Students can help train or foster a puppy from Retrieving Freedom, an organization that trains dogs to serve the needs of veterans and children with autism. In various leadership and social work courses, students learn how Retrieving Freedom trains dogs as well as what effects service dogs have on their owners.

Dogs are trained to meet the needs of a specific recipient, according to Retrieving Freedom. The dogs go through more than two years of training to meet strict standards for a successful placement.

“It’s such a good cause and you’re doing this for someone who’s really going to utilize this dog,” Jessica Sydnes, a third-year social work major who became involved with Retrieving Freedom her first year, said. “You are helping someone in the future that you might not ever meet or see the effect that the dog has on the person.”

Working with dogs teaches patience, communication and trust along with other leadership qualities. Students are encouraged to bring dogs to classes or out into public to gain more work experience.

“Training a service dog requires a lot of dual attention,” Sydnes said. “In class I must find ways to study and pay attention as well as work with the dog.” Students in the social work class, Current Topics in Social Work Practice, can train service dogs in addition to learning about mental health, criminal justice, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, family services and medical social work.

“We breed and train chosen dogs that exhibit specific traits necessary to perform tasks to help these individuals, and we believe in matching the dog to the recipient,” according to Retrieving Freedom.


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