Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Year of the dogs

The 2014-2015 school year has gone to the dogs- literally!!! Hopefully everyone has been keeping up with our Facebook page. If not, here's a run down of what you missed!

        We started of the year strong with everyone favorites: Carver, Nora, Ariel, Elsa, and Nala!!!

                              If you couldn't tell the beauties apart, from right to left is Elsa, Nala, and Ariel!!

Within the first weeks of school, we acquired two new facility puppies.

                     The first is Flynn. He is a fun loving golden retriever anyone would find hugable.
                                                                 Here he is now!

                             Piper was second, only in order. She is super smart and spunky.

                                                  Here is another of our spider monkey

                         Then in the fall Viking Pups got another Service dog in training puppy!!!

                                                         ............drum roll please..............



                                      Hercules!!!!!!! He will be a mighty helper to his client.

                                                           Here is our little monster!

Flynn and Piper will be facility dogs when they are placed next year. Hercules will be a cross trained service dog for a little girl with down syndrome. We expect great things from them, so should you!!!

Stay tuned for the next blog...... we may hear more pitter patter of puppy feet. Remember, when there is a puppy involved silence is very suspicious  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer Updates : The SO MANY PUPPIES Edition!

Hey everybody! Much has happened in the world of Viking Pups, and once again I am way behind on the times as far as keeping this blog updated- so here we go!!

CARVER is amazing, as per usual!

Carver had the best summer vacation of all of us and went to the ocean!

This incredible dog is turning into a perfect seizure response dog (as if there were any doubt) and is working on responding with his ‘paw’ just to a mimic seizure, no command necessary! We’ve built up enough anxiety around the event of the seizure that Carver understands that this is an URGENT event- and in the words of our head trainer “We’re placing a dog who will wake the DEAD to tell them [Carver’s client] is having a seizure”.

Look at him move! Wake the dead indeed. 

NORA is moving along incredibly well on all of her tasks!

She even pouts about having to call off training session!

She is able to retrieve objects from the floor, touch doors and cabinets closed, and for the first time (at only eight months) has opened a fridge! Not to mention that most of these tasks she’s still shaping- meaning they aren’t even the finished product yet. We’re super excited about just how perfect this happy little lady is.

Pardon the commentary by yours truly- psyching up puppies is 10% practice 
90% making a fool of yourself

AND, the new additions to the Viking Pups family (though they’re new by about a month and a half now, sorry!) are

Also known as 'red leash'


Also known as 'Pink Leash'


Also known as 'Weirdo' ahem- I mean 'Black Leash' 

These three Disney themed ladies will go on to take facility dog positions at schools- and all three will be competing for a coveted position at the Aledo Child Advocacy Center, to testify with children, a special job indeed! We’re working our butts off to make sure these girls are perfect for their jobs and they’re proving to be up to it- they’re even starting to learn ‘settle’ and ‘place’ already, at only three months old!

Nala learning 'place'

Ariel learning 'place' with a twist (that being her ear)

We’d love to give a HUGE thanks to Formaro Labs for the chance to work with dogs with such an incredible temperament- all three babies are whipsmart and totally bombproof, something they’re going to need around as many kids as they’ll be working with!

Ariel, Elsa, and Nala are all happily settled into their foster homes and we can't wait to see them all back at Augie- classes are going to be full of black labs, and we're looking forward to another 'Is that Bobo or Cami' type situation. Don't worry, WE'LL be able to tell them apart- we think. 

EMMY is making amazing progress, unsurprisingly!

Pretty Emmy
This girl has absolute perfect drive and she never fails to astound us with just how fast she learns. Her guidework is perfect, her retrievals are amazing, her deep pressure therapy never fails to calm even her trainers down- we can’t get enough of this gorgeous girl, even when she’s blowing coat and looks like she’s a four month old ragamuffin again.

You don't understand Mom- I can't go out with my hair looking like THIS

All of us at Augustana are going to miss Miss Feistypants though- because she’s leaving Augustana for grad school with her handler, foster, and all around lead trainer Mary. We’re losing a great dog and our awesome Viking Pups President in one go, but it’s worth it to see both of them flourish in a new place. Thanks for the amazing time, both of you!

