Dogs for Better Lives hopes to train more animals than ever and continue to grow their facility and staffing.
The non-profit used to be known as Dogs for the Deaf, training animals solely to help people with hearing disabilities.
Now under a new name and a bigger facility, they’re expanding to autism assistance dogs and facility dogs which work with doctors, therapists, and teachers.
Dogs for Better Lives opened their new training facility a year ago.
In that time, a lot has changed – for the better.
“It’s allowed us to grow our staff, we have more room for additional staff so we’ve hired some new apprentice trainers,” said C.E.O. of Dogs for Better Lives, Bryan Williams.
The non-profit sends dogs across the country at no cost to future owners.
In the last few years it’s begun training dogs for children on the autism spectrum.
“We expanded our program recently to include children on the autism spectrum and then what we call Facility Dogs, so dogs that go into facilities where professionals are working with clientele and the dogs work with the professional staff to help the clients that they’re working with,” said Williams.
As it’s added programs, Dogs for Better Lives has grown.
“Original capacity was about 20 kennels. This facility has 40, so we significantly grew the capacity for the number of dogs that we can house here in training,” added Williams.
He says it takes an average of six months to train a dog.
With increased staffing and a new 40,000 square-foot facility, the amount of animals housed for training has doubled.
Dog acquisition manager, Grace Mitchell is among the newly hired staff. Her job is to find high quality dogs to train at the new facility.
“We’ll come in and do a temperament eval. It’s a 7 item test that we run the dogs through to see if they’re interested in people, food motivated, confident around new sounds or items, and then at that point we’d accept them into our program,” said Mitchell.
The facility includes 5 apartments so dogs can be taught to recognize sounds that they’ll need to alert their owners to.
“The dog will then take them to the sound so they’ll bring them to the oven or the door, wherever the sound originated from,” Mitchell said.
Though the organization has expanded the last several years, Williams says their work is far from done.
“We have a long-term vision of adding other training facilities across the country because it’s very hard to get from Medford to Charlotte, North Carolina, for example.”
Dogs for Better Lives says they are always looking for volunteers or people to foster dogs.
If you’re interested, visit dogsforbetterlives.org.
NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology.
In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she’s not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.