|Since 1986, Dogs with Wings has been providing highly-trained assistance dogs to Albertans with disabilities, they also provide ongoing training and support. “When you are a client, you are a client for life”, says Training Director Maria Illes, “and our trainers continue to work with you to make sure the dog-client team maintains top level skills”.|
Dogs with Wings has demonstrated excellence in both its guide and service dogs, and the school is accredited by both Assistance Dogs International and The International Guide Dog Federation. The benefit for the clients is that their dogs are protected by the Service Dogs Act and the Blind Persons Rights Act , which guarantee access and other rights.
In 2007, Dogs with Wings introduced the Autism Support dog program. There is no cure for Autism, research into a cause for the condition has so far yielded few results, and treatment options are very limited. An Autism service dog is specifically trained to work with Autistic children providing safety, security, and companionship. The child is loosely attached to the dogs’ harness via a lightweight belt around their waist with a soft handle that the child holds onto. If the child drops the handle or runs away, the dog is trained to sit immediately and not to move until a parent or other caregiver says so. In this one simple step, one of the dangers of Autism are alleviated. Parents say that for the first time, they are able to turn their backs on their child without having to worry that the child will run off into traffic or some other danger. Family outings are much more relaxed as a result.
Kids with Autism are also prone to meltdown behaviours and have difficulty forming relationships with their peers. The dogs help them self-soothe and make it easier for their contemporaries to approach them at school as everyone wants to know about the dog! As one child with Autism said, “I used to be invisible; now I’m the kid with the dog”.
Dogs with Wings operates from a Training Centre off 170th Street in the west end and the facility allows them to do much of the specialized training their dogs require. At any one time, there are 40-50 dogs in their training program and the puppies start learning simple tasks at 8 weeks of age. The dogs remain in training until they are two years old and during this time, they are constantly evaluated for health, disposition and their ability to master the skills they will need. It is rigorous training and demands time, patience and skill developed over years of experience.
But when the training day is over and jackets come off, these dogs enjoy leisure and free play just like any family pet. This valuable “down time” is spent with their volunteer foster families who care for them while they are in training.
For more information on Dogs with Wings and its many programs, please visit: www.dogswithwings.ca or contact them via email at email@example.com or by calling 780.944.8011.
Dogs with Wings gratefuly acknowledges the support of the REALTORS® Community Foundation. In 2012 the Foundation provided over $400,000 to Edmonton and area charities – all funds raised by your local REALTOR®. www.realtorscommunityfoundation.com