Assistance Dogs: From Puppy to Multiple Program Pathways

The Cause

Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society (DWW) is a leader in the international community of Assistance Dog training schools. Our vision is to transform lives and advance the Service Dog sector. Our mission is to foster integration and independence for individuals and social service agencies by providing them with highly trained Assistance Dogs.

DWW breeds, raises, trains and places certified dogs within Alberta. The cost to DWW to train and place one dog over a two-year training program is approximately $40,000. The cost to our clients is $1. As DWW does not receive any sustainable government funding, we rely on fundraising events, sponsors and grants.

DWW is accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI), an international body that sets standards of excellence for Assistance Dogs around the world. DWW is also a member of the International Breeding Co-op Program, where breeding and stock of dogs is shared between accredited schools, worldwide.

Assisting in the whelp (or delivery) of a litter of puppies is an emotional and rewarding experience, much like experiencing your first child being born. DWW volunteers provide the whelping home (birthing home) environment, ensuring the dam is being well cared for several weeks before delivery. This is also when the "Whelping Box" is introduced to the dam to become familiar and relaxed before the puppies arrive. Once born, the whelping box will be their home until the puppies are ready to leave the dam, at approximately eight weeks old. The whelping box should be two times the length of the dam, so she is able to stretch out in full length to be comfortable. It also has side walls and a floor. Along with the box, other necessary supplies such as blankets and towels are used during the whelp. Having these items readily available during the delivery, will help to ensure the focus is on the dam and litter at all times.

Once the puppies enter the puppy training program, the ultimate goal is to be placed with their forever client and provide important support for those they serve, impacting and transforming their clients’ lives forever. DWW would like to equip their volunteers with a Whelping Box Kit, providing necessary equipment and supplies for successful litters of puppies.

Who Will it Benefit?

The DWW Breeding/Whelping Program is critical to the organization in order to continue to produce quality stock for the dog training programs, with the end result of matching a certified dog with a client in need.

Through DWW's four training programs, dogs are matched with clients to enhance their quality of life and achieve greater independence as follows: Service Dogs assist clients with physical disabilities, Autism Service Dogs assist young children with autism, Facility Dogs assist social service agencies such as victim service units across Alberta, and Companion Dogs assist those who would benefit from having a well-trained service dog, but do not require public access.

As the Breeding/Whelping Program produces Assistance Dog offspring, the future benefit is exponential and spreads across the province and even worldwide. DWW is distinguishable from other charities in our region because of the distinct social value proposition that recognizes the human-animal bond. The organization marries philosophies in animal welfare and human healthcare, as we fill a significant gap that exists in being of service to those who are vulnerable.

In our 25 year history, DWW has trained and placed 225 Assistance Dogs with individuals or agencies in the community. DWW currently has 100 working dogs active in the community and they continue to provide ongoing support to all dogs placed, including follow up on client needs and health needs of the dogs until such time that the dog retires. Within one agency such as Zebra Child Protection Centre, a DWW Facility Dog will support 2,500+ children of abuse and/or sexual assault cases on an annual basis. For a child visiting such a centre for the first time, asked to provide an account of their experience, having a Facility Dog with them the whole time (in the facility and in a courtroom) is an essential part of assisting them through the trauma they've experienced. This is just one distinguishable example that highlights how Assistance Dogs benefit the needs of a child, but also the systems that serve to support that child on a larger scale (the police force, the legal system, and other social service/resource agencies). The impact of our work is immeasurable in this regard.