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.

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Assistance Dogs International Accreditation

NEADS is proud to be a charter member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the internationally recognized governing body that establishes Service Dog industry standards of excellence in the acquisition, training, healthcare, and partnership of Service Dogs. ADI provides accreditation for Service Dog organizations that meet this selective set of criteria and requires a rigorous re-certification process every 5 years. The certification process involves submitting extensive documentation, site visits, and interviews with staff and volunteers. Since joining ADI in 1986, NEADS has consistently met or exceeded the ADI certification requirements

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

Position Statement on the Ethical Training and Care of Guide & Assistance Dogs

NEADS is committed to the highest standards of training and care of the dogs. We follow ADI standards and practices including the ADI/International Guide Dog Federation joint position statement on ethical training and care of guide & assistance dogs:

Statement Principles

  • We recognize that our dogs are sentient beings, capable of feeling emotional states such as pleasure, happiness, fear, and anxiety. We aim to manage our dog’s physical and functional needs and experiences so that our dogs, at all life stages, have good physical, psychological and emotional health.
  • We recognize our dogs as co-partners and accept our moral responsibility to meet their physical, psychological, and emotional needs, both as individuals and within their role as working dogs.
  • We believe that the dog’s work activities can and should enhance their quality-of-life experiences.
  • We select for physical and temperamental suitability and provide our dogs with the life skills to be successful and content in their role. We recognize that not all dogs are suited to the role of assistance dogs and in these cases should not be used in that role.
  • We advocate for the use the ‘Five Domains’ model to ensure that our dogs ‘thrive and not just survive’ (Mellor, 2020) and have a good quality of life throughout all life stages.
  • We advocate for use of positive reinforcement (reward-based) methods as these have been found to be ethically appropriate and more effective than aversive, compulsive, punishment-based or mixed methods.
  • We advocate for the use of the Least Intrusive and Minimally Aversive (LIMA) training model and encourage all our members to work towards a position where physical punishment is not used in the training of dogs.
  • We believe the needs of the dog and our commitment to dog welfare must not be compromised by meeting the needs of people with a disability where this does not work effectively for the dog.
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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 (ELC)

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. The ELC is a transitional space, where puppies at the age of approximately eight weeks transition from the Nursery to their training position, whether with a Full-Time Puppy Raiser or in the Prison PUP Program.  Learn more here.

Prison PUP Program

90-95% of NEADS puppies are trained in  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.