SAN DIEGO — Training took to the friendly skies at San Diego International Airport Friday as service dogs learned what it takes to help their humans travel.
"At the end of the day, to have canine support dogs be able to help its new partner, it's a good moment for all of us," said Nicole Hall with San Diego International Airport.
That's why Hall says they're thrilled to host this very important training with Canine Support Teams.
"Those guide dogs play such an important role in the life of the person they're going to be working with and we like to make sure they're equipped,” Lorie Dankers with TSA said.
“A lot of people get a little nervous when going through the checkpoint and dogs are no different,” Dankers added.
She says, this training gives dogs and their humans the independence they need to take to the friendly skies.
“(They like) to bring the dogs through the checkpoint to not only familiarize the dogs but also the trainers with what they need to know to do when they come through the checkpoint," she said.
Asia Duhamel said this training is vital because it liberates clients and makes sure their service dog knows what to do in case they need help.
"Because of her, I've been able to do this and give back to other veterans. Going through security, and then going into the planes, practicing navigating big crowds. This is great exposure for all of the dogs, they get to have lots of socialization, exposure and it's a great experience for our dogs as well," Duhamel said.
She says the training liberates their clients while making sure their service dogs know exactly what to do in case they need help.
The dogs mostly come from breeders and are typically Golden or Labrador Retrievers. They help people with disabilities and 80% of their clients are veterans. The animals range anywhere from $9,500 to $20,000. This specialized training takes time. There's a one to two-year wait list. Duhamel says her support dog changed her life and she knows other dogs impact the lives of so many others.
"It's very overwhelming for someone especially with a disability as a veteran with PTSD, being able to go into the plane and practice when no one is around is way helpful for the day when you're in person, you got luggage, you got your bags and people are trying to get you to go in," she said.
San Diego International Airport hosts this training a couple of times a year. Southwest Airlines provided the plane used in Friday afternoon’s training. There were three Golden Retrievers in training, one fully trained Labrador and one fully trained German Shepherd.
These dogs will go on to serve people that need them most. They specialize in psychiatric and mobility task work.
To learn more about the program, click here.
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