Paws dogs earn a PHD in personalized assistance


An Assistance Dog helps someone with a disability complete essential tasks so they can increase independence and improve their quality of life. By helping open doors, pick up objects, pull a wheelchair or alert them to sounds, barriers are broken down.

Paws With A Cause breeds and custom-trains Assistance Dogs for people with physical disabilities, hearing loss, seizures, and autism. PAWS trains the following types of Assistance Dogs:


For a physical disability, debilitating chronic illness or neurological disorder


For people who are deaf or hard of hearing


Seizure Response

For those with epilepsy or other seizure disorders


Dogs for Children
With Autism

For children 12 and younger with Autism



Learn what to expect with an Assistance Dog


The tasks of each PAWS Dog are customized for the client

Lifetime Team

Learn how PAWS remains available for support

Donate Online

Give now to support an Assistance Dog Team


“The program is uniquely designed for the individual. PAWS did as much research on me as the dog. They asked about the needs I have and what I don’t need. Then they match a dog to you and work with you to make it work. No two teams are alike.”
– Jeff, PAWS Hearing Dog Client


Our first question to a client is always, “What can a PAWS Dog do to help you become more independent?” That’s because we understand every disability is different, which is why each Assistance Dog is matched and custom-trained for a person’s unique needs.

To ensure an Assistance Dog can meet the needs of a client, it has to pass a specialized temperament test and comprehensive health screening to enter PAWS’ training program. The dog is matched to a client based on the person’s lifestyle, temperament and the physical characteristics required to complete the needed tasks.

Once the dog is trained, PAWS brings the Assistance Dog to the client’s home. This allows the client to train with a PAWS Field Rep and learn how to work with their dog in the home, workplace, school, etc. until certified as an Assistance Dog Team.

See the PAWS Team Journey here.


After certification, PAWS remains available for support. Clients may contact PAWS Client Services at any time if extra training is needed, whether it’s a new task or retraining of an existing task. Assistance Dog Teams are also recertified every 24 months to ensure they are working at the required proficiency of PAWS and ADI.

When an Assistance Dog retires or passes away, PAWS clients are eligible to apply for a Successor Dog. If accepted, priority is given to successor clients.


About two months before your Assistance Dog ID card expires, PAWS will send a letter stating it is time to be recertified. This is not something to be nervous about; we want to help you succeed.

The process is very similar to certification. Your Field Rep will arrange a time to film you and your Assistance Dog completing all of your trained tasks at home and in public along with ADI requirements. Your veterinarian also has to complete a PAWS form to ensure your dog is up-to-date on health requirements.

Client Services reviews the video and vet form. When they approve a client for recertification, PAWS mails an updated ID card valid for two years.

“My job is to make Assistance Dog Teams successful. I am not here to judge you or grade you. I am your coach and I’m here to help.” – Ellen, PAWS Field Rep

Recertification allows PAWS to evaluate an Assistance Dog Team to ensure they are working at the required proficiency of PAWS and ADI. This occurs every 24 months. On the alternate years, PAWS contacts the client to determine how things are going, see if additional training is needed, etc.

We realize that things change. Maybe your dog is not performing a task well and needs to be retrained for it. Perhaps your needs have changed and training your Assistance Dog for extra tasks would be beneficial.

Whatever you need, don’t hesitate to contact PAWS Client Services. We will discuss your needs and arrange the necessary training so you and your Assistance Dog continue to be successful.


After developing such a strong bond with your Assistance Dog, it can be difficult imagining life without them by your side. As your dog ages, it’s important to ask yourself, “Can I continue my current level of independence with my current dog?” If the answer is no, it may be time to consider your options.

It’s up to you to determine if and when you want to retire your Assistance Dog. Talk with your Field Rep at recertification and your vet to get their opinion on how your dog is performing or how much longer they can perform at this level.

If you are currently a PAWS Client and are interested in receiving a successor dog please contact our Client Services Department:

PAWS Client Services
Phone: 616-877-7297

Applicant FAQs

What types of dogs does PAWS train?

How does PAWS get the dogs they train to be Assistance Dogs?

Can PAWS train a client’s own dog to be their Assistance Dog?

Can a PAWS Dog alert me to oncoming seizures or provide support while I’m walking?

What tasks are PAWS Dogs trained to do?

What tasks are PAWS Dogs NOT trained to do?

Who is eligible to apply for a PAWS Dog?

What are the age requirements to apply?

How much does an Assistance Dog cost?

How do you apply for a PAWS dog?

How long is the application process?

I completed the application process, but haven’t been matched to a dog yet. Why?

What if I have other pets in my home?

How old are the dogs when the clients receive them?

What are the responsibilities of the client who receives a PAWS Assistance Dog?

Can Assistance Dogs live in apartments and go in public places?

What areas are PAWS Dogs placed?