PAWS Service Dogs are custom-trained to assist people with physical disabilities affecting one or more limbs. Service Dogs can enhance a person’s independence by helping with tasks such as pulling a wheelchair, opening doors, turning light switches on/off or picking up objects as small as a dime. If a client falls, the dog can even act as a brace to help them up.

PAWS has trained Service Dogs to assist people who have Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Rheumatoidal Degeneration, ALS, Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord injuries and many other conditions affecting a person’s mobility or strength.

In addition to performing tasks related to a physical disability, a PAWS Dog can also be trained to assist with tasks related to a seizure disorder or hearing loss.


Determine if you qualify for a PAWS Service Dog


Learn what to expect with a PAWS Service Dog


Frequently asked questions about PAWS Service Dogs


Working together as a team through college


Applications are open January 8th-March 29th, 2024.


Give now to support an Assistance Dog Team


“MAUI has saved me from that feeling of desperation. When I drop something now, it’s no big deal.”
-Ashley, PAWS Service Dog Client

Ashley is studying International Relations with a minor in Middle-Eastern Studies at Grand Valley State University. Her hope is to work with refugees and immigrants, teach English as a second language or work with students studying abroad at a university’s international center. She lives on campus so she can get the full college experience. And she has a PAWS Service Dog with her.

At 18 months old, Ashley was diagnosed with Dejerine-Sottas syndrome, a disease that causes loss of sensation and muscle mass and results in weakness of her limbs. Ashley always planned to go to college after high school, but didn’t feel anywhere close to being able to take care of herself while there. At home, just getting dressed took 45 minutes and drained her energy.

So she decided to apply for a PAWS Service Dog. “I told my parents this is something I need to do for myself,” Ashley said. “I was nervous about going to college and living on campus because my independence was limited. When I dropped something, I couldn’t pick it up because my spinal cord is fused. My parents supported me, understanding this was something I wanted to do.”

Ashley made it through a challenging freshman year while she waited for a PAWS Service Dog. Whenever she dropped a textbook, keys, phone or mittens, she had to ask someone to pick it up for her. “I really hated having to be in a situation where I had to interrupt someone to help me. It just gave them another reason to view people with disabilities as vulnerable and needy.” Ashley added, “There were many experiences like that. I was excited when I got MAUI because I knew I would never have to ask somebody to pick up my mittens again!”

Every day MAUI helps Ashley get in and out of bed, open a door or refrigerator, and pull off her clothing. Ashley says the biggest thing MAUI does is, “pick something up. She has saved me from that feeling of desperation. When I drop something now, it’s no big deal.”

Ashley’s advice to someone considering an Assistance Dog: “Don’t think you’re not disabled enough for a PAWS Dog. That was something blocking me. I can function without MAUI, I just don’t want to. It’s not you depending on a dog; it’s you and the dog working together as a team, even if it’s doing one big thing to make your life easier. It’s worth it.”



To be eligible for a PAWS Service Dog, an individual must:

  • Be 14 years or older
  • Have a physical disability, debilitating chronic illness or neurological disorder affecting one or more limbs
  • If the dog is also trained for seizure tasks, an individual must have a minimum of one seizure per month
  • If the dog is also trained for hearing tasks, an individual must have a minimum of moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss
  • Be physically and cognitively capable of participating in the training process, up to one hour a day
  • Be able to independently command and handle their Assistance Dog
  • Be able to meet the emotional, physical and financial needs of the Assistance Dog
  • Be in a stable home environment
  • Actively improve their quality of life and pursue independence with their Assistance Dog
  • Have no other dog in the home (can have other animals)
  • Live in an area serviced by a PAWS Field Rep (determined upon application)

If the applicant is younger than PAWS’ minimum age, visit for a list of other ADI programs that may train for younger children.

While Paws With A Cause has established eligibility criterion for the types of Assistance Dogs we provide, we do not discriminate against any applicant based on race, color, creed, gender, religion, marital status, age, nationality, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, citizenship status, military service status or any other consideration as indicated by federal, state or local laws.



Paws With A Cause works hard to ensure each client is matched with an Assistance Dog that enhances their quality of life and independence. We know this is an ongoing process, which is why we strive to help each Assistance Dog Team prosper before, during and after certification.


The search for a client’s dog match begins as soon as their Needs Assessment has been accepted. Our goal is to make the strongest possible match for each client in the “waiting pool.” Many factors are considered when evaluating a possible client-dog pairing. Depending on the individual client, and the particular qualities of each available PAWS Dog-in-Training, it may take up to two years to find the right match for their needs, temperament, and lifestyle.


Once a client is matched, training begins. During these 3-6 months, trainers review a client’s needs assessment and video to custom-train the Assistance Dog for tasks to enhance a client’s independence and quality of life. PAWS’ training standards exceed the industry average. If a dog is unable to meet PAWS’ training standards, the client will be matched with another compatible PAWS Dog as soon as possible.


When training at PAWS Headquarters is complete, the Assistance Dog is placed with the client in their home and team training begins. Over the next 4-8 months, a PAWS Field Rep helps the client learn how to work with their Assistance Dog in the home, workplace, school, etc. When the client and PAWS Dog are working well together, the Field Rep videotapes them performing their tasks. This video is reviewed by PAWS Client Services and once approved, the Assistance Dog Team is certified and ownership of the PAWS Dog transfers to the client.

Assistance Dog Teams are tested and recertified every 24 months to ensure they continue to work well together. Follow up is conducted on alternate years or whenever a client needs additional assistance.


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 for available Assistance Dogs.


Please see our Assistance Dog FAQs here.