Just like the dogs in the other divisions, the puppies, which we breed ourselves, spend their first 18 months with foster families, who provide them with targeted support. At the end of this stage, an Autism Service Dog Instructor trains the dog for about six to nine months at our school, using positive training methods involving praise, play and food. At the end of their training period, the assistance behaviour learned by the dogs and their conduct in public are both assessed using the internationally-recognised “Public Access Test”.
Introduction to the family
During the dog’s period of introduction to the family, the basic principles involved in handling the dog are initially learned by the responsible parent, and the two develop mutual confidence in each other. After this, the dog is introduced to the child at home, and integrated carefully into the family under the expert guidance of our instructors. Together with the instructor, the trio – made up of the child, the parent and the dog – also practises the child’s most frequent routes and destinations, with the dog in its blue working harness.
Our instructors support the families throughout the dog’s entire life and usually visit each family once a year, or more often if they have any problems. The instructors also provide families with any advice or help they may need.