All Things Pets

Canine Companions

Changing lives, four paws at a time

If you’ve ever had a dog, you know the profound difference their companionship can make. 

Dogs are man’s best friend—loyal and loving. But for some people, they are much more than that. They are a person’s independence. For nearly 50 years, service dogs have assisted people with physical disabilities to help make the world more accessible, and the national nonprofit Canine Companions is proud to have paved the way.

World’s First Service Dogs

The nonprofit, headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, has six training centers nationwide and an impressive history, placing over 7,800 working dogs. In 1975, the organization developed the concept of a service dog to help individuals with physical disabilities. It has continued to lead the industry by providing the highest quality of dogs free of charge, resulting in greater independence for the children, adults, and veterans they serve.

friendly n litter family pic 620 of 320 2 W jpg
Puppy raiser and future service dog.

It All Starts with a Puppy… and You!

These life-changing pups have an essential destiny from the start. The puppies are specially bred for health and temperament to meet the growing need for service dogs. In addition, the organization has ongoing research studies on canine cognition, behavior, and health in hopes of impacting the success of future generations of service dogs and the industry as a whole.

But service dogs aren’t just born; they’re raised and trained for approximately two years for this vital work.  Each Canine Companions puppy is raised in the loving home of a volunteer puppy raiser, starting at just eight weeks old. These dedicated volunteers are the heartbeat of the organization. Their love and devotion to training and socializing the puppies lasts a year and a half before they are returned for professional training to make a difference in the life of someone in need. With 950+ puppies born yearly, we always need more volunteer puppy raisers! 

You may be thinking, how can someone raise a puppy and give it up? Well, the puppy-raisers of Canine Companions know the dogs have a greater purpose — sharing, “They were never ours to begin with.” 

dog 1 jpg
Professional trainer with a service dog in training.

The Making of a Service Dog

After their time with a volunteer puppy raiser, dogs enter professional training at one of Canine Companions’ training centers, where they pair with a professional instructor. 

One of these training centers is in Dallas-Fort Worth at the Baylor Scott & White Health–Kinkeade Campus in Irving.

The dogs live at the training center for six to nine months and spend each day learning the advanced skills that will help provide greater independence to their future handler. Each dog has a unique personality and skillset, and the instructors work to get to know the individual dog to determine what type of placement will be the best fit for each client and their needs.

CaninCompanions ServiceDogKeys media W jpg
Creating greater independence for their human companions.

The organization places dogs with people with more than 65 different kinds of disabilities. For example, a service dog can assist someone with physical disabilities by pulling their partner in a manual wheelchair, pushing buttons for automatic doors, retrieving dropped items, and even helping with business transactions by transferring money, receipts, and packages.

A service dog might support an adult who is deaf or hard of hearing by alerting them to sounds in their environment, such as a doorbell, a phone ringing, their name being called, or even emergency sirens. 

For a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, a service dog can interrupt nightmares or anxiety, turn on lights, and create space in public.

In addition, facility dogs are also placed with a handler working in a healthcare, visitation, or education setting to motivate and inspire clients to improve clinical outcomes.

Victor and Service Dog Violet W jpg
Victor, an Army veteran with his loyal service dog. 

Lives Forever Changed

Canine Companions continues its mission to provide these expertly trained dogs of the highest caliber at no cost to all eligible applicants—the result is greater independence, confidence, and freedom.

One service dog recipient says, “I realized the path I wanted to walk in life included college, a job, and travel — things that I wasn’t sure I could do on my own. Canine Companions helped me with what I was looking for — a dog that helps me feel empowered and helps me navigate life independently.” 

Thousands of stories like this are being lived daily, with thousands more to come. Canine Companions relies on volunteers and donors to make this possible.

dogs 2 jpg
A pile of Golden Retriever puppies ready to learn and be of service.

We are continuously seeking more volunteer puppy raisers nationwide! Click here to learn how to help raise a future service dog. For more information on other ways to support this life-changing mission, click here.


Courtney Craig

Courtney Craig is Canine Companions' public relations and marketing specialist in the South-Central Region. In her role, she represents the brand and manages communications, marketing, and advocacy. She shares the incredible stories of service dog recipients daily in what she describes as a “dream job.” A Texas Tech University graduate, she has been with the nonprofit for nearly eight years. Courtney was born and raised in Texas and resides in Dallas with her Australian Shepherd, Sawyer.

Related Articles

Back to top button