PALMETTO, Fla. (FOX 13) - Some very special puppies are training to become superheroes. Southeastern Guide Dogs is preparing puppies for a life of service. They will be constant companions for those with special needs.
Liz Rote, the education and assessment specialist, puts the puppies through a routine that focuses on mind and body.
"This curriculum is really working on their confidence…all of these items increases that bond between the handler and the puppy," said Rote. "[The training] is meant to make them stronger physically and mentally."
Dusty, a 14-month-old dog, walks the treadmill and does army crawls and crunches as part of his training.
"We move them over to different textures and different surfaces," said Lauren Hugus, a conditioning and rehabilitation coach.
For the next eight weeks, Dusty will spend about six hours a week strengthening and conditioning himself to prepare for his future and his future handler.
Jessica D'Ambrosio, a certified K9 rehab technician, handles what could be considered the continuing education program; working to maintain skills with older dogs.
"We are increasing their range of motion. We are increasing their stamina and endurance just like humans do through different exercises and physical therapy," said D'Ambrosio.
So far, 200 dogs have gone through training at the Southeastern Guide Dogs conditioning center since it opened in July 2018. Its graduates have a 75-percent success rate with placement.
Soon the facility will include an aquatic park and a hyperbaric chamber. The new tools will help dogs quickly recover from injury.
"As of right now, their working career lasts about eight years or so, and with the condition and rehab we have in place, we hope to increase it to 10 to 12 years," added D'Ambrosio.