Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of dogs do you use?
Dogs with Wings uses Labradors (either yellow or black) or a Labrador crossed with a Golden Retriever. We have found that these two breeds are an ideal size and temperament and have a willingness to work that makes them ideal Assistance Dogs. They are robust in health and have the ability to form deep bonds with their human partners.
Where do you get your dogs?
We have our own breeding program at Dogs with Wings and usually have a number of combinations of mating partners at any one time. We also obtain dogs from other Assistance Dog Schools both in Canada and the United States. In many cases, our dogs are the result of breeding programs that go back more than 20 years. This ensures that our dogs have all the "right stuff" in them!
Do you accept dogs from the community/SPCA?
In our early days, we did use some rescue dogs from the SPCA and dogs offered to us by the community. However, we no longer do so.
I have a really good dog I can't keep. Can you use it in your program?
Unfortunately, we are not able to accept dogs outside our own school. At any time, we can have up to 50 dogs at various stages of training. The training schedules are all carefully planned out in advance and we are not able to take in additional dogs.
I have a companion dog that I trained myself. Will you certify it?
We are not able to certify dogs trained by other people, or to offer training to dogs outside our program. Our dogs are almost 2 years old before they graduate. During that time, our trainers have had an extended opportunity to assess the dog's temperament and fitness to be an Assistance Dog, and to develop a detailed training plan so that each dog is able to offer an "exact fit" for a particular client. This is an involved process, and we can't vouch for dogs not trained within our own program.
How long does it take to train one of your dogs?
Our puppies enter the Puppy Program at 8 weeks of age, and are with their puppy raisers until they are approximately 12 months old. During this time, they are taught basic obedience and are exposed to many different situations out in the community. If they have met basic criteria for health, temperament and skill, they enter the Adult Program, which lasts another 6 to 8 months during which time they perfect their obedience and learn many specific skills useful later on. Then, the dog is matched to a particular client and further training ensures that the dog will be able to assist that client with his or her particular disabilities. The total training program lasts until the dogs are almost 2 years of age.
I want to know more about fostering a puppy or adult dog. What do I do?
The first thing to do is to review the information on our website found in the volunteer section. Please know that our puppy raisers are some of our most dedicated volunteers! They are expected to have their puppy with them at all times, even when at school or work or when doing the shopping or grabbing a meal in a restaurant. We know we are asking a lot of our puppy raisers, but with a great start, they are well on their way to earning their wings!
I want to offer a boarding home for one of your dogs. What do I do?
Please visit our document directory for criteria and applications.
What happens to dogs too old to work, or to your dogs that don't graduate?
Retired dogs are usually kept on by our clients, who may then receive another dog from us. We make every effort to place Skilled Companion Dogs dogs with people who need a skilled dog without public access, and these placements always get first priority. Dogs that are not placed as Guide or Service Dogs, and are not needed for our Skilled Companion Dog program are only very rarely available, and its best to call the office for more information.
I want to volunteer my time to Dogs with Wings. What do I do?
Call us and ask to speak to Kerri Davis, our Volunteer Coordinator. She generally has a wide variety of things that need doing, many of which are short-term projects. She can also explain to you how our Puppy Cuddling Program works! You can also find information in our volunteer section.
I want to make a donation to help Dogs with Wings. What do I do?
You can use the donation button found on our contact page. The site is maintained by one of our partners, CanadaHelps.org. and is a secure way to make a contribution to us. Simply click on it, and the link will provide you with the information you need. Or, you can call the office and speak to John. They will be happy to help you!
What kinds of disabilities will your dogs assist with?
Dogs with Wings is constantly in touch with our community to learn more about what our clients need. In the beginning, we only trained dogs for the blind and visually impaired. Then we added Service Dogs for people with mobility and/or agility challenges. We have also trained many Service Dogs for persons with balance challenges. Our latest program offers Service Dogs for children living with autism spectrum disorder. Do you or someone you know have a need? Get in touch with us to find out whether one of our specially trained dogs can help.
I need a dog. What do I do?
Go to apply for a dog on the main page menu. There is a an Application Package Request form you can fill in online and submit to us directly from this web site. We will contact you when we've received the request to find out more about what your needs are.
Dogs with Wings is accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). What does that mean?
ADI and IGDF set standards for the operation of training schools like ours. By being formally accredited, Dogs with Wings has demonstrated standards of excellence and must adhere to these standards. It also means that our Assistance Dogs are protected by the Service Dogs Act, RSA c. S-7.5 and the Blind Persons' Rights Act, RSA c. B-3, in the Province of Alberta.