NEADS Service Dog Training

NEADS Dogs are trained to perform tasks and behave obediently through the use of positive reinforcement and clear leadership. We select dogs that are natural followers, so it is easy to guide them into choosing behaviors that we like in order to reward them.


Note: NEADS Service Dogs are purpose-bred and acquired through our own breeding program and from select breeders. We do not train dogs that are already owned by individuals.

Our dogs love to work. The behaviors we teach are inherently fun for them (like tugging on a rope or running to a sound), so the dogs learn to associate work with having a good time. As a puppy grows and learns, each positive experience influences future behaviors.

During early training, food is the primary reward that reinforces good behavior – this capitalizes on a common motivator for dogs. As time goes on, the food is reduced or replaced with other incentives so that the dog will work even when there is no food reward. Whether it’s a scratch on the chest or a chance to play ball, the dog knows that something good is coming. As a result, working is fun for both the dog and the human, which ensures a happy working relationship for many years to come.

NEADS dogs are taught a list of core commands, and they follow a basic training schedule throughout puppyhood. However, once a dog is nearing completion of the program and is matched with a specific client, the dog’s training is tailored to the client’s unique needs. After the client experiences 10-14 days of training with a skilled instructor, they can barely remember a time when the dog wasn’t a part of their life.

Our organization has trained Service Dog Teams for over 40 years. Through research and experience, our instructors remain up to date with current training methods and trends in the industry. We routinely explore new dog breeds and new tasks to make certain that we are meeting the needs of our clients. Most importantly, we raise and train the perfect working partner for each of our clients.

Laura J. Niles Early Learning Center

The Laura J. Niles Early Learning Center for puppies is an integral part of NEADS.

A solid foundation in socialization is essential to each puppy’s success as a Service Dog. Most puppies arrive at the NEADS Early Learning Center at the age of approximately eight weeks. We acquire most of our puppies from guide dog organizations, other service dog organizations, and private breeders. We sometimes work with local shelters to acquire puppies for our hearing dog program. Learn more here.

Prison PUP Program

90-95% of NEADS puppies are trained in 7 correctional facilities throughout New England. Our statistics show that, under the guidance of NEADS staff, inmates are able to provide consistent training at a high level simply because of the amount of time they are able to devote to the dogs. This enables us to place dogs faster with people in need. Learn more here.

Assistance Dogs International Accreditation

NEADS is proud to be an active member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the internationally recognized governing body that establishes industry standards and practices. ADI provides accreditation for canine assistance organizations that meet a selective set of criteria, including standards of excellence in the acquisition, training, and partnership of Assistance Dogs. NEADS clients are expected to maintain the minimum standards that ADI sets.

Visit the ADI website for more information on current standards of training for Service Dogs and their partners.

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What Makes a World Class Service Dog Team

  • Bonnie (3)
    World Class Service Dogs

    Most NEADS dogs are purpose bred for temperament, health and personality traits best suited for Service Dog work. Some hearing dogs are acquired from animal shelters and rescue groups.

  • dogs in training
    Dog Training

    NEADS Dogs are trained to perform tasks and behave obediently through the use of positive reinforcement and clear leadership. Socialization starts as soon as the puppies arrive in the Nursery and Early Learning Center, and continues in correctional facilities in MA and RI as part of our Prison PUP Program.

  • matching process
    Matching Process

    The more we understand about your lifestyle and expectations, the better we can pair you with a dog that fits with you. The matching process includes an online application and a comprehensive, in-person interview.

  • Ahh...the fond days when Edison and I were first getting to know each other. My trainer was working with us so I could learn how to structure his playtime. He was having a blast and I absolutely loved learning about my new helper! #day139of365
    Client Training

    Clients spend one to two weeks at the NEADS campus learning how to work and live with their new Service Dog. Our trainers work closely with the new partners to ensure the match is a strong one.

  • (042918 Fitchburg, MA) Derek Blake, 9 1/2 kisses his social dog Jean during NEADS service dog graduation ceremony in Fitchburg on Sunday,April 29, 2018. Staff Photo by Nancy Lane

    Twice each year, we honor our most recent Service Dog teams, celebrating the partnership between a client and his or her Service Dog.

  • (Photo: Mary Silva)
    Support for the Live of the Dog

    NEADS is invested in the success of each Service Dog team and offers ongoing support for the life of the dog.