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He’s cute! He’s blonde! He’s brown-eyed! And…he’s hairy. This is Gunner, the service dog in training.
Senior Kaitlyn Cole has been training her dog Gunner to be a service dog for six months. He is a 1 year old yellow lab who loves people and is motivated by toys. Cole is training Gunner for a veteran service dog non-profit organization in addition to her Girl Scouts project.
“He’s the main part of it, but it’s not supposed to be about just him,” Cole said. “I went to Canada for the Women’s World Cup, and on our way back we went through Minnesota to the Mall of America. There we saw a service dog organization doing an exhibition and they were looking for people my age to train their dogs.”
Gunner has learned the basics so far, but he still has a lot of learning to do.
“He’s good at retrieving things, but he’s not so good at giving it back to you,” she said. “So whatever you toss, he’ll grab it and then run circles around you because he doesn’t want to give it back.”
To better his training, Cole uses plastic balls and water bottles to get him to practice retrieving things. Cole attends a training course in Tulsa for Gunner every Thursday. She also trains him at home by giving him simple tasks, and brings him to school and events just to make him become more familiar with people.
Though he’s adorable, keep in mind that he is a service dog in training, so if you want to pet him, always ask first.
“He’s working on ignoring people and tuning out all of the other distractions, and a random person walking up to pet him really messes with his concentration,” Cole said.
According to Cole, she will be training him until the end of next summer. When he’s finished training, he’ll be able to help someone in a wheelchair.