Frequently Asked Questions

Which breed of dog does NEADS train most often?

Many of the hearing dogs NEADS trains are rescued from animal shelters throughout New England. There isn’t one particular breed that makes a better hearing dog, so NEADS often selects mixed breeds from shelters. They tend to be under 50 lbs. and have high energy. Our trainers select hearing dogs based on the dog's innate initiative and receptiveness to sound.

Most of the service dogs that NEADS trains are purchased from breeders; some are donated to us. Much of the work of a service dog involves retrieving or a retrieving-related skill, so we most often work with Labrador Retrievers. Occasionally, we work with Golden Retrievers. In contrast to hearing dogs, successful service dogs wait until they receive a command before they perform a skill. Service dogs are laid back and eager to please. More information about our dogs

Are male or female dogs better to train for assistance dog work?

NEADS trains both male and female dogs of all shapes and sizes. All NEADS dogs are spayed or neutered.

At what age can a dog start learning to be an assistance dog?

Puppy training begins at 8 weeks. The early experiences and basic commands the puppy learns are the building blocks to raising a socially-confident, skilled, obedient assistance dog who thrives on helping. More information about our puppy Early Learning Center 

NEADS dogs wear something around their nose. What is that? 

Though often mistaken for a muzzle, the strap around the assistance dog is actually called a Gentle Leader, and is not a muzzle. It is a type of collar that makes it easier to walk a dog, particularly for those who have limited or no strength in their arms or hands. The dog can still chew and bark with the collar on. More information about our training methods

How much does it cost to train an assistance dog?

It costs NEADS more than $25,000 to acquire, raise, train and match an assistance dog. We ask clients to help us fundraise a portion of that cost to offset the expenses. More information about fundraising for an assistance dog

How does somebody get an assistance dog from NEADS?

People find out about NEADS through the internet, referrals from independent living centers and other programs, and by meeting graduates, puppy raisers and volunteers. To apply for an assistance dog, an applicant fills out an application, and schedules a personal interview at the NEADS Princeton, Massachusetts campus (or with a nearby NEADS representative, or via video).  If accepted, the individual goes on a waiting list until our staff identifies the right dog for their needs.

How long does it take for someone to get an assistance dog?

NEADS dogs are trained to meet the needs of the individual the dog is matched with. We must identify which dog has the skills and temperament for each applicant -- this process ensures a successful and lasting partnership. Therefore, the wait time varies depending on whether we have a dog that meets the needs of the applicant. The best way to find out how long an applicant will wait for a dog is to contact our staff.

What happens to dogs that don’t complete the training?

Assistance dog work is not right for every dog. Dogs that don’t complete the training (they may have a minor medical issue, be too shy in public, or chase squirrels, for example) make great pets. We affectionately call these dogs "Furloughed Favorites." More information about Furloughed Favorites

What is facility-based training?

NEADS was one of the pioneers in developing this intensive training method. People who receive a NEADS assistance dog live on our campus for 10-14 days for extensive training with their new canine partner. Our clients are able to immerse themselves in the process of bonding and training with the dog. Learn more about client training

Do hearing and service dogs have the same public access rights as guide dogs for people who are blind?

Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes hearing and service dogs as vital tools for the hearing impaired and those with a physical disability. People with hearing and service dogs are granted full access to all places of public accommodation. (Because of the separation of church and state, churches are not required to permit assistance dogs. However, many churches will allow access if asked.) More information on the rights and access of people with assistance dogs

Is it ok to pet an assistance dog when he or she is working?

Assistance dogs perform an important function for their handler -- any kind of distraction could be dangerous for the person. That's why you should always ask before you pet or distract an assistance dog. Most working dogs will wear a harness, cape or backpack in public to identify them as such. Many owners place a patch on the dog’s equipment that reads, “Please don’t pet me, I’m working.”

What happens when an assistance dog can no longer work?

Usually, the dog is retired as a service animal and becomes a pet for the person with whom the dog was matched. The client may also choose to get another assistance dog. 

 

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