In 1996, National Service Dogs pioneered the program of breeding, training and placing certified service dogs with children with autism. Over the last 18 years, NSD has graduated over 350 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 with autism 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 with autism.

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 individuals with autism. 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 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 with autism. 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 hyper vigilance, 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