On another note- we are getting TWO more puppies in a little less than a month! This year is going to be absolutely insane with puppies, but we’re so happy to be helping people like we are! Expect some wonderful pictures soon of the future FLYNN and PIPER- and we’ll let what they look like be a surprise. ;)

A special thanks to:


The Quad Cities Canine Assistant Network is the non-profit organization that makes our program possible. As sister organizations, QCCAN is an integral part of the Viking Pups mission, helping us with training, putting us in contact with clients, and most importantly, training service dogs and reaching more people who need the dogs to live better lives.
To learn more / keep up to date about Viking Pups:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Service Dog Etiquette: Human AND Dog Editions

One of the most prominent features of a service dog is, obviously, the fact that they are allowed to go in public! Service dogs are able to do this because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law which protects the handler of the dog by treating the dog as vital medical equipment for mitigating the handler’s disability. This is why service dogs are allowed in public places, while pets, facility dogs, therapy dogs, and ESAs (Emotional Support Animals) are not protected by the same law. 

Dog Edition:

The important part of the Americans with Disabilities Act to remember is that it protects the person, rather than the dog- because the dog is working to mitigate the person's disability. Because a service dog is allowed in public because of his or her job as medical equipment, there are several traits a service dog’s personality should have that makes them an appropriate dog for service work. Each dog training organization thinks differently about what is the most important characteristic, and each has their own behaviors and quirks that they like to look for in a dog. In general though, the core behaviors are:

Emmy knows it is her job to focus on her handler!
A service dog is there to do a job! No matter what is going on around them, the service dog should be consistently focused and attentive on its handler, so it is ready to work whenever needed!

Nora was very confident riding the escalator- on her first try!

For many dogs, public places like restaurants, stores, and schools, are very scary places! New smells, people staring and talking, weird sounds, yelling, people running up to pet them without permission. Because service dogs have to deal with this on a daily basis, they need to be very, VERY confident! If a dog is fearful, they might not be able to handle themselves in public in a way that will truly mitigate the disability they were trained for. Throwing a dog who lacks confidence into a public situation is also an incredible disservice to the dog. Fear, aggression, and inability to work are only a few responses some dogs can have to situations in which they are scared, and it isn’t fair to the dog or the handler to constantly live in fear.  And always remember not to confuse confidence with dominance! Confidence is awesome to find in a dog, while dominance can make a dog hard to train and generally difficult to work with.

While some dogs respond to public places with fear, others get… well….

Emmy is most definitely off duty here!

 A bit overly happy. Exciting things happen all the time in public- other dogs, children running, yummy food getting spilled, finding other people the dog knows, and running across small animals they REALLY want to chase. Add these exciting things to the mix of scary things, and the human world can be a bit…. bewildering to dogs. All of these are normal things for a dog to react to. But when a service dog is working, they have to be able to maintain their composure through thick and thin, whether somebody is running at them wearing a scary mask:

Or a throwing a squeaky toy across an aisle to try to get them to play. If a dog barks, bristles, growls, bolts, bites, chases their tail, chases a squirrel, or tries to steal some yummies that have fallen on the floor (I’m looking at you, Nora, we’re well acquainted with the lab tummy) they simply are not doing their job properly.

Carver showing off just how calm he is in public!

While all of these characteristics have wiggle room, there are absolutely rules in place to make sure that only top notch, well trained service dogs are allowed in public- service dogs have an etiquette they have to follow as well! There are a few important ones to remember, like:

Service Dogs are all trained to do tasks! In Emmy’s case, it will be guidework, retrievals, and deep pressure therapy for her client. Nora will pull a wheelchair, complete retrievals, and brace for her little girl. Other dogs might be trained to alert to low blood sugar, to respond to a person’s name in case that person is deaf or hard of hearing, to respond to seizures, to carry an oxygen tank, and a lot more! If a dog does not do a task to mitigate a disability, the dog is not legally recognized as a service dog. 

Emmy demonstrating the task 'Pressure'

Additionally, a service dog is only allowed in public as long as it is not causing a disturbance. All service dogs are given the benefit of the doubt under the ADA, but if a dog barks, growls, bites, or goes to the bathroom inside a public place without the handler taking an appropriate action to end that behavior, that place then has the legal right to remove the dog from the premises.  

The People Edition!!!

Now, while we have expressed our feelings about petting service dogs before, we haven’t said what the proper way to approach service dogs is! So….

A Short Guide On How to Handle Yourself When You See A Puppy In Public:

Remember there is a person attached to the dog! This is one even the Viking Pups handlers have experienced. We get a lot of hellos walking across campus- but most of these are directed at the dogs! It can be hurtful, and yes, even a little bit irritating to be made a spectacle of or be made completely invisible because you have a fluffy creature standing with you. Most service dog handlers try very hard to be understanding, polite, and responsive (we have a LOT of practice) but it is equally important that you are understanding of the person with the dog. They may be in a hurry and unable to answer questions, they may have had a really crappy day at work, they may be shy, they may have a disability that makes it hard to interact with strangers, or they may just not be in the mood to answer questions! They are only human, and while the dogs can give freedom and health and happiness, they can’t give their handler patience or make them more outgoing.

