Canine Companions for Independence was founded in 1975 and is now the longest-running and largest service dog training organization in the world. Professional service dogs are able to assist people with over 60 different types of disability.
The non-profit breeds exclusively Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and a cross breed of the two to be assistance dogs. Volunteers care for breeder dogs and puppies before they are put through basic obedience training. Trained service dogs are taught to master over 40 commands in six to nine months. From there, dogs are put through Team Training to be matched with their owner requiring special assistance. Once matched, dogs officially graduate and begin their journey in the care of their new masters, and both puppy and human work together to continue to hone their skills.
Some of the most common tasks dogs are trained to do are retrieving and delivering dropped items, turning lights on and off, and opening doors or drawers.
Unique to the organization, Canine Companion assistance dogs are free for the participants in the program. Even after placement, Canine Companions maintains ownership of the assistance dog during the life of its service – meaning all food and veterinary services are provided by Canine Companions. The organization is funded by private contributions and is sustained by the support of over 3,000 volunteers nationwide.
BraunAbility and Chrysler dually partnered with Canine Companions for Independence in their Give a Dog a Job program, which helps fund the process of training and pairing a dog with a person with a disability, leading them to a life of greater independence.