On Feb. 16, Fire Team K-9’s dogs were tested to see how they responded to alarms, sirens, fire truck fumes, air brakes and being handled by strangers. This desensitization training is very important as a service dog and their handler could find themselves in an emergency situation. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Nancy Berube eases Professor Plum into position. Before any alarms could go off, the dogs had to be steady and comfortable on the ground. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Eric Gilbert walks Juno around the firetruck to acclimatize him to the fumes. Staying calm and focused next to big, loud vibrating vehicles was part of the tasks the dogs underwent. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Fire Team K-9’s service dogs put to the test at Grn Petawawa fire hall
By Patricia Lebeouf
Posted on Thursday February 27, 2020
Service dogs must be ready for anything life may throw their way in order to keep their human safe.
To ensure that they are ready to respond to anything, the Fire Team K-9’s pups are put through rigorous training. About a dozen of these dogs just underwent one of the hardest hurdles: remaining calm as sirens blared around them. Fire Team K-9’s sources dogs and donations to provide service dogs to veterans, first responders and their dependents.
On Feb. 16, dogs and their handlers went to the Department of National Defence fire station at Garrison Petawawa where they were exposed to loud noises, strange smells and physical handling to help prepare them if their human ever requires emergency services.
“This way if they are in public or there is an emergency, they don’t react to the sirens,” said Jeff Hinch, President and Head Trainer.
Service dogs have proven very beneficial for many people suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. A study is currently underway on the organization to see whether service dogs act as a crutch or a cure.
For Hinch and many of his peers, these dogs have been lifesavers.
“What we’ve noticed is that people level out on meds but then their quality of life doesn’t improve. As soon as they get a dog, their quality of life improves,” said Hinc
He personally had suffered from PTSD for seven years, spending most of his time in his basement. It was only when he was given the chance to bond with his service dog Judah, and train him that he regained his life.
"It gives a sense of purpose,” he said.
He wants to give that sense to other veterans suffering as he did. But before the service pups can be released to the veteran, they must do a lot of training, which is why the group was grateful the fire hall opened its doors to them.
It is a process that must be done carefully.
“You need to make sure that they are in a positive state of mind,” said Tracy Toll, accompanied by her dog Tobias, “that everything is positive for them because you can ruin a dog.”
By training at the station, they can carefully introduce elements that may normally scare a dog, and allow them to adapt.
Having this partnership with Garrison Petawawa has been beneficial for both sides.
“It also helps us,” said Deputy Platoon Chief Shawn Stencill. “When we go to a call, we don’t want the dog to show any aggression towards us.”
He also appreciates there are organizations like Fire Team K9’s out there to help those who need it.
“It is great that they are helping our vets and helping our first responders with their PTSD and anxiety issues,” he added.
Fire Team K-9’s trains their dogs for behaviour, obedience, PTSD and anxiety, with specific training provided based on the individual needs of the client. They use pedigree breeders as well as suitable donated and rescue dogs. Making sure the dog is matched with the correct person is their priority, and they are with them every step of the way to ensure bonding and success.
“We just want to keep branching out and helping veterans get more service dogs,” said Hinch.
They are creating Mounties Mutts, which is their rescue division.
Veterans or first responders who need a four legged fire team partner should visit www.fireteamk9s.com.