Caleb and Kane

Since 1996, National Service Dogs (NSD) has been training Labrador and Golden Retrievers to assist children and families living with autism. NSD is proud to be the first school in the world to provide this service to families with children who have autism.

Over the last 18 years, NSD has placed nearly 300 Certified Service Dogs across Canada and has helped various training schools around the world develop their own autism programs.

  • Increase Safety Levels: Children with autism have a high tendency to bolt and have no concept of danger. Our dogs are tethered to the child and trained to take commands from the parent. When the child goes to run, the dogs are given a “halt” command, anchoring the child from going any further than the tether allows.
  • Improve Socialization: Having the safety and security of a Certified Service Dog allows families to get out of the house and participate in new experiences on a more regular basis. When individuals see the child with their Certified Service Dog, it sparks interest and questions that engage the child and encourages the child to talk about their dog.
  • Suppress Behavioural Outbursts: Individuals with autism have a difficult time transitioning to new environments and often experience sensory overload. Their Certified Service Dog remains a constant in their life and allows them to focus on their dog as opposed to their environment which often assists with suppressing behavioural issues. The dog also acts as a tactile distraction to redirect the child to a more positive behaviour.
NSD’s Certified Service Dogs are valued at $30,000 over their eight to ten year working life; however, each dog is provided free of charge to approved clients.

NSD receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations from the general public, corporate sponsors, fundraising events, and community supporters.

Clients are not obligated to fundraise, and fundraising efforts are in no way tied to when and if they receive their service dog; however, many of them assist by asking for donations from friends and family or hosting their own fundraiser. NSD also has many third party fundraisers that host events in support of our working dog teams.

The actual direct cost of the Certified Service Dog to the family is an application fee of $50, an equipment fee of $250, and the cost of travel, accommodations and food for the week of Team Training in Cambridge. All food and veterinary costs are born by the recipient once the dog has been placed with the family.

National Service Dogs has been working hard to keep up with demand and decrease wait times. Currently, our wait times are sitting at 18 to 24 months from time of approval.

The timing of a service dog placement is determined by chronological position on the waiting list and the availability of the right dog for the child’s needs and situation, and is in no way tied to fundraising efforts.

To help ensure the success of each Team, National Service Dogs has designed an intensive application process to assist with the placement and matching of each dog. Each applicant is screened to ensure they meet our application criteria (lives within Canada, has an official autism or PDD diagnosis, is between the ages of two and ten). Upon confirmation of this, a 12 page application is sent to the applicant to be completed and submitted along with multiple reference letters from individuals involved in the child’s life. If successful, an NSD trainer conducts an in-home interview with an NSD dog to meet the child, learn more about the family, and discuss further questions and concerns. Final acceptance is determined following the in-home interview; families may be disqualified at any time during the application process.
National Service Dogs is currently accepting application requests for children living in Canada between the ages of two and ten that have been diagnosed with autism or other related PDD; some restrictions may apply.

If your child meets the above criteria, please complete our online application request form HERE and a staff member will be in contact within one week.

Please note: If you reside outside of Canada, please visit Assistance Dogs International at for a listing of reputable service providers in your area.

Please contact Tamara, our Client Services Coordinator, at 519-623-4188, ext. 18 or for more information.

Sponsor a Certified Service Dog Team
Title Sponsorship: $10,000