Excerpt from an article from the Belvoir Eagle, written by Matt Bookwalter
Cpl. Niles keeps a sharp eye out as he glides along the aisles. He’s looking for anything that his partner could need, listening for any help that would be wanted. His blue jacket is proudly displaying his ID, and his tail is wagging in a rhythmic, clock-like, manner.
Cpl. Niles is a service dog. His human partner, Col. Roger Lintz, received him through the Paws for Purple Hearts program.
The PPH is a California-based program that breeds, trains and pairs service dogs with compatible Veteran and active-duty partners, based on need.
“The dogs are trained to know 90 to 100 different commands,” said PPH trainer Robert Porter. “As they are paired with their partners, they can learn the individual’s needs.”
The training process is a long and adaptive process for the animals. It starts behind closed doors, in a controlled environment. Once the initial training is finished, the dogs are paired up, and both the dog and owner train together.
“We have them practice in a real world environment,” Porter said. “We take them on field trips to places like the Metro, movie theaters and stores. We make the dogs go through things that aren’t normal for them, like riding escalators.”
Part of the training the coupled pair experience, is bonding.
“After a year or so, the dogs can actually anticipate what their human partners will need,” said Porter.