Carver doesn't seem to have a problem with being outgoing, though!

Remember the dog is doing a job! You cannot always tell at first glance what that service dog’s job is, and it’s possible that even with the best intentions you can make the dog’s job harder by attempting to interact. This means talking, kissy noises, tossing toys and balls, and ESPECIALLY calling their name.

It's hard to a dog to stay calm and out of the way, like Emmy is here, when they're being distracted!

When in doubt, ask: If you have questions about the dog, many service dog handlers will be very happy to answer your questions, and some handlers are even ok with you petting their dogs (Viking Pups / QCCAN is not one of these). Remember once again that they are a person who has a life outside of your interaction with them. Approach them politely, and respect that person’s boundaries and the boundaries they have set for their dog.
                                       Even though playing in a helicopter doesn't seem like work, Carver is still on                             duty in this picture, so he should not be distracted!

If still in doubt or given an answer you do not like, do not get angry, and do not proceed with what you wanted to do:

Many people believe that they are doing no harm even if they go against the handler’s wishes, and so they continue on with exactly what they wanted to do. This can be super duper very incredibly unbelievably terrible awfully ridiculously bad for the dog, and the human. For example, once while I was handling the now-exited Oden, we were in a cafeteria setting and some other students begged to give him a treat. I refused, and afterwards they dropped a bunch of french fries on the floor for him to eat. Luckily I caught it soon enough that Oden did not get any of the french fries, but if he had, this would have been disastrous because A.) it is teaching the dog that if people drop food in public, it is ok to go for it  (which could potentially be seen as a reason for removal, given that it violates health regulations)  and B.) Oden is allergic to some of the ingredients in french fries. See what I mean about listening to the handlers, now?

Oden's belly if he'd gotten that french fry.

And please, do NOT get angry! While the service dog handler IS entitled to a normal life, you are not entitled to interfere with that person’s day to day life because they have a dog. If a person turns you down for petting, giving treats, or saying hi, those are their personal boundaries and everybody should respect them. It is very stressful for just the TRAINERS to get chewed out for saying no when people ask to pet the dog, let alone a possible client! 

Moral of this story: please be nice to service dog handlers!!! :]

Nora says, "Please be nice to my handlers! They're good people!"

EMMY's exits, retrievals, and deep pressure therapy are doing phenomenal! She’s a real genius dog, and is set on proving it to us handlers!

Emmy retrieving her handler's wallet

Emmy practicing a double door exit!

CARVER is moving on to his next stage of training, and is learning to respond to seizures- mimic ones, that is! 

Now that Carver’s 'paw' command is solid, he’s learning to pair that command with his handler’s pretend seizures (that mimic his clients'!). Eventually, the verbal ‘paw’ will be phased out- and voĆ­la, the ‘response’ part of seizure response dog is born!!! Carver is also starting to learn retrievals, so that when his little girl has a seizure, her parents can worry about helping her while Carver goes and gets her medications. He's pretty amazing, no?

NORA is now an official master of her name! Woo! In addition to this, her basics are improving dramatically! We’re so proud of this lil lady!

We would also like to welcome some new breeders to our program! Dusty Roads Labradors, who we will be purchasing a lab from to become a service dog in the fall, Formaro Labradors and Breezewood Kennel Golden Retrievers, who we will potentially be buying puppies from, all to be trained as facility dogs- three schools and the Child Advocacy Center! QCCAN is clearly growing the reputation it deserves!!!

I would also like to say a BIG congrats to Juls, QCCAN client and Iowa’s New Miss Amazing! And of course you can’t forget the Royal Dog Bobo!

A special thanks to:


The Quad Cities Canine Assistant Network is the non-profit organization that makes our program possible. As sister organizations, QCCAN is an integral part of the Viking Pups mission, helping us with training, putting us in contact with clients, and most importantly, training service dogs and reaching more people who need the dogs to live better lives.

To learn more / keep up to date about Viking Pups:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

First Blog Post of 2014!

And a couple months late celebration of Viking Pups Two Year Anniversary!

And sorry for the late post date. I admit it, I'm a bad blogger. Hooray! 

So, unsurprisingly, in the months I have been neglecting my responsibilities, a LOT has happened. As in, a lot. So, a quick overhaul:

Carver and Westie have both hit 7 months! 
Handsome fellows!

And looking might handsome too! 

        Westie is moving along quite well- his basics are pretty darn near mastered and is enjoying life with his new foster mama Kayla, who's taken in the little spaz and is working him extra hard- Westie's placement is coming way too soon (for us at least!), and since his placement is such an important one, he's being watched over by head trainers Mary and Allie to make sure he's right on course.  

