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Wednesday, 22 February 2017 17:44

The Journey From Puppy To Assistance Dog Featured

Written by  JoLynn Vensel
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For most 6-month-old puppies, life’s a bowl of fun and games, but for Golden Retriever Pooh Bear, he’s in training to become a service dog, a loyal companion to help someone with a disability, and live more independently.

Thanks to Canine Support Teams (CST), based in Menifee, Pooh Bear is receiving the proper training he needs to someday enhance the life of a person affected by a disability, including PTSD.

As a non-profit organization, CST relies on the generosity of volunteers who donate their time, energy and money to pair service-trained dogs with people whose physical and/or emotional condition is eased by a canine assist.

Pooh Bear’s journey began at nearly 3-months-old, when he entered the lives of first-time CST volunteer puppy raisers, John and Lynne Hartung. As empty nesters looking for some 4-legged love to give, listening to Sally Wing, Marketing and Development Director for CST, speak about the program at a (National Association of Female Executives) Nafe meeting was the catalyst for Lynne to make a positive difference in someone’s life.

First-time applicants fill out a Puppy Raiser Application, and are interviewed before a puppy is placed in the home. Children and pets in the household are a plus. Once approved, the puppy remains with the volunteer for 15 to 18 months.

According to CST, the most important trait of puppy raisers is the dedication to provide daily care to a puppy and consistency in its training. Puppy raisers teach their young about love, trust, bravery, basic obedience and socialization. They are issued a CST photo ID card and encouraged to take their pups everywhere, from the movies to the mall, as well as onboard buses, trains and airplanes. While out in public, the puppies wear a vest that identifies them as a service dog in-training.

Pooh Bear needs to get used to noises, people and situations where he may not feel comfortable. You never want it to be a bad experience for the dog when you’re teaching socialization skills. To help avoid this, slowly increase the time spent at each location.

Obedience training at home is also an integral part of the puppy raiser program. Not running to the door when someone is there and sitting before greeting a visitor are commands Pooh Bear is learning right now. At meal time, he is not allowed to eat until Lynne gives the OK.

In the 3 months since Pooh Bear has changed their lives for the better, John and Lynne have come to their most challenging activity yet – leash training. Luckily, Lynne recently found that liver-flavored treats are a big incentive for him.

CST Dog Training staff are on hand to assist puppy raisers in their commitment. They arrange monthly events in various settings and provide tips on care, training and manners. Specialized obedience classes are also offered. Trainers also make house calls, if needed.


When Pooh Bear finishes his stay at the Hartung's, he will be enrolled in the Prison Pup Program, where he will continue his training at a men’s or women’s prison for about 4-6 months. Inmates involved in the program, guided by a CST trainer, will be responsible for his care.

If he successfully completes his entire training program, Pooh Bear will be matched with a CST recipient in need of a new “leash on life.”As a volunteer puppy raiser, most of your expenses are tax deductible, such as food, toys, veterinary care, mileage to/from classes and outings.

To learn more about this life-changing opportunity, please contact Donna Shawver, Puppy Raiser Instructor, at 951-301-3625 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Read 8274 times Last modified on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 17:55