Successful relationships are all about finding the right match, and it’s no different when it comes to service dogs! A service dog’s job is very important, as is the chemistry between the owner and their canine companion. 

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Nonprofit Deafinitely Dogs, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, trains dogs to help the deaf, the hard of hearing, and veteran and nonveterans with PTSD. They also train the more social dogs to help out in facilities like funeral homes or medical facilities. Now, they’re flipping the script and letting the service dogs be the ones to choose who they’re going to work with, not the other way around. 

This unique approach takes each dog’s personality involved. “One thing that Deafinitely Dogs does that is different is we honor the essence of each and every dog,” co-founder Sherry Steine Ross said. “So, just like humans are individuals, we feel that dogs are as well. And so we allow our dogs to grow up and mature and pick the type of job that they excel at and enjoy doing.”

While it’s not quite Tinder for dogs, the nonprofit does have a specific process of creating matches that can be likened to dating. “We introduce a dog on a one-on-one basis, and that’s what makes us different. We literally set our clients up on a date with different dogs and we look for that instant chemistry and bond,” Steine Ross said. “Does the dog look at a person in the eye and want to be with them, even if they don’t have a treat and a ball?”

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Ultimately, it’s important for those looking for a service dog to trust the process, because coming in with a preconceived notion might not end up with the best match. “We had a veteran that came in here that was adamant he had to have a Labrador. ’That’s the type of dog I want,’” Steine Ross said. “And we’re like, ‘Ok, we let dogs pick their person, so we will introduce you to Labradors, but we’re also going to introduce you to a few other dogs.’ And we introduced him to, I think, three Labradors, and then he met a golden retriever. And that golden retriever picked him.”

Dogs are extremely intuitive, and it’s important to listen to their gut feelings – possibly even more than it’s important to listen to your own gut. Now, if only this approach could be used for puppy adoption! I’m sure we’d all be a lot happier if we’d all listen to canine intuition.  

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