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Veteran teams Aaron and Ruger, and Shawnn and Daisy display their newly earned Urban CGC ribbons.

Veterans Program

Canines With a Cause is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing US Military Veterans the opportunity to overcome the challenges of PTSD and other psychological disabilities and gain independence through the process of training a dog. We are able to offer our services at no charge thanks to the generosity of individuals and businesses who donate with love and concern for our service men and women.

Our program is based on the philosophy that we ‘train the trainer.’ Studies show the benefits of a program like Canines With A Cause reach far beyond that of the service dog performing necessary tasks. Often, attending regular training classes, socializing and accomplishing training goals is therapeutic. Building confidence and achieving success are major factors in the recovery process.

Our goal is to encourage participation in the positive partnership training process while remaining flexible and aware of each client’s individual needs and disabilities. Some partnerships will strive to complete formal service dog certification while others may choose to train their dog to the skill level that best suits their needs. Either way, this is a process and relationship that can last many months and Canines With a Cause is dedicated to providing our Military Veterans the knowledge, skills, and support to achieve their goals.

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Canines With a Cause (CWAC) began in 2010 as a program of Friends of Animals, Utah. Understanding the connection between companion animals and trauma, it made sense to find homes for our rescued buddies with those who would benefit from their companionship.

Based upon demand for trained service dogs for military veterans, CWAC officially became a non-profit organization in May of 2011. Partnering with the local VA Hospital in Salt Lake City, CWAC rescued dogs from local shelters, trained them in a small facility in Rose Park and eventually expanded training to the Utah Women’s State Prison in 2015.

The main office and training room for the Utah program is located in Holladay with another location in Odgen. Our Utah trainers Chloe and Harleigh are dedicated to our veteran/dog teams and provide support from the first inquiry to graduation. 

A mentor program is also provided to help new program veterans and engage those who’ve completed training and would like to give back.

Dogs in the Utah program are sourced from local shelters and placed in a board and train facility for assessment and early training.

Canines With a Cause Northern Nevada began in 2018 with a dog training program in Warm Springs Correctional Center in Carson City. What made this program special was the offenders training dogs for the CWAC program, they were all incarcerated veterans.

Veterans residing in the prison had special quarters where the dogs lived and trained to be service dogs for other veteran dealing with Post Traumatic Stress. Not only were the inmates benefiting from the dog training program, they were helping other veterans.

Training for service dog team soon followed, local veterans interested in obtaining a service dog were referred by the Reno VA Hospital, Vet Centers or word of mouth.

The Warm Springs dog training program was put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, CWAC is currently working with the Nevada Department of Corrections to resume the program.

Training classes and dogs are currently available for veterans in the Reno/Tahoe area. Seamus, Nevada Program Manager and Trainer has years of working with service dog teams and will help qualified veterans with the application process.

CWAC-Idaho services the Northern Idaho & Eastern Washington areas. Local veterans are referred through the Spokane VA and local Vet Centers and local Organizations such as Newby Ginnings North Idaho, Inc.

Faithful K9 Trainer, located in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is providing the training for our veterans and their service dogs. Richie, the trainer/owner at FK9T has worked hard to create an avenue for veterans to have this opportunity.

Geraldine Schneider is the Program Coordinator for the Idaho program and will respond to inquiries and help with the application process.

Canines With a Cause partnered with the Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino in 2018 to implement a dog training program. 

With ongoing support from Warden Carlin the program continues to be successful, providing dogs for the Idaho CWAC service dog training program.

If you would like to make a donation directly to the Idaho program, please use the donation button provided and indicate your donation is intended for Idaho or use the QR code provided below.

Veterans Program FAQs

What the basic requirements?

1) Have a verifiable military-related disability, specifically Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
2) Be physically, emotionally, and financially capable of handling and caring for a dog
3) Have the ability, mobility, and dexterity to actively train and control the dog and to follow verbal instruction from the training staff on a weekly basis
4) Have adequate and reliable transportation to class (excluding public transportation)
5) Not currently undergoing inpatient treatment, or six months post successful substance abuse or mental health treatment
6) Have a stable living environment
7) Be under the treatment of a mental health provider

How do I apply?

