Schooner spent his first day with a trainer for the Service Dogs of Virginia program, putting him one step closer to becoming a guide for a person who needs help getting around.
He has spent the past year living with a volunteer from the organization.
"Today’s his big sort of graduation day,” said Laurie Luck who has trained Schooner for the last year. “He heads off to learn bigger and better things; he's gone as far as he can with me."
After more than a year together, Laurie Luck and Schooner are parting ways.
Even though Schooner is the 15th dog Luck has raised and handed off, it doesn't make the day any easier.
"I always take it hard, but the cool thing is you come back for graduation and you see these guys paired with their people and they're so happy with their people," Luck said.
Luck spent the past 12 months teaching the Great Dane how to walk politely on a leash and be calm and collected in public.
Now that Schooner is in the hands of trainers with Service Dogs of Virginia, it's time to tighten up his skills. He will eventually be paired with somebody who needs assistance walking or balancing.
"He's going to have to learn to be very steady, very quiet and focused on his handler," said Service Dogs of Virginia’s Peggy Law.
Schooner will practice walking up and down stairs one step at a time. Trainers say it's important he learn to use the stairs at the same pace as his handler to help them remain stable.
"Even if something attracts his attention and he wants to go towards it, he has to put that on the back burner," Law said.
Schooner will spend lots of time in public places over the next eight months to practice his manners.
He will graduate and be paired with a handler as soon as he is ready.
Luck looks forward to going to his graduation.
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