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March '10

Tuesday 23 February 2010

National Service Dogs

Mara Engel

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  Since 1996, National Service Dogs has been training Labrador and Golden Retrievers to assist children and families living with Autism. Our dogs increase safety levels and alleviate the bolting behaviours common in children with autism by acting as an anchor when tethered to the child. We are proud to be the first school in the world to provide this service to families with children who are autistic.

Today National Service Dogs has graduated over 170 autism service dog teams across Canada, is supported by 9 staff, 200 hard working volunteers and thousands of donors and has helped service dog providers around the world start their own autism service dog programs.

We are looking for young families, couples, retirees and single individuals who are able to devote the time, energy and love necessary to successfully socialize a puppy. Raising a puppy can be strenuous so applicants must be able to walk for 30-40 minutes in any one session.

  We require volunteer puppy raisers to undertake the job of socialization, house training and basic obedience training for NSD's future service dogs. Puppies start obedience training classes provided by NSD puppy training instructors very early to begin introducing basic obedience commands, set socialization goals, and connect as a group to solve and prevent common puppy problems. Puppy raisers must be able to commit to bi weekly classes. Classes must be attended throughout the entire time they have the puppy,

starting at beginner level up to more advanced tasks. The majority of NSD's service dogs are raised in volunteer homes from approximately 8 weeks of age to 16 months of age.

Unfortunately, approximately 40% of dogs do not qualify for NSD’s Autism Service Dog Program or Companion Dog Program due to health or temperament problems. Released are adopted into loving pet dog homes.

Typically, the best results come from families who have:

A CHILD with Autism between the ages of 2 and 8 at the time of application
POSITIVELY exposed and socialized the child to large dogs in the past
NO other family dog in the house (please note NSD will assess family dogs on an individual basis to determine whether they will be a good fit with a service dog)
TIME to devote to the learning curve of adding a Service Dog to their lives
A WILLINGNESS to have one or both parents travel without the child to our facility for 5 days of Team Training
A FENCED yard or plan to contain the dog when in the yard
ONE dedicated parent that stays home during the weekdays if the child is not yet in school. The project is more successful if the dog bonds with the child and one parent, not a selection of different caregivers.

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