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The care and training of service dogs

Virginia Chavez is a Phoenix-based freelance writer covering pets and lifestyle in the Southwest. In addition to regular contributions both online and in-print, Virginia locally owns and operates two pet care and supply businesses. For t...

Helping paws

Call them furry four-legged angels, even saviors with tails, but around the highly trained staff at Arizona Goldens LLC, don’t you dare call them pets.
Arizona Goldens LLC service dog

Boasting bold-colored vests with IQs high enough to rival Ivy League standards, service dogs stand apart from the average household pet. Nature gives dogs the rare ability to love unconditionally, while Brian Daugherty, manager at Arizona Goldens LLC, provides dogs with the ability to save lives.

Arizona Goldens, giving others a new leash on life

With more than 14 years of experience, Arizona Goldens LLC has trained service animals to assist families and individuals with specific needs, including people in wheelchairs, with visual impairment, with chronic seizures, with hearing impairment and with autism. Raising and training a service dog has its challenges, but placing a service dog takes a staff with hearts as big as their trainees to accept letting go. “Placing one of our pups Lana was the emotional moment we've come across in our years of training, says Daugherty. “She was one of the first pups we trained for the program and had a special place in our hearts, but the changes she made in the kids she was placed with was amazing and well worth our sacrifice,” he adds.

Service dog training begins when the dogs are a mere two and a half weeks old. These smarty paws learn commands like sit, here, kisses, and turn before their eyes and ears open. By the end of the training period, each service dog learns anywhere between 50 to 90 commands and are considered fully prepared for a variety of tasks, including alert to sounds and seizures, retrieving items, turning on and off lights and helping to do any daily living tasks such as undressing and interrupting self-injurious behaviors. Once a pooch is picked for placement, they receive additional training with a narrowed focus depending on a client's specific needs.

Think your pup has what it takes? Think again. While all dogs are special in their own right, becoming a service dog requires a lifetime of preparation. Strict temperament, health, and training requirements are necessary to become AZG service dogs. “In our extensive years of training service dogs we have found that Labs, golden retrievers, golden doodles and German shepherds have the qualities necessary to learn all the tasks,” says Daugherty. “Also, as a breed, they have the documented medical history of each line that can easily be traced to lower the chance of major medical problems like hip dysphasia and cancer... in the lines,” he adds.

Arizona Goldens LLC service dog
Arizona Goldens LLC service dog
Arizona Goldens LLC service dog

If someone you know could benefit from the assistance and companionship of an amazing service dog, there are a few things to consider:

  • The waiting list for a service dog can be up to two years long. This includes considerations for training and preparation along with ensuring a personality match.
  • Average cost varies slightly due to the time necessary to customize the training for each individual. In most cases, the base cost including lifetime support of the team and all boot camp costs is $18,500 plus any travel expenses if outside the Phoenix metro area.
  • Arizona Golden's LLC is dedicated to helping others with ideas for fundraisers and providing guidance for families in need.

No matter who gets a service dog, they are in good paws.

Want to get involved?

If you're lucky enough to live in Arizona, the organization offers a number of fun and rewarding opportunities for volunteers, such as puppy handling, puppy sitting and helping to raise the puppies, all of which help the dogs expand their ability to adapt to different environments and situations.

Other ways to help are by supporting Arizona Goldens' clients in their individual fundraising efforts as they save up for their service dog. Visit their website to learn more.

Arizona Goldens LLC service dog
Arizona Goldens LLC service dog
Arizona Goldens LLC service dog

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