Go To (bed, crate, etc.), Fetch, Give/Drop, Kisses
Service Dogs in Public: Minimum Standards for Public Access, The Public Access Test, Training Locations (Where to Practice), Traveling with a Service Dog, Interacting with the Public
During their intensive course, applicants are accustomed to working with their dog and have had extensive opportunities to get used to having their dog with them in a variety of settings, including restaurants, retail environments and even a movie theater.
By the end of their intensive course, the client and their new service dog have cemented their bond, relationship and communication. They are ready to begin their new life together!
Stage 5: Post-Placement Training
This intensive course is followed by several months of continued support. (The extent of post-placement training required varies in relation to each individual’s abilities and requirements.)
Even once a team has “graduated” (when the post-placement training phase is complete, which is usually three to six months after placement), our staff check-in with the client monthly or quarterly for the next two years to ensure all is well.
Our goal is to ensure the success of all participants and we endeavor to support every team in any way possible throughout the duration of the course and for the duration of their dog’s working life!
All of our clients also have lifetime access to future Diggity Dogs Service Dogs’ training services, classes and courses free of charge.
For more information about the course curriculum and process, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 914-222-DOGS.
IMPORTANT NOTE: All payments are final and non-refundable. Clients must apply, be interviewed, and accepted to the program, before paying. All donations using our fundraising platform on our website are also all non-refundable.
Ready to Apply?
The first part of the process is to download and submit an application (available here). Applications can be submitted electronically or printed and mailed in. Once we receive it, we will contact you within two to five working days in order to schedule a telephone interview. During the interview, we will explain the program in great detail to the applicant and answer any questions they have. After a client is interviewed, they are sent either an acceptance packet or a denial letter explaining why we don’t think that we are the right program for them. Those sent an acceptance packet will also be sent a medical history form, which they are required to have an appropriate healthcare practitioner complete and submit (can be GP, neurologist, psychologist, etc.), along with a letter of support from someone they know and a photo of themselves. Final acceptance is contingent upon the receipt of these items and further consultation with the healthcare practitioner that completed their Medical History form, if we or they believe it is essential or beneficial to do so.
Thank you for your interest in our program. We look forward to working together!