Westie practicing 'Pressure' with Kayla

       Kayla's doing a phenomenal job with this little guy, and Westie is planning on proving just how great he is by starting work one of his clients very soon! If you remember, Westie is going to be a facility dog for a Child Advocacy Center, helping children to testify, and being fluffy and cuddly support during situations where it would otherwise be very difficult for them to cope. Westie's job is going to incredibly important and will touch a ton of lives- we're really excited to watch him help kids who need him!

Speaking of important jobs with kids…

       Carver is doing absolutely phenomenal! Carver is the seizure response dog in training, and if I understated it at all before, I definitely won't now- Carver's job is crazy tough and one of the most difficult to train for. But holy cow is he taking to it! 

                                'Paw' will be used to wake up his client's parents in the case of a seizure!

         This 7-month old pup is well on his way to being a phenomenal service dog for his little girl. Carver's job will involve him sleeping with his client, and actually responding to her seizures- if his little girl has one in the middle of the night, Carver is trained to wake up in response, set off an alarm, and  then wake up her parents to take care of her. Although all service dogs do important jobs, Carver's is a very special one and he's going to bring peace of mind and potentially a longer life to his little girl. WE love watching him make so much progress towards such an important goal!

Carver walking with handler Allie and client Ann!

And speaking of progress….

Miss Emmy might just be the embodiment of that word!

Emmy has grown into a spectacular looking and incredibly smart young lady- at almost 10 months old, we expect nothing less!
We're even teaching her to do our homework for us!

Emmy's basics are nailed down and good to go. Her tasks are doing incredible- right now she's working on retrievals (which she's already doing from the floor, a huge step for this kind of task!), cover me (HERE is a video of Bobo, a Viking Pups alum demonstrating),  and a brand new task we've decided to call PRESSURE (which is used to perform deep pressure therapy, which offers tons of benefits side of the obvious prime position for cuddles - but I'll let the experts tell you about that!).

Emmy's most impressive step up is that she has now started working on guidework!!!! All of Team Emmy has been looking forward to doing this for a very long time, because it's such an interesting and unusual task (for us at least!). Emmy's guidework is similar in concept to what a guide dog would do for someone who is blind, though Emmy will be trained in a much more limited fashion. Emmy will be told what to find, specifically a car, or a door, and Emmy is going to learn to bring her handler to that object!! Once Emmy's mastered finding a door, we'll build on that skill, until she not only will be able to guide her handler to a door, but outside through several doors. This is a pretty complicated skill, and we're all excited to get in on training for it!

                                                  Here's Emmy practicing a retrieval!

And in some final, more depressing news, our prodigy pup Zorn had to be exited from the program. While he was super smart and loved learning, Zorn didn't quite meet our standards, and so we had to let him go. He's been adopted by his handler Kat (Hi, that's me!) and her family, and is living it up in his new home. Everybody in the club misses him terribly!
Kat and Zorn playing at his new home!

Thankfully, Zorn's client has decided to stick with our program, and to fill in Zorn's shoes,  in Ferbruary we got our newest addition, cutie-pants nugget Nora!!

Nora is a chocolate lab hitting 12 weeks soon, and was, as usual, donated by Christina Clark of Iron Hill Retrievers! Thanks Christina, this feisty pants is going to do great things with us!

Nora working on 'Sit' with handler Kori

Nora is just starting in on her basics, and enjoying life with her foster Kris while she does. 

                               Trust me, it took a lot longer than what you see here to get her into that position!

We can't wait to see how well this lil girl takes to her life as a service dog!

See you next time guys!

A special thanks to:


The Quad Cities Canine Assistant Network is the non-profit organization that makes our program possible. As sister organizations QCCAN is an integral part of the Viking Pups mission, helping us with training, putting us in contact with clients, and most importantly, training service dogs and reaching more people who need the dogs to live better lives.

A huge thank you to the Huerta Hof family for donating our German Shepherd girl Emmy! Team Huerta Hof breeds gorgeous German Shepherds, and their dogs are found everywhere, from family homes to the Schutzhund field. We're sure Emmy will be a huge success!

Christina Clark, our fabulous breeder and owner of Iron Hill Retrievers. All of our Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers have been donated by Christina and they are all spectacular, with wonderful temperaments and absolutely GREAT looks.

And last but not least: 

Lisa Francescon and Francescon Portraiture!!!

Thanks for taking all of your beautiful pictures, Lisa! They're amazing, and you show off our pups so much better than our grainy phone pictures! You're incredibly talented and deserve every bit of business you get!

To learn more / keep up to date about Viking Pups: