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Shelter Spotlight: National Service Dogs

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You’ve just gotta love an organization whose vision is to empower people to achieve their full potential with the help of pooches. Such is the mantra of Canadian-based National Service Dogs (NSD), who have been breeding, training and placing certified service dogs with autistic kids going back to 1996.

The original catalyst behind the creation of NSD centered on a mom’s search for a service dog that could help her three year old child who had autism. The family was partnered with a sweet natured black lab named “Shade” and the results were so impressive that both the media and the Geneva Centre for Autism picked up on it.

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Within three years, NSD’s service dogs were featured on the first episode of the hit TV show “Dogs with Jobs” and it generated so much buzz that their service dog model eventually became the international standard for Certified Service Dogs trained for use alongside autistic children.

So how exactly do these pooches help special needs kids? The dogs – typically larger, gentle breeds such as Labrador and Golden Retrievers – are trained to help safeguard the kids by acting as an “anchor” to counteract the dangers of sudden bolting – a behavior typical of kids with autism. Being tethered to the child, these gentle giants deliver not only a calming presence but a sizeable weight that is trained to stay put and remain unrattled.

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Fast forward 20 years and NSD’s award-winning training program has seen the graduation of more than 350 Certified Service Dog Teams and the delivery of support to service dog organizations from around the globe that wanted to start up similar programs.

Not resting on their laurels, NSD has also expanded on their roster of services to include dogs that support:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Launched in 2011, the program assists veterans suffering the long-term effects of PTSD and positioned NSD as the first accredited service dog organization in Canada to offer a comprehensive support program to help veterans deal with issues surrounding hyper vigilance, anxiety and transitioning into mainstream society.

  • Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI)

The program matches service dogs to a variety of professional therapy partners whose goal is to promote health and wellness in the community. The first (CAI) Dog was placed in 2013 making NSD’s Canine Assisted Intervention Program the first in Ontario, and one of only three in Canada.

  • Companion Dog Services

Dating back to 2002, NSD’s Companion Dog Program places dogs with children who are living with various disabilities and just need a gentle, supportive pet. Beyond basic obedience training, these good boys do not have specific skills or enjoy access to public spaces, but they do deliver “best friends” benefits to kids and families in need.

While NSD‘s programs help them place more than 90% of their service dogs, a few are deemed not the “right fit” for a life of service. These pooches are lovingly listed under the organization’s “Career Changed Dogs” page and are available for an adoption fee of $1,000 CDN to the right home. They are typically one to two years of age, have basic training (obedience and socialization), are micro-chipped, up-to-date on vaccines and well bred. What more can you ask for!


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