The Path of Our Dogs
A Star is Born
BluePath dogs come from remarkable places – Project 2 Heal, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Freedom Guide Dogs and Southeastern Guide Dogs. These organizations are responsible for some of the finest Labrador and Golden retrievers in the country. The dogs are “purpose-bred,” meaning they possess the superior health and temperament that will allow them to be successful as service dogs.
Puppy Raising Program
Our dedicated volunteer puppy raisers teach eight-week-old puppies basic obedience skills and appropriate house manners. They socialize the puppies to everything the world has to offer, enabling them to develop comfort with a variety of sights, sounds and experiences. Puppy raisers give the dogs a solid foundation and prepare them for the next phase of their service dog training.
Formal Training Program
At about 14 months of age, BluePath dogs begin training with a professional instructor. We build on the foundation of the Puppy Raising Program and teach the dogs more advanced behaviors. These include skills like “anchoring,” when a dog learns how to stop a child from wandering or bolting, and “visit,” in which a dog rests his head on a child to provide support.
The Kids and Canines Learning Together Program offers our dogs the opportunity to spend time in educational settings where they’re exposed to children with a variety of special needs. The dogs learn to remain calm and focused despite a high level of distraction, while the kids learn important life skills through interaction with the dogs.
Towards the conclusion of formal training, the dog will be matched to a family. At that time, we’ll work on behaviors that will support the family’s individual needs.
Service Dog Placement
At approximately two years of age, our dogs are ready to be placed with families with children with autism. Prior to acceptance into our program, applicants provide reference letters from their children’s education and medical professionals; this data helps us determine which of our dogs will best meet the family’s needs. We also conduct interviews in our applicants’ homes to ensure a service dog is a good fit for the family.
Parents are taught the dogs’ commands and how to utilize the dogs to redirect behaviors and keep their children safe. They learn the guidelines associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act and how to responsibly travel with their service dogs in public. They also study dog health and grooming, ensuring they will provide our dogs with optimum care.
Our staff visits frequently during the first two months, supporting milestone moments such as the first time the child and dog are “connected” and work together as a team. We also administer the Assistance Dogs International certification, which offers the family the ability to travel in public with the service dog.
BluePath is committed to the success of each of our placements. We remain closely connected to all families via email and phone, answering the normal questions that arise when learning to navigate life with a service dog. We also provide ongoing, lifetime follow-up and additional training as needed.
We Love All of Our Dogs
We’re devoted to our dogs’ health and well being throughout their lifetimes. Dogs retiring from service work will remain in their homes as cherished pets. Dogs not suitable to work as service dogs will find alternative placements in special needs classrooms or in loving adoptive homes.