ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — A new partnership between a nonprofit and West Michigan casino is helping train assistance dogs by giving them access to the casino floor.
It's an all-inclusive environment at Gun Lake Casino providing lots of sights, smells, people and textures for the assistance dogs in training with Paws With a Cause.
"Our dogs are all custom trained per the client, and our clients go into a various amount of different environments in public," said Paws with a Cause Training Team and Senior Staff Trainer Crystal Snyder. "Everything I can do to better prepare the dog, helps the client."
Sights and sounds fill Gun Lake Casino's floor, making it the perfect place to help train assistance dogs.
"In order for me to hit all of the environments, I would have to travel around for hours a day to different public places and being able to come to the casino gives me all of those things under one roof," said Snyder.
#NEW: Gun Lake Casino held a press conference announcing a new partnership with nonprofit, Paws With A Cause, which trains assistance dogs in various tasks.— Lauren Kummer (@LaurenKummerTV) February 21, 2022
The partnership will allow the dogs to be trained in an environment that offers many sights, smells & people. @FOX17 pic.twitter.com/Mvlwbv4iGF
The partnership between Gun Lake Casino and Paws with a Cause was announced Monday, stressing the fact it was a benefit to both.
"We have the unique lighting. We have the unique sounds. The layout is very unique, and for these dogs, I think that's a huge opportunity for them to kind of come through the door and get acclimated to a place that they very well may end up in, you know, months from now upon getting certified," said Gun Lake Casino Community and Public Relations Coordinator Zach Harig.
The goal is to offer an all-inclusive spot for these assistance dogs that are in their final months of training, using the casino environment to perfect their tasks.
They complete tasks like opening doors, picking up items dropped, carrying things and even helping with balance.
"There are a lot of distractions here, and when we have a dog doing counterbalance, they need to be really paying attention to what their handler is doing because it's such mynute feeling, sometimes emotions of the person starting to lose their balance," Paws with a Cause Foster Puppy and Staff Trainer Haley Gorenflo.
"They have different types of textures for flooring between tile, carpet and the different types of rugs. For dogs that do balance impairment work, being able to practice those tasks on those surfaces is very helpful, and it’s not something we find in other public places," said Snyder.
For people who may encounter them, the trainers ask that you speak to them first.
"We ask that you don’t interact with the dogs. We are teaching them in public to ignore people and focus on their handler and getting that outside distraction can be conflicting for the dog," said Snyder.
Paws with a Cause trainers and dogs will visit the casino the second Monday of each month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.