Please fill out the form below to see if you are a good fit for the program. Once you do, a member of our staff will get back to you in a timely manner.

Veterans who wish to participate in the program must have the ability, mobility and dexterity to actively train and control the dog and to follow verbal instruction from the training staff on a weekly basis for up to 24 months.

What happens after I apply?

Once a member of the team reaches out and determines qualification, introductory information and application forms will be sent via email. A health form completed by a member of your health care team indicating the recommendation of a service dog is required.

Please note that we do not train service dogs for other disabilities or tasks such as seizure detection, diabetic detection, hearing or vision impairment,  physical mobility issues beyond balance/stability, etc. If you have questions please call us at 801-792-1737

What happens after the paperwork is completed?

Once you have completed the application, we will schedule an interview to learn more about your needs and give your trainer a chance to introduce himself/herself. This is an opportunity for you to ask questions and gather information to determine if this program is a good fit for you.

Following the interview, you will begin Foundation Classes which consist of an overview of our training methods, the process of pairing a Canines With A Cause program dog with you, your responsibilities as a participant, time involved and a summary of service dogs and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Once you’ve attended Foundation Classes you will be placed in the queue for enrollment into training classes. Our staff then begins the process of pairing you with your new best buddy. We understand this needs to be a special bond between the handler and dog, so we take extra care in the matchmaking process.

How are dogs selected for the program?

CWAC finds dogs from high-volume shelters with specific traits to become service dogs for veterans.

Shelter dogs are carefully evaluated and selected to enter our program by our own experienced, professional trainers and animal behaviorist to assure the best possible chance for success.

In some cases, when these dogs enter our program, each is placed with a pair of  inmates in one of our partnering prisons where they learn basic obedience and socialization until they are permanently matched with a veteran.

If I already have a dog, can it be trained to be a service dog in your program?

This subject is addressed in the interview but the preliminary answer is “maybe”. Most dogs, generally speaking, aren’t able to meet the advanced training requirements to be considered a service dog, however many dogs can fulfill the needs of the client as a beloved companion dog. If you do not already have a dog in mind, we strongly suggest you begin working with our program before you commit to a dog on your own.

What is the training like?

CWAC Veteran/dog teams train using positive reinforcement methods. CWAC curriculum includes 300 hours of training, program clients are expected to go through all 6 levels of the program and pass the 5 corresponding training tests. The tests include a Beginner Level Evaluation, the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test, Urban Canine Good Citizen Test, Advanced Canine Good Citizen Test and a Public Access Test. 

FOUNDATIONS – Classes discuss basic dog ownership

BEGINNER LEVEL – Must pass Beginner Test to move on

INTERMEDIATE 1 – Must pass Canine Good Citizen to move on

INTERMEDIATE 2 – Must pass Urban Canine Good Citizen to move on

ADVANCED LEVEL – Must pass Advanced Canine Good Citizen to move on

SERVICE DOG IN TRAINING – Must pass Public Access Test to be recognized as a service dog

Dogs in the program are not considered service dogs until they have completed all levels of training, have logged the required amount of training homework and have passed all levels of testing through the CWAC Training Program.

Where are the classes held?

Utah – CWAC’s main office and training room is located in Salt Lake City, UT. We utilize facilities in other locations such as VFW Halls and private training facilities.

Reno – We are grateful for the continued support of the American Legion for allowing us to use their space for our training.

Idaho – We are currently offering classes in Coeur d’Alene.

If I live outside of the area or outside of the state of Utah, Nevada, or Idaho, can I still get a dog?

CWAC does not provide fully trained service dogs; our program depends upon the veteran’s attendance in weekly classes, where we train the veteran to train their dog. We do not generally place dogs that we consider to be service dog candidates with anyone who is not enrolled in our training program, which means being within a reasonable commuting distance to one of our locations.

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