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Assistance dogs are known to provide physical, mental, and emotional benefits, but training and caring for the pups can take years.
Assistance dog training can begin as early as seven weeks old.
“There is so much more that goes into the training that people realize,” Assistance Dogs of Hawaii Co-Founder Mo Maurer said.
First, they must find the right dogs.
“We work with geneticists and breeding programs around the world to start with the very best puppies that we can find that have been bred to do this for many generations,” Maurer said.
At Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, the puppies are usually labradors or golden retrievers and are hand-picked for their health and temperament, then flown in from places like Australia, New Zealand, England, and Toronto.
Once they arrive on Maui, the little ones are cared for by foster families.
“Babies are a little easier because babies stay in their crib for a while. You know the puppies are great, but you do have to house train them,” puppy foster parent Sharon Dahlquist said.
Dahlquist has been a volunteer puppy foster mom for nearly 10 years.
“We have raised so many puppies now. I have lost track of how many,” Dahlquist said. “And sometimes I will get emails from people and it really makes all the chewed corners on your molding at home worth while because they really do change people’s lives.”
Puppy training starts at two months and moves on to basic then advanced training at about a year.
After learning standard skills like opening doors or turning on lights, the puppies are then trained for about another year to learn special skills for their future partner.
“I tell you, each puppy that we have seen go to a home they can be loved more than others sometimes. They are because they are so special to them. The person that they are helping they really have this amazing bond,” Dahlquist said.
On Wednesday on the KHON2 News at 5 p.m., find out what Assistance Dogs of Hawaii dogs are learning that has never been done before. It could save lives.