Montana college students training service dog to help veteran

Posted at 7:30 AM, Feb 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 12:57:47-04

HELENA – Two Carroll College seniors in the anthrozoology program are doing something that hasn’t been done there before: they’re fully training a service dog that will go to a veteran with PTSD.

“Yes, good boy!!” 10-month-old Major gets plenty of love and attention from trainer Ali Hance as he completes a task. He’s showing just one of the many skills he’s learning in order to become a service dog.

In this case, he’s learning that a face in the hands, or a bouncing knee, indicate he needs to intervene. “With Major, we’re training these tasks for this veteran. It’s going to change his life,” says Hance.

It’s the first time Carroll’s anthrozoology program will train a dog that will be in service.

“Normally program dogs, they’re shelter dogs, they train with their students for about a year, they learn service dog tasks, scent work, therapy work,” Hance explained.

PTSD Service Dog
Two Carroll College seniors are training a service dog that will go to a veteran with PTSD. (MTN News photo)

“However, they’re not going to be a working dog, a service dog. They’re placed in regular homes and become great pets. But we’re actually the first students to train a full-service working dog.”

Major came to Carroll College through the program Dog Tag Buddies, which finds shelter dogs, trains them and matches them with veterans.

In this case, Hance and Major’s other trainer, Madie Sanford, are also working with the Veterans Treatment Court in Great Falls.

“All of the folks that work there, the psychologists, the VA, the judges are very dedicated to rehabilitating these veterans and so adding a service dog is going to help with that,” says Sanford.

Major will work with the students until the end of the school year, at which point he will work with his veteran to make sure they’re a match.

“It’ll be great to get him to meet the veteran, as well, to see how their dynamic is,” says Sanford.  “We have one picked out, but we just want to make sure they’re truly going to be a great match.”

Hance and Sanford will be hosting a discussion next month on the Carroll campus for residents and business leaders to learn more about proper interaction and access issues regarding service dogs.

-Melissa Jensen reporting for MTN News