Texas A&M Student Service Dog Trainers Team Up With Transportation Services
Every week during the fall and spring semesters at Texas A&M University, members of the Aggie Guide-Dogs and Service-Dogs (AGS) student organization take their dogs out on training outings to teach them basic obedience, social skills and commands unique to service dogs.
Since its launch in 1997, the goal of AGS is to raise awareness about how service dogs help individuals with disabilities and train puppies to become service dogs themselves. The trainers and their dogs are regularly seen walking around campus and attending class.
“We’ve taught these trainers from day one how to handle their dogs in stressful situations, so they know how to talk to their dogs and calm them down in really high-distraction environments,” said Hannah Lam, an AGS trainer and senior biomedical sciences major.
These weekly training sessions have led AGS to partner with Texas A&M Transportation Services to provide specialized training opportunities for its dogs and members on the Aggie Spirit Buses once a semester.
“We all get on the bus and ride around and practice trying to stay in the right positions, and pay attention during all the distractions,” Lam said.
At a large university like Texas A&M, riding a bus during regular school hours can be overwhelming for the dog at first, said Ethan Gillmore, an AGS trainer and sophomore biomedical sciences major
“A big bus to a small dog can be pretty scary sometimes,” he said, adding that this private training time allows trainers to make their dogs feel more comfortable and familiar when riding buses to and from class.
“I’ve always loved animals, dogs especially. But what really pushes me to do this are the people,” said Gillmore. “Just knowing that I am going to get to help someone one day live their full life just makes me want to do this more and more.”
AGS trains dogs for about 10-15 months, after which they are donated to nationally-recognized service dog training school, such as Assistance Dogs of the West in New Mexico, Freedom Service Dogs in Colorado and MADE in Texas Assistance Dogs in Texas.