At the core of Soldier ON's Mission is the actual delivery of a trained service dog to a veteran in such a way as to positively impact that veteran's life.
The VA specifies that a service dog be certified using the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) Guidelines. The ADI only recognizes dog teams i.e., a veteran and their particular dog. The ADI's certifying test is the Public Access Test (PAT).
The Veterans' Handler Training Program is designed to teach ... coach... a veteran to be able to pass the PAT with their dog. Soldier ON's Veteran Handler Training Program (VHTP) is a minimum of (6) months. Broadly, it involves assessing the veteran's needs to be met by a dog and training both the dog and the veteran to work as a team.
The program focuses on reducing the debilitating symptoms of PTSD/TBI through creating a symbiotic relationship between the dog and the veteran. It includes education and a battery of complimentary therapies (biofeedback, yoga, meditation and art therapy) which are not provided by the VA. The education and therapies are design to help the veteran stay centered in the here and now and interface ... reconnect ... with their families, friends and the community at large
We teach a veteran and their immediate family how to take care of a dog. This includes: grooming, feeding, exercise, playing, potting and, monitoring and taking care of their dog's health issues. While the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service dog as a medical device, the fact remains that it is an animal. It is NOT an inanimate object (e.g., a wheelchair) which creates ... imposes special responsibilities on the veteran and Soldier ON.
We teach a veteran and their immediate family what the cues and commands their dog has been taught. Our veterans must learn what the commands are and how to deliver them. They must learn what a dog is going to do when given a specific command. They must also learn how the dog is going to respond to cues which the veteran may in fact not be aware that they are giving a dog.
Our dogs do not have ESP. Dogs respond to direct commands such as sit and stay and to the physical manifestations (e.g., heart rate, sweating, repetitive motions) ... cues ... of their veterans.
We teach a veteran and their immediate family how to handle their dog in public. We teach them what are the applicable federal and state service dog laws. We educate our veterans to handle well-meaning people who want to interact with their dog. We teach veterans how to respond to challenges to having a dog in public places which can be nearly a daily occurrence.