How PAALS trains service dogs under Assistance Dogs Internationa - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

How PAALS trains service dogs under Assistance Dogs International Standards for Training

(Source: PAALS) (Source: PAALS)
(WIS) -

Assistance Dogs International Standards for Training and Placement of Service dogs for Veterans with Military-Related PTSD

The intent of these standards is to ensure that programs have a clear and comprehensive understanding of military-related PTSD; utilize the appropriate application, screening, and matching processes for clients; provide thorough and individualized client training regarding all aspects of the assistance dog partnership, and provide a lifetime of follow-up and team support.

In order to help determine if the veteran is ready to partner with a service dog, the program must provide a form created in conjunction with a mental health consultant to be filled out by the veteran’s mental health provider that summarizes the state of the veteran’s mental health and treatment.  It must also address whether the veteran is actively suicidal and how he/she copes with anger management issues.

The program must have access to a licensed mental health professional (Master’s Level or above in North America or equivalent in other countries) who is experienced with PTSD and can provide consultation regarding all aspects of the veteran/service dog partnering.

The veteran must provide names and contact information for two individuals who have agreed to provide support to the service dog team.  These individuals must have access to the assistance dog program 24/7 and agree to provide an immediate and temporary home for the dog should an emergency arise.

The veteran must sign a consent form that allows the program or its consultant to communicate directly with the veteran’s mental health provider or treatment team. 

The veteran must provide written evidence that his/her family and/or support person (s) are knowledgeable regarding the application for a service dog and that they support the process, the placement of a service dog, and the follow-up of the team.

A face to face interview must occur with the veteran during the application process.  Video conferencing may be utilized.

Once the veteran is accepted into the program, the program must follow up with the veteran at least every three months until placement occurs to let the veteran know the status of his/her placement.

The dog must be one that facilitates friendly public interaction with the veteran, as this is one of the goals of all placements.

The dog must meet all existing ADI standards regarding temperament and behavior and additionally exhibit:

  • tolerance to a high level of stress
  • sensitivity without anxiety
  • the ability to perceive environmental and interpersonal cues
  • the ability to complete tasks in very difficult and emotional situations
  • no reactivity, possessiveness, guarding behaviors or increased anxiety.

The dog must meet all existing ADI obedience, accessibility, and training standards including training with visual, verbal, or environmental cues to do three visually identifiable tasks that directly mitigate the veteran’s PTSD.

Programs will NOT train behaviors that encourage guarding, protecting or searching for an enemy or threat.

Programs must design a team training program that includes flexibility and adaptability with a step by step curriculum that is based on praise, includes positive reinforcement and positive effect, and does not include the use of excessive corrections that may involve emotions of anger when giving a command.

The program’s staff who have any interaction with the veterans must receive training (workshops, webinars, or presentations) by a mental health professional on military-related PTSD and suicide awareness that addresses:

  • military-related PTSD and its triggers
  • signs of suicide
  • questions to ask
  • resources to offer the veteran.

The program must implement a schedule of follow-up that includes the following:

  • contact by phone, email, video conferencing, mail, or an in-person visit within 1 month of placement and every three months (minimum) for the first year.
  • an in-home/community follow-up visit three months after placement by program staff or a program-trained individual.
  • on-going aftercare and advice to the partnerships as necessary, and personal contact by staff or trained volunteers at least annually to ensure that the standards reached graduation are maintained.  This may be accomplished in person, by video conferencing, or phone so that two-way communication occurs.

The program has the policy to ensure that, if a dog must be removed from its partnership, someone who is part of the veteran’s support system is notified and preferably present at the time of the dog’s surrender to the program.  The veteran’s last known mental health provider must also be notified.

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