Facility Dogs

Jennifer Johnson and Facility Dog Millie II

Facility dogs are expertly trained dogs who partner with a facilitator working in a health care, visitation or education setting.

Canine Companions facility dogs are trustworthy in professional environments and can perform over 40 commands designed to motivate and inspire clients with special needs.

Facilitators are working professionals responsible for handling and caring for the facility dog. Additionally, facilitators are committed to long-term employment where they directly serve clients with special needs a minimum of twenty hours per week.

One of the most valued qualities of the facility dog is the unconditional love and attention it gives to the clients and patients with whom it interacts.

In an educational setting, a facility dog helps engage students in schools and special education classes.

In a health care environment, activities such as grooming, feeding and playing fetch with a facility dog can aid patients in medical rehabilitation and psychiatric programs.

A well-mannered and highly trained facility dog encourages feelings of calm and security for clients in a visitation setting such as a courtroom.

To Receive a Facility Dog:

  • Obtain approval for the use of a facility dog from your employer.
  • Request an application.
  • Apply. This process involves several steps designed to ensure success.
  • Once the application is accepted, attend a two-week Team Training class at a Canine Companions training center.
  • After the graduation, Canine Companions provides on-going support and follow-up services.

Canine Companions facility dogs and follow-up services are free of charge.

To learn more, download the Canine Companions Facility Dog Book (4MB).


Facility Dogs in Educational Settings

Lynn and Laiker and Robin and Fairfax

Special education teachers, Lynn and Robin teach children with moderate to severe disabilities at the same elementary school. Their facility dogs, Laiker and Fairfax, work alongside them in the classroom.

Laiker and Fairfax make practicing fine motor skills fun when students get to brush them, play fetch with them and feed them. Also, Laiker and Fairfax encourage students to verbalize or use their communication devices in order to tell them to "sit" or praise them for a job well done. Best of all, Lynn and Robin use play with the dogs as motivation for students to complete their assignments and work extra hard.


Elizabeth and Yori


Elizabeth and Yori's classroom is for students with moderate to severe autism, grades kindergarten through third.

"My students are functionally nonverbal. They are very content as a whole to not speak, but they want to speak to Yori," Elizabeth says.

"There is one student who I spent years trying to teach to say hello and goodbye. Then one day he started saying hello and goodbye to Yori. Soon he said it to me, and now he does it with his fellow students," Elizabeth explains.

Dan and Abigail

Facility Dog Abigail also works in a special education classroom. One thing unique about Facility Dog Abigail and the work she does with Dan is that Dan is an art teacher.

Abigail helps Dan's students feel at ease and accepted enough to fully participate in art class and experience the joys of expression through art.

Facility Dogs Working at Sutter Memorial Hospital

Paralympics Athletes Assisted by Canine Companions Facility Dog Morrow

Betsy Alison, a five-time US SAILING Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and two-time Ynglling World Champion, has been working with athletes of the US Disabled Sailing Team for several years, accompanying the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team to the 2000 and 2004 Paralympic Games. She has been a staff coach of the US Disabled Sailing Team since March 2006.

After observing the sailors with their pets, Alison thought that a "team dog" could act as a stress reducer and psychological motivator for athletes. Alison consulted with several sports psychologists who agreed with her concept.

In May 2007 she added a new member to the sailing team -- an exceptional facility dog when she graduated from Canine Companions for Independence with Morrow II.

Thanks to his training at Canine Companions, Morrow can assist the sailors with tasks like picking up dropped tools and carrying lifejackets and dry bags. He is currently learning to help pull wheelchairs up the dock. Additionally, Morrow is a constant professional. He is not distracted by common sounds aboard the coach boat like air horns and whistles or by waves and other boats.

The team includes eighteen disabled athletes -- many with spinal cord injuries of varying severity, about half in wheelchairs. The sailors range in age from 22 to 72 and come from all backgrounds. Alison noticed that when a sailor makes errors or performs poorly on the water, they often internalized the stress and their mental state suffers. "Morrow provides stress reduction. You can't help but smile at his unconditional love and regain a positive outlook," says Alison.

Facility Dog Morrow will not be traveling to China for the Paralympics with the team, but he will certainly be there in spirit.

"I'll bring some pictures of Morrow along with his well wishes for the team, that will undoubtedly put smiles on our athletes' faces," explains Coach Alison.


The Courtroom and Facility Dog Ellie

In the middle of the night a five year old boy watched his drunken father viciously assault his mother.  She managed to escape from the house and call the police. Months later when the case came up for trial the boy’s mother minimized the incident and was reluctant to cooperate with the prosecution of the case.  This was only the most recent incident of this defendant’s brutal assaults on the boy’s mother and the prosecutor was determined to do his best to convict this man and send him to prison. He was concerned that the boy’s mother would make it difficult for him to win this case and so turned to the boy to provide the testimony to convict his father.

The boy was scared to participate in the court proceedings until he met and played with Canine Companions Facility Dog Ellie.  She helped him to relax while the boy was questioned by the judge as she determined whether he was able to truthfully describe what he had witnessed.  However when the trial began the boy froze when he saw his family members lined up in the back of the courtroom in support of his father.  The prosecutor asked for a private meeting with the judge, lawyers and the boy in chambers to determine what the problem was.  Initially the boy was silent until the prosecutor decided that some playtime with Ellie in chambers would be a good way to relieve the tension.  Ten minutes later the boy was able to tell the judge that he was afraid of his family members and that was why he couldn’t describe what happened. The judge excused these people from the courtroom during his testimony and the boy was able to relate what he had witnessed with Ellie by his side.  It was a very compelling account from the perspective of a terrified child and the jury convicted the boy’s father.  Afterwards the boy’s mother contacted the prosecutor and told him that although she and her son were alone now because everyone in the family hated them, for the first time in her life she and her son felt free.


Copyright © 2013 Canine Companions for Independence, Inc. All rights reserved.