EENP uses positive training techniques. Training and socialization begin immediately when a dog joins EENP’s programs. EENP dogs learn over 50 commands, but more importantly, EENP dogs learn to love learning. Our dogs are flexible learners who have a toolbox of skills that can be adapted to their partners’ needs, even as those needs change over the years of their partnership. EENP dogs learn to use their bodies in a variety of ways that become building blocks for complex skills. For instance, all of our dogs learn to use their noses to push. This becomes the basis for a variety of behaviors, from alerting with a nose bump to activating a crosswalk button with the nose. This makes the initial training for all of our dogs remarkably similar, whether they are destined to become Mobility Assistance Dogs or Medical Alert Dogs, and regardless of the client they will be matched with.
Medical Alert Dogs are additionally trained to detect one or more target scents, such as diabetic blood sugar highs or lows. This training is done with scent samples provided by clients and volunteers. The training begins when dogs join the program with simple exposure to the scent and encouragement when the dog pays attention to the scent. The training progresses through a series of steps where the dogs learn to link the smell with an alerting behavior, typically a nose bump, as well as other behaviors such as going to get help.
General Training Information
All EENP assistance dogs are extensively socialized and trained to accompany their handlers in public so they are prepared to assist at any time they are needed. This includes training on various forms of transportation,
including buses and airplanes.
It takes 1.5 to 2 years to train an assistance dog, and only about half of the dogs who enter training meet the demanding standards to become assistance dogs. The dogs that don’t become assistance dogs are matched with a loving pet dog home.
EENP pups begin their journey to become assistance dogs in the homes of community volunteers called Young Puppy Trainers. These volunteers raise, care for, socialize, and provide basic training for our pups until they are about five months old, when they move into training in our prison training partnership At Both Ends of the Leash. Dogs rotate out of prison on "furlough" for one week each month, when they live with an EENP staff trainer or intern. Dogs are not placed until they are mature, usually at 18-24 months old.