Terri Keller, Professional Service Dog Breeder
For what purpose(s) do you breed your dogs?
I breed service dogs for veterans, first responders, and as court advocacy dogs to serve as emotional support for children.
The biggest part of what our dogs do is emotional and trauma support. And retrieving and bracing if a veteran has a balance issue – especially due to a prosthesis.
Why do you choose to breed labs, specifically?
They are so gregarious. They will go anywhere with anybody and they were bred for this bond with humans that goes back generations. They are intelligent, very sweet, very devoted, and physically strong. They have short, easy-to-maintain coats. They are just so consistent and easy. They love kids and really love people.
This is why we have purpose-bred service dogs. Consistency right out of the box.
What changes do you see in people when they get their service dog?
The veterans have been so anxious. PTSD is really high anxiety. Literally a backfire from a car sends them to the ground. The dog gives them the confidence that they’re going to be safe. You can see the anxiety come off their faces. And they are so relieved something can help.
What qualities make a great service dog?
First and foremost is their temperament. They are biddable and WANT to be with humans and interact with them. And they must be smart, which is why we need and breed intelligent Labrador Retrievers. Additionally, they have to be really steady. It’s ok to be startled, but they have to snap back quickly.
What is your training process for service dogs?
I raise them up until 8 weeks or so, and then they go to live with a “puppy raiser” family full-time. Once the puppy receives all shots and is cleared to be in public, it attends once-weekly group classes with training. The families are encouraged to get the puppies out as much as possible.
Then, at about 18 months of age, they go into service dog training in Nevada.
If the puppies are going to wear a service dog training vest, they have to pass a public access test first. If they go into restaurant, restroom – wherever disabled person needs to go – they need to be calm, cool, not react, and listen to their handler. If they can pass that test, they get to wear their vest.
After they pass all of their training tests, they are placed with a veteran or first responder.
What differences do you notice in your dogs when they eat Purina Pro Plan Performance 30/20?
My dogs have nice clean, shiny coats. They have good healthy skin. Their eyes are clear. It’s easy. The formula has worked for every stage of life and I’m very happy with it.
Why is quality nutrition so important for service dogs, specifically?
They have to be in peak condition to do their work. And the consistency of Purina makes that possible. I don’t have to think twice. I know Pro Plan is going to work. I’ve tried other foods, but I keep coming back – it works. It has the right fat and protein, and it’s balanced so I don’t have to use supplements.
This individual received a courtesy fee for this interview.