Local dog training facility raises funds for those needing therapy and service dogs

MuttSchool is a dog daycare and specializes in dog training and behavior. (Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

MuttSchool is a local dog training facility specializing in behavioral modification and assistance dog training. Clients can choose to enroll their pup in either group classes, private lessons or day school.

Founded by MuttSchool’s team, MuttCare is a scholarship program intent on supplying those in need of service animals with the funds to have them trained. MuttCare’s goal is to make assistance dogs a more accessible resource for people with compromised physical or mental health.

“MuttCare is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people by creating mutually beneficial partnerships with specially trained service and therapy dogs,” Mary Hager, owner of MuttSchool, said. “A lot of the people who need service dogs also need help financially, so we came up with MuttCare as a nonprofit so that we could provide scholarships to the people who need them.”

(Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)
(Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Karen Schroeder, a local photographer, has partnered with MuttSchool to help raise funds for MuttCare. In doing so, she joins the ranks of photographers all over the country participating in the Pooch Playoffs. Schroeder will be holding pet portrait sessions, with the fees going directly to help MuttCare get established.

Schroeder will give out custom keychains to everyone who brings in their dog for a photography session. Four lucky pooches photographed at these sessions will receive gifts from local pet-friendly businesses, and one of those four dogs will be deemed the “Ulti-Mutt Cutie.” This winner will go on to compete in the National Championship Pooch Playoffs, and online voting in March will determine the cutest canine in the country.

Schroeder explains that because it is such a new program, MuttCare’s directors are still trying to raise enough money to start giving out scholarships.

“On average, it takes two years to train a service animal,” Schroeder said. “There are a lot of expenses involved in that by the time trainers are paid, and there are so many heartbreaking stories about people who could really benefit from a service dog but don’t have the resources to get one.”

Muttschool’s services provide a variety of benefits. Hager, who has worked at MuttSchool for 11 years, said there is an important distinction between their work with service dogs and therapy dogs.

“Therapy dogs are owned by one person, but they help out a group of people. They don’t necessarily [provide therapy] for their owner specifically, but they assist others,” Hager said. “A service dog is one that is trained to help with their owner’s own disability and isn’t public accessed.”

While therapy dogs might be brought to soothe victims after a natural disaster or provide bedside cheer to hospital patients, service dogs provide practical daily help to the individual who owns them. MuttSchool specializes in training for both.

MuttSchool also provides general behavioral training and care for all kinds of dogs. The scholarships will facilitate the mission of helping many gain access to the assistance and joy dogs can provide.

(Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)
(Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Hager’s team is looking for sponsors throughout the community to help with the Pooch Playoffs, as well as more canine contestants. They are specifically seeking donations for the S’Wag Bags the competing pets will receive, donations for the prizes of the final four dogs and donations for the prize of Manhattan’s champion pooch.

Donating to MuttSchool’s cause or entering the special canine in your life into the Pooch PlayOffs is one way to help support local businesses, as well as those needing access to valuable resources. Pet portrait sessions with Karen Schroeder are available on Feb. 5, 19 and 26 at 4912 Skyway Drive in Manhattan.