How Award-Winning Trainers Transform Pups into Support Dogs

Ultimate Canine gives guidance and trains dogs from the time they are born, and on throughout their lives.

Morris in the snowYou may have read our recent post about Morris V. Prout, the sweet-natured therapy dog who works at the Prout Funeral Home in Verona, N.J. But how can dogs like Morris become therapy certified and positively impact their community? Well, it often starts with Julie Case and the award-winning team at Ultimate Canine in Westfield, IN.  


For Ultimate Canine, the process begins long before the dogs are even born. They work closely with a selective group of dog breeders in the Westfield area to find the ideal service/therapy dogs. Part of this process is to screen potential mom and dad dogs for health conditions, doing over 150 DNA tests. This method reliably produces healthy, strong litters that can handle the physical and emotional demands of the job. The dogs are also commonly non-shedding, hypoallergenic breeds. 


According to Julie, the training process for therapy dogs begins as soon as a litter is born, “The puppies go through a carefully designed program,” Julie said. “They are given daily gentle exposure to stimuli and handling, and as they grow and get older, they are given tasks and made accustomed to people and touching.” She goes on to explain that this head start on training builds up their resilience to the stress they will experience in their work environment, “Levels of stimulation and training increase as they get older, with small obstacle trainings daily by the time they are eight weeks old and meeting up to 100 people/week at that time.” 


Ultimate Canine developed and refined a 20-step temperament test over 27 years of working with thousands of dogs. The dogs are tested for intelligence, problem-solving, ability to learn, and are observed in challenging situations and environments. The dogs that pass these tests are then approved to begin their official training. 


The training process lasts for approximately six months. The dogs visit hospitals, schools, funeral homes, and other environments where they are exposed to many people and scenarios. This is designed to help them become comfortable within various situations. According to Julie, “The dogs are thoughtfully monitored and evaluated during the training period, to see if their temperament will suit a therapy or working career. If they are determined to not be appropriate for that role, they are removed from the program and made available for adoption, typically to families. None of the dogs are ever forced into a working role. That would not be a good result for anyone.” 


The dogs aren’t the only ones that need training, though…their new handlers need it too! Once a dog completes training, Ultimate Canine goes to the site where the dog will live and work. The place can be a police station, funeral home, school, or many other locations. The Ultimate Canine rep runs the new owners through a “Handler Course,” where they are trained and must pass a physical and verbal performance test before the dog can join their new family. The Ultimate Canine team also re-visits site locations on an annual basis – “we check-in and make sure everyone is working well together,” says Julie. “We put the dogs and their handlers through additional certifications and just get a look at how they are all doing.” 


But it’s not all work and no play – these are still dogs after all! It is vital to Julie and her team that the organizations understand that the dogs wear a vest when working. And like anyone else, working dogs get tired too. “The dogs have a schedule and a time for working, and they know when that is, but we make sure that people understand the dogs have to nap twice a day,” Julie says.  So when they get home and the vest comes off? “The dogs have to be allowed to be a dog,” Julie continued. “When they are home, take them for a walk, play fetch with them, go to a dog park, snuggle on the couch. It’s good for them.”   


That feels like a win for the therapy dogs and their handlers.  


About Ultimate Canine 

Julie Case is the owner/founder of Ultimate Canine, located in Westfield, IN. The award-winning organization offers customized dog training and associated support.  Julie has been offering customized dog training and services for 27 years, holds several certifications and is a member of numerous national organizations including the American Pet Trainers Association and the American Working Dog Association.   


Ultimate Canine is proud to partner with the Working Canine Foundation. You can now donate toward a service dog or a police K9 or become a sponsor. 


Learn more about Ultimate Canine and see their wide array of video content on their YouTube channel.