WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Autism Dog Services (ADS) organization is seeking foster families in the Wellington County area to help prepare puppies to become autism service dogs.
Volunteers provide socializing and basic training to puppies for 12 to 18 months, exposing them to a wide variety of environments, people and experiences to help them prepare for certification. They also provide transportation to veterinary appointments.
The cost of food, training equipment and classes (held in Guelph), and medical care is covered by ADS.
“Foster families will have the opportunity to meet the child and family who receive the service dog they raised at the annual ADS graduation,” the organization states.
Officials invite a wide range of families or individuals to apply for fostering, including those who are retired or semi-retired, stay-at-home parents, young active families, work-from-home employees, mature students and people with flexible schedules or those with the ability to take a puppy to work with them. Volunteers should have direct access to a fenced yard space.
ADS dogs are selected for optimal health, temperament, maturity and adaptability, with the main breeds being Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers. All ADS puppies are raised in homes throughout their lives. After the foster home, they go on to advanced one-to-one training.
Dogs are matched to children aged 3 to 18 with a range of autism symptoms, using a waiting list. The waiting time is more than three years.
For children that wander or bolt, the service dog can act as a physical anchor for the child to help keep them safe, especially for road crossings. The service dog can become a companion for the child. Independence is fostered through being responsible for helping with the dog’s care and exercise.
The dog helps with stress control and serves as a constant anchor and behavioural guide for the child.
The dog bridges the gap between peers, allowing for greater opportunities for socialization, independence and communication development. Parents gain comfort in public places, enabling more family outings.
ADS also needs other volunteers, including temporary sitters for puppies and adult dogs.
For more information or an application, visit autismdogservices.ca.