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Freedom Paws dogs trained on Otterbein’s campus by students

Freedom Paws dogs trained on Otterbein’s campus by students

By Courtney Kilmer ‘17

This school year, the campus has been taken over by five service dogs in training. The dogs are being trained by Otterbein students through a nonprofit called Freedom Paws.

Freedom Paws is an organization that breeds, trains and places dogs with people who need them. They train dogs in one of six categories: service dogs, skilled companion dogs, hearing dogs, diabetic alert dogs, emotional support dogs and facility dogs. They primarily service people in Ohio and surrounding areas.

Victoria Sullivan ‘18 became involved with Freedom Paws a year ago, when her friend was training a dog, and suggested that she get involved. She filled out the online application and was contacted by Freedom Paws. Since then, she has trained one dog and is currently assisting her roommate in training another one.

“I live in campus apartments and the dog gets to stays with us,” she said. “It’s a really cool thing to be doing as a full-time student.”

Students who train dogs are responsible for the dog’s precursor training, teaching them things such as basic commands and social behaviors. Diabetic service dogs are also trained to alert their handler when glucose levels are too high or too low. The dogs go with their student everywhere, including classes.

“Since my roommate is the one with the dog in her name, she’s the one who takes it to class,” said Sullivan. “That really helps the dog get used to social environments and how to behave when there’s a lot going on and other distractions.”

The amount of time it takes to train a dog depends on the dog itself, but usually averages to a few months.