University of Findlay student starts service dog training program on campus

Rachael Quandt is behind the initiative that pairs puppies with students, to train the dogs to one day become service animals
Rachael Quandt is behind the initiative that pairs puppies with students, to train the dogs to one day become service animals
Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 5:09 AM EDT
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FINDLAY, Ohio (WTVG) - The University of Findlay’s newest students are the four-legged kind.

UFindlay students are working with the nationwide organization “4 Paws For Ability” to place puppies in the hands of students who will train the dogs with basic skill sets to one day become service animals.

“The way this program works is, dogs are born at 4 Paws for Ability and from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, the dogs are working through a lot of different experiences, and then they go to volunteer trainers like me either on a college campus or just around traditional homes, too,” said University of Findlay senior Rachael Quandt.

4 Paws for Ability is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to place quality service dogs with children and veterans with disabilities, as well as to educate the public regarding the use of service dogs in public places.

Quandt is the President of the University of Findlay’s Chapter of 4 Paws for Ability. During Rachael’s time in office this year, she has brought six puppies onto campus to begin their journey with becoming service dogs.

“I saw this program at other universities,” said Quandt. “Once I decided I wanted to go to the University of Findlay, I decided I wanted to bring the program here because I love working with dogs, and I wanted to help them train to become service dogs.”

Quandt explains the time students spend with their puppy in training allows the dogs the opportunity to travel to different places and experience socialization. Quandt says students work towards creating confidence and basic obedience with their K-9 while in public. Members of the University of Findlay Chapter of 4 Paws for Ability’s ultimate goal is to provide their puppy with a base level of skills to one day serve and protect those in need.

“Service dogs are so important, they are task trained to help the person that they are placed with,” said Quandt. “It makes the lives of that person that they serve easier, and they are able to assist in many daily tasks that we take for granted. One example is we’re able to train the dogs to hit handicap door buttons to help who they are with.”

After about one year with a volunteer trainer, dogs are returned to staff at the national level of 4 Paws for Ability to begin their final efforts with becoming service animals.

“There is a little hardship when you are taking the service dog in training back to the organization, but you know that they are doing amazing work there,” said Quandt. “It’s a very rewarding process, getting to see dogs I’ve worked with graduate as a service dog. It’s absolutely amazing. It makes me want to keep picking up more dogs, so I can do it all over again.”

Quandt is currently training a 4-month-old black lab named Harvest. Rachael will graduate in May from the animal science program at UF while passing the torch onto next year’s 4 Paws for Ability staff. With the support of the University of Findlay administration, the senior hopes to see the program continue to grow and bring even more puppies onto campus.

Quandt stresses the fact that anyone can become a volunteer trainer with the organization by contacting 4 Paws for Ability national staff.

“It’s very easy to start training through them, they are always looking for more volunteer trainers as well,” said Quandt. “It’s something families can do together, this is something college students are able to manage with taking college classes too. Our biggest job as volunteer trainers is to basically make confident dogs. This is such a rewarding process, being able to watch these dogs grow up has been so exciting and service dogs have such an amazing part in this world and they are so helpful.”

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