How KSDS helps provide assistance and guide dogs in Kansas to those who need them


Many four-legged creatures across Kansas are more than pets. Along with serving with police departments, dogs work in facilities, as guide dogs and as service dogs.

A non-profit organization in Kansas helps train these animals who are sent nationwide to assist people.

“We train them to work with visually impaired and physically disabled people,” said Brook Pfizenmaier, a trainer who works with KSDS Assistance Dogs in Washington, Kansas. “They also go to schools.”

When Kai Bricker, 10, of Topeka visited the Kansas State Fair last week, he went up to Pfizenmaier and asked if he could pet Dove, a Labrador. Bricker’s grandmother is visually impaired and in need of a dog like Dove.

Kai and his family inquired as to how his grandmother might be able to acquire a service pet to help her navigate sidewalks, stairs and traffic.

KSDS is accredited by Assistance Dogs International and is a member of the International Breeding Cooperative and the North American Breeding Cooperative. All the organization’s placements are free. In addition, all KSDS dogs are provided free food and certain medications during their working life. Since its inception as the Kansas Specialty Dog Service in 1990, the organization has placed more than 600 dogs in 36 states, including Kansas.

Some dogs may need to stop working because they have health issues, like allergies or cataracts, or simply decide it is time to retire and become a pet.

KSDS’s mission is to provide professionally trained guide, service, and facility dogs for people in need of a canine partner to enhance their independence, to fully function in society, or to enrich professional career responsibilities.

“We mostly use labs and golden retrievers,” Pfizenmaier said.

KSDS has several official puppy raisers − volunteer individuals and families who provide a secure and loving home for dogs who will someday go to work. Usually, these families are given an 8-week-old animal, who was born and raised by their mother at KSDS. The puppy raiser provides the animals with basic obedience training and socialization.

When the dog turns four months old, it is given a special KSDS service dog cape, and sometime after it turns 1, it goes back to KSDS for formal training.

Dependent on needs and temperament, the dog is selected to train as a guide dog, service dog or institutional helper.

For companions like Kai’s grandmother, guide dogs help them navigate curbs, stairs and sidewalks. They also help their owners avoid overhanging obstacles. In addition, the animals are taught to follow the “find” command, showing their owners where tables, chairs and doors are.

Service dogs are taught to retrieve dropped items, pull wheelchairs and help brace people as they transfer from wheelchair to bed. They also assist in undressing, opening and closing doors and turning on lights.

Facility dogs are partnered with a working professional at a school, clinic, courthouse or nursing home. Their training is more emotionally oriented, as they are instructed to maintain appropriate social behavior.

After training, the animal is paired with a partner and they become a team, with the partner traveling up to Washington to train with the animal. The dogs are valued at about $25,000 and are given more than 1,000 hours of training plus veterinary care.

As reported in the Hutchinson News




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