Davis raising service dog

Gloria Baughn Davis is a certified professional dog trainer, knowledge assessed. She has been involved in this type of work for 20 years. Currently, she volunteers with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) and is working with Penn, a yellow Golden Retriever/Labrador Retriever Cross. Penn is 7 months old and will be in training with Davis for two years.
“He’ll end up in what we call puppy college for six months,” Davis said. 
Once Penn is trained, he will be able to perform more than 40 commands to aid children, veterans and adults with disabilities open doors, pick up dropped items and much more. 
“Each life changing dog is provided free of charge to recipients. At the present time, there are approximately 450 exceptional people who need an exceptional dog to go about their daily lives with more independence,” Davis said.
An important aspect of the dog’s training is to be socialized.
“You have to be able to go to church and to school,” she said. Penn will have to become accustomed to being around strangers and being in any environment where his companion may need to be, like a grocery store.
Davis said guide dogs work with people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), are in a wheelchair or any other condition where a person might need assistance a trained dog can provide.
“The dogs have to be really, really calm, one that is accepted in the public,” Davis said and added Golden- and Labrador Retrievers fit the bill. A cross such as Penn is also a good choice. 
“Penn is exceptionally calm. He’s not in the public, yet,” she said.
One important characteristic of a canine companion is to not have a strong prey instinct. Dogs with a strong prey instinct will have an overwhelming urge to chase other animals, people, cars and so forth.
CCI requires its trainers to give a monthly report about the dog and how the training is working.
Davis said since she’s been training dogs for two decades, she trains dogs a little bit more and teaches 47 commands.
“They can actually learn 100,” she said.
Although Penn is the sixth dog she’s had to train, he is her second service dog puppy to raise and train in Jefferson County.
“Olivia, the Collie from SD Gunner, named after my husband, David, is doing a wonderful job of enhancing the life of a veteran in Pennsylvania with PTSD,” Davis said. 
“Jefferson County residents were an integral part of her socialization and training. We can all take pride in her success as an emotional support companion. I am asking again for the encouragement and involvement of individuals and organizations in our fair city. It would not be possible to succeed in this task without the continued attention and motivation of this community,” she said.
While Davis enjoys training dogs, she said there is one part of the training process that is the most difficult.
“First of all, you have to let them go. But the answer is you cannot believe how wonderful it is to hand the dog over. We actually get to hand them over to the recipient,” she said.
There is work involved besides training the dog to respond to commands. Trainers start with a puppy that also has to be house trained and cared for as well.
“And, it’s very expensive,” Davis said.
The skill level of the dog after training determines where he gets placed.
Prospective recipients are placed on a waiting list after being prescreened.
“The waiting list last I heard is four years long. They (recipients) have to have upper body strength to handle the dog. If it’s a child, the parent has to be responsible for the dog,” Davis said.
CCI is a 501(c)3 with volunteer puppy raisers. The dog is always owned by CCI.
“When that dog is too old to really do their job, they are placed with someone in the family. They (recipients) always get another dog; and, they don’t go on a waiting list,” Davis said and added one of the saddest things ever for her is removing the dog from the recipient. If the recipient dies, the dog is retrained.
“Disability awareness is crucial in our society and being a part of placing a service dog, an ambassador and a friend to enhance the life of someone with a disability is very rewarding for all of us. If you or your organization would like to assist in training Penn for his future partnership, we would appreciate the opportunity to be your special guest. Whether it be a party, a hospital visit, a school reading group, or a business meeting, give the gift of independence by helping to give our dog a job.”
Anyone interested in helping Penn become more socialized can contact Gloria Baughn Davis at 478-377-0876.