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From Shelter to Service Dog Program

Partnering with Operation Kindness (OPK), DBL will work with shelter staff and foster volunteers to identify and train shelter dogs who may be good candidates for our Assistance Dog Program with the goal of helping more people – and dogs – in need. 

Do you believe in the ability dogs have to change lives? Do you want to be a part of changing the lives of dogs and people? Look no further, we have an opportunity for you! 

Seeking Foster Homes:

Dogs for Better Lives (DBL) and Operation Kindness (OPK) are looking for long-term foster homes – up to seven months – in the Dallas Metro area, to help us in our mission of training shelter dogs to become Assistance Dogs!

This exciting program is in need of foster volunteers who are willing to have a trainer come visit their home two to three times per weekday week for three months – increasing to daily (Monday-Friday) to pick up the dog for out of the home training and/or potentially fosters may bring dogs to training site daily at a location TBD for the remaining three months for the intensive training needed.

The total commitment may be up to seven months (an additional month by be needed for client/dog placement preparation). 

Fosters must:

  • Be willing to support the dog’s training.
  • Communicate with the trainer how the dog is doing.
  • Provide a loving home-for the dog.
  • Build the dog’s confidence.
  • Expose the dog to new experiences and sounds.

How does fostering for DBL dogs differ from fostering for OPK?

  • Fosters may be asked to support the dog in his/her sound work training e.g. not letting timers go off for long periods of time or have guests ring the doorbell rather than knock at the door 
  • Frequent communication, with DBL trainer, on how the dog is doing (via email, phone, or written report) 
  • Open to recommendations and training tips DBL trainer provides on how to continue to work with the dog in the home 
  • May need to utilize a crate with the dog in the home with instruction from DBL trainer 

What to Expect:

For the first month or so, the goal will be to have the OPK dog learn to relax and feel comfortable in the new foster home. Simply by providing a home environment for these dogs is a tremendous help for their learning and training to potentially become an Assistance Dog. The DBL trainer will be available to help the foster get the dog settled and provide training help with behavioral issues that may arise. 

After the initial settling in time, then the dog will begin socialization training and exposure in public with the DBL trainer. This could be that the trainer comes by the foster home to take the dog on training trips or the foster transports the dog to the trainer (location TBD). Timing and scheduling will be worked out in advance between the foster home and the DBL trainer. 

Regular communication between the DBL trainer and the foster home is an important part of this partnership. The trainer will be available to help answer questions or concerns that may arise with the dogs as well as keep the foster home updated on how the dog is progressing in training. 

We will learn a lot about the dog during these first few months. If after 2-3 months, the dog is still showing potential as an Assistance Dog, then the dog will begin more formal obedience and task work training. In order to help the dog be successful, the trainer may ask foster homes to follow more specific rules in the home (minimizing the dog’s exposure to certain sounds, enforcing certain obedience behaviors, etc). The formal Assistance Dog training will last 3-4 months (approximately 6-7 months after the dog first placed in the foster home). If the dog successfully completes all of their training, they will then be matched with a client on the waiting list at DBL. A DBL trainer will take the dog to the client’s home to conduct placement. 

It is important to remember that not all dogs are suitable or interested in becoming Assistance Dogs. On average, about 1 out of 4 dogs we have evaluated from shelters, go on to become DBL Assistance Dogs. For the others, the life of a pet dog is just perfect for them! By providing a stable foster home environment for the dogs in training, you are helping set these dogs up for their individual success – whether that means becoming an Assistance Dog or a lovely pet dog. 

Whether or not dogs that are a part of the project become Assistance Dogs, OPK’s selected dogs will have opportunities to receive training they will have not received otherwise – additional training will increase adoptability of the dogs.

Additional Information to Consider

  • Other Pet Dogs: If other dogs reside in the home, the DBL trainer will supervise the dog introductions in order to determine the best match for the dog in training. 
  • Children: Additionally, it is important that the dog in training learn how to appropriately interact with other adults in the home, children, and any other pets. The DBL trainer will provide guidance to the foster family on how best to help the dog be successful. 
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