From The Dog Alliance, this month’s Get Involved spotlight organization:
The Pack Matters
The Dog Alliance programs and services incorporate the powerful connection between dogs and humans to improve the health and well-being of individuals and families. Originally named the Austin Dog Alliance, we began as a grassroots organization with the mission of using dogs to benefit the larger community.
Today, service dog training & placements, therapy dog training, family pet training, and youth programs work in tandem enabling the Dog Alliance to each year impact 62,000+ individuals and families living in Central Texas.
Having begun in 2006 in our executive director’s home, our organization moved to a strip mall location in 2009. In 2011, the Dog Alliance purchased 7 acres in Cedar Park, Texas. With volunteer sweat equity and critically important community partnerships, we celebrated the 2013 move into our first 3,200-square-foot building on the new property. The key design of our first building is a home-like setting allowing clients and volunteers to feel welcomed. In 2016, we completed the second building, a kennel, and an education center. Our second building features a very large training floor that has enabled us to expand all our dog training-based programs – service dog, therapy dog, and family pet. Fast forward to 2021 to find the Austin Dog Alliance dba the Dog Alliance continuing to impact lives each day!
Programs Serving the Community
Our first service program – Bow Wow Therapy Dogs – is wildly popular and sought after from schools, public libraries, senior care facilities, children’s medical facilities, juvenile courts, and after-school programs. At the time we ceased on-site visits due to COVID, there were 174 volunteer handler-dog therapy teams regularly visiting 352+ sites each year with a majority of these being weekly visits. We are now in the process of re-certifying every volunteer handler-dog team and welcoming new volunteer handler-dog teams to resume on-site visitation starting fall 2021.
The Dog Alliance, as a fully accredited member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), is recognized as one of only 135 accredited members worldwide. Training service dogs to give veterans the opportunity to improve their quality of life and/or augment physical mobility challenges has been at the heart of our Hounds for Heroes professional training program starting in early 2013. Due to demand, Train Your Own Service Dog (TYOSD) – was added in 2017 as an expansion of Hounds for Heroes. Veterans and civilians are eligible to apply for this owner-trained program. In 2020, we added first responders as eligible to receive a professionally trained service dog or enroll in the TYOSD program. If you or your business are interested in helping sponsor a service dog, please contact Joni by emailing ThePack@thedogalliance.org.
The Learning Academy is our year-round fee-for-service training program designed for individuals and families. Our professional, certified trainers employ positive-reinforcement, science-based training methods tailored to meet the unique needs of each dog and owner. Group classes include puppy kindergarten, puppy manners, dog manners, agility, nose work, dog sports such as tricks and rally, reactive dog rehabilitation, pet therapy training, and more. Private 1:1 instruction is also available.
K9 Kids Summer Camp welcomes more than 400 children from ages 6 through 14 arriving on our campus with their dogs. Based on the age group, campers learn about pet safety, how to bathe & brush their dog, how to teach their dogs basic skills, tricks, and how to run the agility course. Add crafts and learning to make yummy dog biscuits to round out a fun week. Registration opens annually in March and these 8 camp weeks sell out quickly.
The Pandemic Impact
As expected, the COVID pandemic has changed how we serve the Greater Austin community. All programs were closed from March to September 2020. The K9 Kids Summer Camp converted to an online experience last summer. Outdoor dog training classes restarted in late September 2020 with limited enrollment & masks required. Even now, class enrollments remain fluid based on the pandemic gating criteria for Williamson & Travis counties.
Our Bow Wow Therapy Dog teams have not been on-site since early March 2020. We continue to prepare our volunteer teams so that when it’s safe to do so, we can return to our schools, nursing homes, and hospitals.
Hounds for Heroes and Train Your Own Service Dog have continued but in varied stages of video conference training to outdoor settings to keep participants safe.
Volunteers are the “heart & soul” of the Dog Alliance! Learn how you can be involved.
We are encouraging people to consider joining us as a Bow Wow Therapy Dog team. Even before the pandemic, the demand for our therapy dogs and our reading dogs exceeded the number of volunteer teams available. Does your dog love to be around other people and dogs? Are you seeking a way to be involved in a way that works best for your lifestyle and schedule? NOTE: Proof of a completed COVID vaccine is required to volunteer as a Bow Wow Therapy Dog team as you will be visiting schools, public libraries, hospitals, and senior care facilities.
If you’re new to volunteering with your dog, our Bow Wow Therapy Dog & Handler 6-Week Training Course is required prior to testing.
Support the Pack
Training service dogs and therapy dogs is an expensive process as we settle for nothing short of excellence. Each service dog requires 18+ months of professional program training and costs $45,000 from start-to-assignment with a qualified veteran or first-responder.
We invest $900 for every therapy dog trained and assigned as a volunteer handler-dog team serving our Greater Austin community.
Revenue from The Learning Academy training classes and fees for K9 Kids Summer Camp help offset the direct costs of our service dog and therapy dog programs. By participating in a training class or enrolling your favorite kiddo in summer camp, you are helping us train service dogs and therapy dogs!
Direct donations always are in style! Your donation of any amount directly helps train a service dog or a therapy dog. You can make a secure online donation. Or send a check made payable to The Dog Alliance mailed to 1321 W. New Hope Dr., Cedar Park, TX 78613.
Your donation is tax-deductible as we are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization recognized by the IRS. Here’s our EIN # 20-4797768.