CampV enlisted dog trainer Judy Parsons to provide a one-of-a-kind service dog training program for veterans in East Texas.
The five-week class, which began last month, meets every Wednesday and offers a curriculum based on the skills needed to pass the public access test.
Students are required to keep a training diary and within five weeks they must complete 100 hours of training. At least 30 hours must take place in public places, according to Parsons.
Parsons, who has more than 25 years of experience as a dog trainer, said CampV executive director Travis Gladhill approached her about adding the class to the services offered by the organization.
“Travis Gladhill, the executive director of CampV, took my classes to certify his dog as a therapist. Travis approached me regarding the need for someone to train and certify dogs for the public access test,” she said.
Parsons said the benefit each veteran receives from a service dog is unique to that specific veteran, based on need.
“I believe this program creates a bond between dog and handler by working together and learning new skills together,” Parsons said. “Class also shapes owner-specific cues for the individual.”
Susan Campbell, CampV’s co-founder and board chair, said she felt the class filled a need within the veteran community.
“Service dogs have proven to provide comfort, companionship and pure love. This training was a gap in our community, so we filled it,” she said. that this would happen as we work with veteran service providers and community partners, gaps would emerge that are not being filled in. This training was a high priority.
Campbell said the class is beneficial on many levels.
“Veterans tend to isolate themselves, not wanting to talk to anyone. This then exacerbates loneliness and depression,” Campbell said. “Enjoying the love and acceptance between a dog and its owner is powerful. They don’t have to explain or speak or face any judgment. This reduces stress and anxiety. Moreover, the courses take them out of isolation, help them connect with other like-minded people.
This week’s class was held at the Spring Creek Barbeque and consisted of a lesson and dogs having a meal at a restaurant.
“During this class, we make sure the dogs can politely stay on the ground while the handlers eat a meal,” Parsons said. “It exposes them to new smells and sounds that they will encounter in the daily lives of these veterans.”
Parsons said there are specific requirements that must be met and a certain level of prior training is required to enter the class.
“It’s important to note that dogs must have a very specific level of obedience training before they can participate in class,” she said.
The course and test fee is $125; however, CampV offers financial assistance to those who qualify.
For more information, call (903) 566-1010 or visit campvtyler.org.