Since 1996, NSD has graduated over 555 Certified Service Dog, Facility and Companion Dog Teams, helped many Service Dog organizations around the world start their own autism programs, and has started three new programs: Certified Service Dogs for PTSD, Canine Assisted Intervention and Companion Dog Services.
Our vision is to be Canada’s premiere service dog provider, pioneering change in the lives of Canadians benefiting from our services.
Our mission is to empower people to achieve their full potential with strategically trained and certified service dogs, catalysts for restorative change.
And our values are:
- Always collaborating: We work across organizations, industries, governments and entities to inform the work we do in the best interests of the Canadians we are proud to serve.
- Compassionate caring: We bring our hearts and industry-leading expertise to every conversation and solve problems with a “people focused” approach.
- Ethical treatment of our animals: Everything we do begins and ends with the dogs in our care. We loved them first and hold the responsibility for their well-being the length of their lives.
- Innovative spirit: We believe in doing things differently – no status quo here. Building upon the pioneering spirit exemplified by the staff, volunteers and donors that got us to where we are today, we approach everything we do with a spirit of possibilities.
In 1996, National Service Dogs pioneered the program of breeding, training and placing certified service dogs with children with autism. Over the last 25 years, NSD has graduated over 555 Certified Service Dog Teams, helped many service dog organizations around the world start their own autism programs, and has started three new programs: Certified Service Dogs for PTSD, Canine Assisted Intervention and Companion Dog Services.
How it All Began:
In 1996 the mother of a three year old child on the Autism Spectrum was desperately searching for a service dog that could help her son. That same year he was matched with a quiet, sensitive black lab named Shade. The incredible success of this founding team brought popular attention from the media and the Geneva Centre for Autism.
From these humble beginnings, the dedication of founders Heather and Chris Fowler and Danielle Forbes led to the development of the first Certified Service Dog for Autism Program of its kind in the world. In 1999, one of NSD’s Certified Service Dog Teams was highlighted on the first episode of the popular “Dogs with Jobs” television program. The adventures of Andrew and Maggie created much international attention and the service dog model NSD created has now become the international standard for Certified Service Dogs for children on the Autism spectrum.
In 2005, National Service Dogs was the proud recipient of the R.L. Petersen Award for Non-Profit Innovation presented by the Bridgeway Foundation in Cambridge, ON. Later that year, Chris and Heather Fowler and Danielle Forbes received the Gerry Bloomfield Award presented by Autism Ontario for their contributions to the Autism community. In 2006, NSD received the Cambridge Mayor’s Award for Work Place Training and Development.
Certified Service Dog for Autism:
Since 1996, National Service Dogs has been training Labrador and Golden Retrievers to assist Autistic children and their families. Our dogs increase the safety of children on the Autism spectrum 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 on the Autism spectrum. Visit the program page for more information.
Certified Service Dogs for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
In 2011, NSD launched the Service Dogs for PTSD Program to assist veterans with long-term post-traumatic stress disorder which made us the first accredited service dog organization in Canada to have a program of this kind. Long-time Puppy Raiser and former NSD Volunteer Coordinator, Mara Engel, researched and developed a comprehensive program to help veterans deal with the issues surrounding hypervigilance, anxiety and transitioning into mainstream society. In 2013 NSD opened the program to first responders with PTSD. Visit the program page for more information.
Canine Assisted Intervention:
National Service Dogs’ first Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI) Dog was placed in 2013, making NSD’s Canine Assisted Intervention Program the first CAI program in Ontario, and one of only three in Canada. The dogs are matched with professionals from a variety of disciplines to work as partners in their therapy, to address Health and Wellness in our community. Visit the program page for more information.
Companion Dog Services:
National Service Dogs recognizes the special bonds that develop between pet dogs and their families. As a result, our Companion Dog Program was founded in 2002 and was formalized in 2009. These dogs are placed with children with various disabilities and do not have public access or any specific skills training aside from basic obedience. The Companion Dog Program has been instrumental in increasing our ability to assist more families in need and has allowed us to utilize over 90% of our dogs. Visit the program page for more information.
Everyone at NSD is dedicated to expanding the National Service Dog family of clients and quality of services: One Individual, One Dog, One Life at a Time
Kate & NSD Oakley – Certified Service Dog for Autism Team
When your child receives a diagnosis of Autism, your world spins. Your mind tries desperately to manage emotions so intense you wonder if you’ll ever make it through. All our lives we have realized that it is dogs, without ego or fear of failure, who are the most superior of friends. It is this friendship that we wanted for Kate. Whether it be the loyalty that keeps Kate safe in a world so difficult to navigate or whether it be Oakley’s deep pressure “visits” that make her feel calm.
A dog, like a parent, will love a child more than it loves itself. It is for this reason these dogs are the only therapy suitable to live in our world, day and night, year after year. NSD Oakley “Long Legs” has bounded into our hearts in a big way. It is a big success story that’s just beginning and we owe it all to the staff, volunteers and supporters at National Service Dogs. Thank you!
Jim & NSD Sookie – Certified Service Dog for Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) Team
I will start off by saying that this almost-human creature constantly amazes me with her intelligence. Sookie learns and adapts immediately to each-and-every demand or new situation. As may become apparent, she is much more than a service dog, she is a true friend and companion. At times when I slip deeper into depression, she senses it and comes to me, placing her head on my lap. She will not leave until she knows that my spirit has been lifted by her mere presence. She will wake me when I am experiencing “a bad dream”. She stands between myself and anyone nearing me and keeps them at bay, such as in a grocery check-out line. She will lead when we are in a crowded place and by doing so, she divides the crowd, diverting them farther away from me. By her presence, she ‘grounds’ me in that while we are in public places I must attend to her. My attention, to some degree must always be directed to her and therefore distracting me from those things that trigger the onset or the heightening of my PTSD symptoms.
Madison & NSD Flo – Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI) Team
There are so many stories – I could write a book. A recent one is of a younger older adult post-stroke whom I’ve been working with on higher levels of ambulation. Although not previously a fan of dogs, this woman LOVES Flo. One of our biggest challenges recently is increasing confidence and perception to get this client to look up while she walks (in order to be functional in the community). The most simple thing of having Flo on a trail with us got this client engaged in her surroundings enough to keep her eyes off her feet for the majority of our walk. She continually exclaimed “Oh I just love watching Flo”. By the end of our walk, she learned she CAN look up while she walks without falling and we have seen a shift in her confidence. Our past two sessions she is now willing to look up and around while we walk rather than the refusal and fear we had a month ago. This is so important as it allows her to respond to her environment and will make community ambulation safer and attainable. I’d encourage therapists to start integrating CAI into their therapy. I’d encourage therapists to be creative.