Sandy nonprofit matches services dogs with those in needDec 02, 2022 05:59PM ● By Peri Kinder
By Peri Kinder | [email protected]
A well-trained service dog can change a person’s life. Whether the dog is used for emotional or mobility support, special or medical needs, or for dealing with trauma, a service dog can help its owner safely engage in life.
The Malinois Foundation in Sandy (9441 S. Union Square) has made it its mission to provide life-saving animals to veterans, survivors of domestic abuse, first responders and people with disabilities. The nonprofit was founded in 2013 and has matched more than 100 service dogs as companions.
Although it’s called the Malinois Foundation, the organization uses all different breeds to make sure the match is perfect. The Belgian Malinois is typically used in military work, similar to a German shepherd in police work. Veterans feel comfortable with that breed and sometimes already have one of their own that can be trained as a service animal.
“That breed represents resilience and independence and being a hard worker and offering companionship,” said Jayde Chase, programs developer for the foundation. “That’s why we have the name, but we work with many different breeds.”
Partnering with Dog Training Elite, the Malinois Foundation takes applications from individuals looking for a service dog, finds a puppy that will fit the specific need and works with the person and the dog together to train the animal.
While other service dog providers train the dog for nearly two years before placing it with the handler, the Malinois Foundation trains the dog and the handler at the same time.
“In our program, we are training that puppy while they’re being raised with the handler,” she said. “We value that bonding time with the applicant and the puppy and it allows us to have a shorter wait list.”
The Malinois Foundation has a wait of about one year, compared to other programs with wait lists of two to five years. Because they train the puppy and owner together, they can place dogs quicker.
“You can actually tell a lot about a dog’s personality when they are eight or nine weeks old,” Chase said. “There are already signs of being confident and wanting to please a person, and having a high play drive. Certain things we look for are to make sure they’re not easily startled, that they’re not afraid or timid.”
The foundation helps applicants find the perfect dog by working with reputable breeders registered with the American Kennel Club. Additionally, if the applicant already has a dog, and the animal tests well, it can usually be trained as a service dog.
Breeders are held to high standards. Dogs and puppies must be kept in a clean and safe environment and have opportunities for enrichment and confidence building. All medical procedures for puppies are done before the dog is taken to a home and obedience training is part of the process.
Trainers do in-home training once a week for eight months and meet the handler in public locations. This helps the service dog team get used to being in public around other people and animals, while the dog stays focused on the owner. If the dog doesn’t pass the public access test, the trainers will work with the animal and handler until it passes.
“We are able, through Dog Training Elite, to provide lots of different types of service training,” Chase said. “We’ve provided autism support training so if any autistic children are a flight risk, we can teach a task called ‘anchor’ so the dog will lay on the floor. If the kid is trying to run away and they’re tethered to the dog, they won’t get very far.”
It’s a $1,500 investment to receive a service or support dog from the foundation. Chase said they encourage crowdfunding and community engagement to raise money for the animal but if the money comes out-of-pocket, it can be used as a tax write-off.
For more information, visit TheMalinoisFoundation.org.
“Our clients can speak about the impacts their dogs have made on them,” Chase said. “They offer companionship and allow them to feel comfortable walking through a grocery store. The dog has their back. If a child has a support dog, the child gains confidence from working with the dog to hold him accountable for his behavior. There are so many benefits, and I’m so passionate about it.”