Kansas State service pups in training

Kathleen Wardman (left) and Rebekah Arnold (right) second-year students in the doctoral program of veterinary medicine and their KSDS puppy, Ohlde. (Elexis Bates | Collegian Media)

Two male labrador puppies Snyder and Ohlde from the Kansas Specialty Dog Service are training for service work at Kansas State, James Roush, associate dean of the Veterinary Medicine Center, said.

Kathleen Wardman, graduate student in veterinary medicine, said the puppies arrived at 16 weeks old on Sept. 27 and will continue to train with the students for 18 months. Wardman said this is the first time students get to work with KSDS as volunteers.

“I have an interest in animal behavior and I never had the experience of interacting with companion animals this way growing up, so this is a way I can gain that experience and have the ability to give back to my community,” Wardman said.

Kyanna Volkman, KSDS puppy raiser coordinator, said K-State and KSDS’s ongoing partnership includes a student visit to the KSDS campus, located in Washington, Kansas, every year to perform eye checks for the dogs. Volkman said students provide free health checks to the dogs to ensure the animals pass the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals’ standard for their eyes, hips and elbows.

“When students were here on their last visit, we discussed the idea of having the dogs at schools more often and we enjoy working with them, and developing more of an everyday relationship with them has been very exciting,” Volkman said. 

Roush said professors are impressed with the dogs’ good behavior in class, and trainers are proud of how the puppies’ manners are improving.

“On more than one occasion, I have had professors ask when the dogs would arrive while the puppies had been in the back of their classes the whole time being so well-behaved that the instructors didn’t even notice,” Roush said.

Roush said he noticed the trainers, like Wardman, and their classmates love having the puppies on campus. 

“We take the puppies with us to class every day and my classmates are always excited to see them in the mornings,” Wardman said. “Interacting with the puppies really brightens their day.” 

Wardman said if students see Snyder and Ohlde around campus, the puppies can receive attention when they do not have their vests on. Trainers urge students to always ask permission to pet the puppies and only give them treats provided by trainers.

Wardman said the students will teach the puppies 30 obedience commands and report back to the KSDS at the beginning of each month to record their progress. 

Wardman said she and her fellow puppy raisers are very pleased with Ohlde’s growth. 

“It’s really exciting to see him already learning and catching onto his commands, especially in potty training — it has been tremendously better since he first arrived with us,” Wardman said.

Volkman said once the dogs are finished training, they will be placed in specialized categories to be facility, guide or service dogs. 

“The dogs make it obvious when they are not enjoying their job so they pick their own career before graduating by choosing which of these categories best suits them for their skill set,” Volkman said.

Volkman said KSDS is a nonprofit organization that depends on a strong community of volunteer puppy raisers from all over the country to begin training their dogs. 

Volkman said KSDS is always seeking more volunteers to join the puppy raising journey. 

“There is no true requirement for our volunteers, as long as they have a will to learn about dog training and a passion to help us create this foundation for our dogs then anyone can become a puppy raiser,” Volkman said. 

More information on KSDS or how to become a puppy raiser can be found on their website.