Where We Get our Dogs

NEADS acquires its dogs from both animal shelters and reputable breeders. We are grateful to the shelters and breeders with whom we have partnered, who specifically keep us in mind for appropriate dogs.

Purpose Bred Puppies

Many of our puppies are sold to us (or donated) by purebred breeders. We are currently using Labrador retrievers in our training program. We occasionally work with other breeds as well.

NEADS works closely with reputable breeders to determine whether their puppies are appropriate for our program based on the temperament, health and behavioral history of both the dam and the sire (the litter’s parents). NEADS provides a detailed curriculum for breeders which helps to ensure that their puppies are well socialized and accustomed to various environments and stimulus at a very young age. After careful evaluation by NEADS trainers, selected puppies are brought to NEADS to officially begin their training at about 8 weeks old.

Shelter and Rescue Dogs

Almost all of the dogs that NEADS trains to be Hearing Dogs are acquired from animal shelters and rescue groups throughout New England. NEADS specifically seeks high-energy dogs who are alert, attentive and engaged. Many dogs with these qualities end up in shelters because people lose patience with them. However, NEADS recognizes that these dogs may simply need a way to channel their exuberance productively. NEADS trainers routinely visit area shelters to find dogs that are not only alert to noises, but also have a keen ability to localize sounds. NEADS is pleased to have relationships with so many wonderful animal shelters and rescue groups.

PLEASE NOTE: 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.

Ernie (4)

The Route to a Lasting Partnership

  • Bonnie (3)

    The Dogs

    Most NEADS dogs are purpose-bred for temperament, health and personality traits best suited for service dog work. Some NEADS Hearing Dogs are acquired from animal shelters and rescue groups.

  • Jean (l) Banks (r) 1

    Early Learning Center

    Here staff work to housebreak the puppies and lay the groundwork for some beginning commands. Puppies have indoor and outdoor playtime, one-on-one time with staff and volunteers, and socialization sessions.

  • prison pup

    Prison PUP Program

    90-95% of NEADS puppies are trained in 7 correctional facilities throughout New England.

  • dogs in training

    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 appropriate behaviors.

  • 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.

  • the trainers

    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.