Assistance dog program needs foster volunteers, puppy raisers

The Ability Center’s Assistance Dog Program is in need of volunteers, specifically puppy raisers and volunteers.

Puppy raiser volunteers play an important role in our training beginning with our puppies at 10 weeks old. This role requires a lot of time and extra effort since puppies are puppies with a variety of needs and energy to learn and explore. These volunteers provide a safe home for the puppy for 10 weeks.

New handler training classes, class observation, puppy orientation classes and a home evaluation/visit is required for this position. This time period is about helping the puppy to develop good habits through engaged supervision while laying the foundation for communication with the puppy through consistent training.

Puppy raisers also attend weekly classes and outings with their assistance dogs. Progress reports, communication with the training staff, working with your assistance dogs mentor and transporting the puppy to outings and vet appointments is a requirement of this P.U.P. Puppy raisers can choose to stay on as their puppy’s foster to finish their service dog training.

Fosters are vital to the Assistance Dog Program. These volunteers house, train and nurture our service dogs in training from 5-9 months of age to up to two years. Their mission is to love, care and socialize their service dog in training along with providing training at home, during outings and in group training classes.

They work closely with the assistance dogs training team to learn cues, manners, appropriate behavior and how the dogs will help in the future either by being placed with an individual with a disability or in a school program. The complete care of the dog is the responsibility of the foster family including grooming, feeding, exercise, safety, health and socialization.

Fosters attend new handler classes, observe a training class, observe an outing and have a home evaluation/visit before receiving a dog. Once they receive their service dog in training, they attend weekly one hour group training classes with an assistance dogs trainer and their dog in training.

The lessons are designed to help the dog build upon their foundation behaviors with the help of the reinforcement and training at home with the foster family. A foster is never alone in this learning process as the assistance dogs canine services team provides a constant link, help, and answers throughout the training process. All expenses are covered by the program.

Assistance Dogs is a program of the Ability Center.

Throughout the pandemic, the agency has continued to keep all dogs on track for graduation thanks to technology that allowed training virtually.

Time commitments may vary per volunteer role.

Call 419-885-5733 or fill out the form at