Let’s start at the beginning…. Where do the dogs come from?
In 1994, reputable breeders donated selected adult male and female dogs for the purpose of producing quality Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever puppies which would become service dogs. Those same breeders donated adult dogs which became the first service dogs placed by CARES. Each and every dog we choose for the CARES breeding program has to pass health and temperament tests. They also go through the training process so that we know the “trainability and livability” of each of these very special dogs. As the breeding program has grown CARES staff has focused on maintaining a breeding program that produces beautiful, healthy puppies that have the potential to become exceptional assistance dogs.
CARES puppies are born in a loving, safe environment. They are given the best possible health care along with their mother. Puppies are nurtured by their mothers and socialized by CARES staff and volunteers. At 8 weeks old after they are temperament and health tested, it is time for them to begin their training.
The majority of puppies in the CARES program do come from our own breeding program. However, we have excepted donated puppies and dogs from other sources. Many come from reputable breeders of poodles, German shepherds, border collies, doodles, etc. Others come from individual owners who have to rehome their own dogs for many reasons such as medical issues, unexpected emergencies, moving for their occupations, etc. These puppies/dogs also have to pass our temperament tests and health tests in order to start their assistance dog training.
What happens next with the CARES puppies?
Volunteer foster puppy raisers:
Very special people volunteer to raise a puppy or socialize an older puppy. This is one of the most unselfish acts of love by our volunteers giving of their time, money and affection. After completing an application, a person or family can raise a young puppy for several months or they can socialize a puppy that has had its beginning training in a correctional facility. There are many pieces to the puzzle of training that leads to a dog becoming an assistance dog. The foundation the puppies receive from the foster puppy raisers is critical in them becoming an excellent assistance dog. Our assistance dogs need to learn rules and boundaries in a home as well as out in the public. You can easily see the difference between an assistance dog that has learned exceptional manners both at home and in public and a dog that has not.
Foster families socialize puppies and continue training on basic obedience and manners. CARES provides the families with a manual for training. Zoom training is available to all puppy raisers. CARES staff, foster raiser mentors and other foster families are always available to assist the foster puppy families.
These remarkable volunteers are located throughout the Midwest as well as a few others around the US. They are such a blessing!
If you have questions, please email us for answers!
Now the puppies are ready for the next step!
After the puppies have been evaluated for health, temperament and level of puppy training, it’s now time to start their advanced training. This happens with the CARES trainers. It is during this time the dogs will be selected for their area of assistance dog work. All dogs must be one year old before they are placed with their chosen applicant. You can find more information about our different programs below!
How do we get a CARES assistance dog?
First, you’ll find an application for the type of assistance dog you are wanting on this website. Fill out the application, send your references to CARES and make a payment for the application fee. Once the CARES staff receives all these items, you will be placed on the active waiting list. The wait time varies depending on the applicants’ specific requests such as particular breed, time of the year, size of dog, etc. The average wait is 18-24 months.
When CARES has determined they have an appropriate dog trained for the applicant, they are notified it is time to come to canine assistance class. At this time, if the applicant decides to attend class a deposit is due. CARES holds classes four times a year. One in March, June, August and October. They are held in Concordia, Kansas. Persons attending class stay at local venues. They receive their assistance dog on the first day of class and will keep their dog thereafter.
During class the recipients learn the commands the dogs have been trained to understand, listen to lectures on health, grooming, nutrition, laws related to assistance dogs, along with other subjects. They will also practice working with their dogs, go on public outings and learn expected manners of a service dog team. Before graduating with their new assistance dog the team must pass the public access test.
At the end of class, team members receive health paperwork for their service dog, a photo ID, a copy of their public access test and will sign an ownership contract. Once all the paperwork is completed, it is time for the final payment.
The cost of a service dog is $7,000. The cost for a professional therapy dog is $4,000.