One of the most important stages in the training of service dogs is their early experience as puppies and throughout their juvenile stage. This is the time when socialization is critical, including exposing the puppy and young dog to a wide range of different environments and experiences.
A great combination of both different environments and lots of different experiences can be provided to eventual service dogs through the support of athletes and sports teams. The Washington Capitals are an example of a sports team that has stepped up to the plate to take on this role, and they have partnered with America’s VetDogs, a group that provides trained service dogs for vets across the country.
Captain has his own personal Puppy Raiser, a volunteer dog trainer for The Guide Dog Foundation. Trainer Deana Stone assesses Captain’s response to new environments and situations, as well as developing his customized training program while also maintaining his hectic social calendar. When not with the team, Captain is at home with Deana Stone and her yellow lab, another famous dog by the name of Smudge.
The Team’s Role
With the support of America’s VetDogs, the athletes on the Washington Capitals are providing both trainings as well as socialization for Captain, their service puppy in training. He first arrived in October of 2019 at just 10 weeks, and he has already developed quite a following on social media platforms as well as his personal appearances at games, promotional events, community activities and even at TV interviews with team players. In November, and just over a month with the Washington Capitals, Captain or Cap Pup as he is known on Instagram, already has over 50,000 enthusiastic followers.
This is a significant commitment for the team and the players, as the Captain will be with them for up to a year and half. As the official pup of the Washington Capitals, Captain, this yellow lab will one-day complete full-service dog training and be provided, at no cost, to a vet somewhere in the USA.
Other Teams and Dogs
In addition to Captain of the Washington Capitals, there are five other puppies being socialized by NHL teams. These include Barclay, a yellow lab with the St. Louis Blues as well as another yellow lab puppy named Ranger, who is currently with the New York Rangers. Ranger and Flambo, the puppy with the Montreal Canadiens, will go to a person with visual or motor impairments or a child or adult on the autism spectrum.
Rounding out the pack is Rookie, a black lab puppy with the Ottawa Senators. Rookie will be trained as a seeing-eye dog. The same is true for Radar from the New York Islanders, who will also go on to become a guide dog for a visually impaired or blind individual.
Each of these puppies will become an amazing dog with the ability to truly change the life of a very deserving individual. With their experience and socialization with the teams, these puppies will have the temperament and the confidence to be amazing dogs in any type of situation.