Service Dogs of Virginia trains dogs in the following areas:
Physical Assistance – These dogs are trained to assist people in wheelchairs with tasks such as opening doors, picking up items, getting the phone, and so much more.
Autism Service – These dogs are trained to assist autistic children and their families by preventing children from impulsively running off, facilitating easier transitions from one activity to the next, assisting with social interactions, improving communication, and more. Autism dogs can assist young adults on the autism spectrum with reaching goals such as going to college or entering the workforce.
Medical Alert – Diabetic alert: These dogs are trained to alert owners to low blood glucose thereby helping to prevent short-term health consequences such as passing out or having seizures, as well as long-term consequences such as early death, loss of limbs and blindness that result from uncontrolled blood sugar swings. Amazingly, a well-trained dog is more reliable than available technology for “brittle” diabetics.
Addisons Alert: Addison’s disease is an uncommon disorder that occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones. Sometimes the signs and symptoms of Addison’s disease may appear suddenly. Acute adrenal failure (addisonian crisis) can lead to life-threatening shock. Our dogs are trained to detect the odor of dropping cortisol levels in order to prevent addisonian crisis.
PTSD – These dogs are trained to interrupt common anxiety symptoms such as a nervous leg bounce, nightmares or body language that indicates social withdrawal. These gentle interventions can keep a person from spiraling into a dark place. Many vets, retired and active duty military, police, and first responders also have a physical disability and our dogs are trained to help with physical assistance tasks when needed. These dogs will not be trained behaviors that encourage guarding, protecting or searching for an enemy or threat.
We only place service dogs with clients who live in Virginia as both dogs and people require periodic “tune ups.” When a program is geographically inaccessible, people go without help reducing the effectiveness of their canine helpmates. SDV makes a commitment to provide ongoing training and support for each individual with whom it places a dog. If an individual’s needs change, SDV provides additional training to customize their dog’s commands and tasks. This ongoing relationship also provides us the opportunity to observe each dog’s progress and to ensure it is being utilized to its maximum benefit.
Education – In addition to the above programs, we consider educating the general public about service dogs an important adjunct program. From speaking to a wide variety of groups to having open houses and other public events, SDV staff and volunteers inform people about the importance of service dogs, their training, and their impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities.