Dogs trained to meet special needs

Posted 7/7/09

Freedom Service Dogs passed a milestone June 27 as 10 dog-owner teams were honored for completing the thousands of hours of training in the …

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Dogs trained to meet special needs


Freedom Service Dogs passed a milestone June 27 as 10 dog-owner teams were honored for completing the thousands of hours of training in the organization’s first ever spring graduation ceremony.

Freedom Service Dogs rescues dogs from animal shelters or accepts them from private donors, brings the animal to the Union Avenue facility for more than 1,000 hours of training.

As the dog progresses in training, clients are brought in and introduced to two or three animals. The client makes a selection and the team training begins. The final stage is almost a month with the client and his dog as the team goes about daily living.

Currently, the Freedom Service Dogs has 25 dogs on site. Some of the dogs are just beginning and others are well past the midway of their training.

When all those dogs are trained and the teams graduate, Sharan Wilson, Freedom Service Dogs director, said that will just make a small dent in the need because there are 10 times that many people on the list that want dogs.

The organization’s goal is to train and place 40 animals this year. One barrier is money since it costs about $25,000 to train one dog. That may seem like a lot of money since the dogs are provided free, but the money is needed to cover the cost of housing and training the dogs.

Wilson said, like other nonprofit organizations, Freedom Service Dogs has seen donations decline as people struggle with the current economic climate but will be launching fund-raising efforts with the goal to meet the needs of the clients.

For information on the program or to make a donation, go to the Web site at or call the organization at 303-922-6231.

Experience has shown three breeds, Labrador Retrievers, golden retrievers and poodles are best suited to successfully complete the training. However, puppies from breeding two of the favored breeds also seem to work, Wilson said because generally these breeds are patient, loving and have the gentle temperament needed to become Freedom Service Dogs. Still only about half the dogs rescued successfully complete the training.

“The big problem is all dogs like to chase cats and other animals,” Wilson said. “The challenge is to train that out of them because it won’t work if the dog is helping a client then suddenly takes off running after a cat.”

The dogs are trained to perform a wide variety of services. The typical Freedom Service Dog can push door plates, open drawers, retrieve dropped items and even take clothes out of the drier. They also can alert the master that someone is at the door or that the phone is ringing.

Freedom Service Dogs was established in 1987. The organization has placed 109 service dogs with clients since it was founded and has rescued an additional 600 dogs from shelters and found new homes for the animals.

For the first 20 years, the organization had limited space in its Lakewood facility which meant they could train about four dogs a year. The organization made a big step toward meeting requests for its service in March 2008 as Freedom Service Dogs moved to a new facility at 2000 West Union Avenue. There are two buildings at the new location plus there plenty of room to exercise the dogs as the location is near the South Platte River and near the Centennial Park off-leash dog park.

The result is Freedom Service Dogs trained and placed 16 dogs by the end of their first year at the new location. The goal for 2009 is to train and place 40 dogs with clients.


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