Frequently Asked Questions

What types of Service Dogs does NEADS train?

NEADS trains and places:

  • Service Dogs for individuals with physical disabilities
  • Facilitated Service Dogs for children with physical disabilities (children ages 12 and up)
  • Hearing Dogs for individuals aged 15 and older who are deaf or who suffer severe hearing loss
  • Service Dogs for children with autism or other developmental disabilities (children ages 8-16)
  • Assistance Dogs are partnered with professionals in classroom, ministry, therapy, hospital, and courthouse settings
  • Service Dogs for Veterans who have a permanent disability, are deaf or who suffer from severe hearing loss, or who suffer from combat-related post-traumatic stress

Where does NEADS place Service Dogs?

You will find NEADS Service Dog teams living in nearly every state of the US.

What types of Service Dogs does NEADS NOT train?

NEADS DOES NOT train or place:

  • balance dogs
  • seizure alert dogs
  • dogs for people with epilepsy
  • dogs for people with Alzheimer's
  • guide dogs for the blind
  • diabetes alert dogs
  • emotional support
  • psychiatric dogs

NEADS does not train dogs that are already owned by individuals.

NEADS does not certify dogs we have not trained.

For help with any of the above, we recommend visiting Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

Which breed of dog does NEADS train most often?

Most of the Service Dogs that NEADS trains are purchased from breeders; some are donated to us. Much of the work of a Service Dog involves retrieving or a retrieving-related skill, so we most often work with Labrador Retrievers. Occasionally, we work with Golden Retrievers. In contrast to Hearing Dogs, successful Service Dogs wait until they receive a command before they perform a skill. Service Dogs are laid back and eager to please.

Some of the Hearing Dogs NEADS trains are rescued from animal shelters throughout New England. There isn’t one particular breed that makes a better Hearing Dog, so NEADS often selects mixed breeds from shelters. They tend to be under 50 lbs. and have high energy. Our trainers select Hearing Dogs based on the dog's innate initiative and receptiveness to sound.

Are male or female dogs better to train for Service Dog work?

NEADS trains both male and female dogs of all shapes and sizes. All NEADS dogs are spayed or neutered.

At what age can a dog start learning to be a Service Dog?

Puppy training begins at 8 weeks. The early experiences and basic commands the puppy learns are the building blocks to raising a socially-confident, skilled, obedient Service Dog who thrives on helping. More information about our puppy Early Learning Center

NEADS dogs wear something around their nose. What is that?

Though often mistaken for a muzzle, the strap around the Service Dog is actually called a Gentle Leader, and is not a muzzle. It is a type of collar that makes it easier to walk a dog, particularly for those who have limited or no strength in their arms or hands. The dog can still chew and bark with the collar on. More information about our training methods

How does someone get a Service Dog from NEADS?

People find out about NEADS through the internet, referrals from independent living centers and other programs, and by meeting graduates, puppy raisers and volunteers. To apply for a Service Dog, an applicant fills out an application, and schedules a personal interview at the NEADS Princeton, Massachusetts campus (or with a nearby NEADS representative, or via video).  If accepted, the individual goes on a waiting list until our staff identifies the right dog for their needs.

How much does it cost to train a Service Dog?

It costs NEADS nearly $45,000 to acquire, raise, train and match a Service Dog. We ask each of our accepted clients to support NEADS by raising $8,000. This contribution will help us continue to provide dogs for future clients.

What happens to dogs that don’t complete the training?

Service Dog work is not right for every dog. Dogs that don’t complete the training (they may have a minor medical issue, be too shy in public, or chase squirrels, for example) make great pets. We affectionately call these dogs "Furloughed Favorites." More information about Furloughed Favorites.

What is facility-based training?

NEADS was one of the pioneers in developing this intensive training method. People who receive a NEADS Service Dog live on our campus for 10-14 days for extensive training with their new canine partner. Our clients are able to immerse themselves in the process of bonding and training with the dog. Learn more about client training.

Do Hearing and Service Dogs have the same public access rights as guide dogs for people who are blind?

Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes Hearing and Service Dogs as vital tools for the deaf or hard of hearing and those with a physical disability. People with Hearing and Service Dogs are granted full access to all places of public accommodation. (Because of the separation of church and state, churches are not required to permit Service Dogs. However, many churches will allow access if asked.) More information on the rights and access of people with Service Dogs

Is it ok to pet a Service Dog when he or she is working?

Service Dogs perform an important function for their handler -- any kind of distraction could be dangerous for the person. That's why you should always ask before you pet or distract a Service Dog. Most working dogs will wear a harness, cape or backpack in public to identify them as such. Many owners place a patch on the dog’s equipment that reads, “Please don’t pet me, I’m working.”

What happens when a Service Dog can no longer work?

Usually, the dog is retired as a service animal and becomes a pet for the person with whom the dog was matched. The client may also choose to get another Service Dog.

Can NEADS train my dog?

We can not. NEADS exclusively trains dogs that we get as puppies here on campus. Assistance Dogs International has a list of organizations across the US, some of which will train your own dog. For more information, please visit Assistance Dogs International.

Can Service Dogs be placed in homes that already have a dog?

Depending on the situation, yes, Service Dogs can be placed in homes that already have a pet dog.

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Our Most Frequently Asked Questions

Does NEADS have a Service Dog program to help someone with depression, anxiety, or another mental health diagnosis? Does NEADS have a Service Dog program for a civilian with PTSD?

NEADS does not have a Psychiatric Service Dog program. If you are a veteran looking for a Service Dog to help with PTSD, please contact us using the form on this page.

NEADS does not have a program for emotional support or comfort animals.

For a Psychiatric Service Dog program that may be able to help, contact Assistance Dogs International.

For emotional support animals, we suggest talking to a trainer or veterinarian in your area who may be able to help you find and train a dog that can provide comfort in your home.

Can NEADS train my dog?

A: NEADS does not train dogs that are already owned by individuals. Contact Assistance Dogs International for information about other organizations who may be able to help.

Can NEADS bring puppies to an event I'm hosting?

Our World-Class Service Dogs complete their 18-24 month training off campus through our Prisoner PUP Program and with our volunteer Weekend Puppy Raisers; therefore we are not able to guarantee attendance of dogs for presentations.

Furthermore, we bring our Service Dogs in Training out in public for specific training exercises. This means they are working, and are not available for petting and playing.

You may want to consider a visit  from a pet therapy organization, which you can find by searching online.