Need Assistance? PADS is Here To Help

If you haven’t heard of them or seen their adorable little trainees waddling around in too-big yellow vests, then you are missing out on the amazing organization that is PADS. (Pacific Assistance Dog Society)

PADS has been in operation since 1987 training and breeding dogs to help individuals with disabilities lead independent lives. They are the only institution in Canada that is fully accredited with the ADI (Assistance Dog International) school since 2002. This means that they meet the expectations of assistance dog training, placement, and client care set by the rigorous standards of the society. Regular assessments by ADI ensure that PADS maintains their high standards throughout the years and continue to provide excellent client care and knowledgeable animal placement. 

PADS is a west coast institution based in British Columbia with a training and breeding center in Calgary. They provide their services to a huge population of Canadians across the country. 

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PADS raises mostly Labrador and Golden Retrievers, who are known both by their happy-go-lucky demeanor and for being eager-to-please. Both are intelligent and easy-going, making them perfect for learning complex tasks and responding to their person’s emotions and needs. Puppies are placed with foster families who devote their time to bringing the dogs into the real world for extensive socialization and training. They will stay with these foster families for up to 2 years for optimal results.

Service Dog Varieties

The services these dogs provide range immensely–PADS trains for a total of 5 different groups; Service, PTSD Service, Hearing, Facility, and VIP. 

Standard Service

Service dogs are trained to handle manual tasks for those with physical disabilities that affect movement and mobility. These tasks can be anything from opening doors, pulling wheelchairs, retrieving medications, carrying groceries or bags, and providing stability. Dogs chosen for this program have to be calm and composed in public, intelligent and focused. They have to be able to easily learn new tasks and be able to perform them with many distractions. These dogs are generally stronger so they can do things like open heavier doors or carry heavy bags. These are the pups you see in places like grocery stores or public transit where they can help carry things for their person.

PTSD Service

PTSD Service dogs are a whole other kind of dog. Any kind of breed or size of dog can be a PTSD service dog, but are usually Labs and Goldens. These dogs are placed with people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, often military Veterans or First Responders. Dogs chosen and trained to be PTSD Service dogs show a high emotional intelligence and response to their human handlers–these are going to be the dogs that approach you and stay with you when you are experiencing high-stress, anxiety, or fear. With these characteristics, they are trained to provide calming and grounding to their human partners.

PTSD Service dogs help their humans re-integrate with society and remain calm, helping protect from emotional triggers and responding with a calming presence when those triggers are unavoidable. These are often going to be the dogs you see in crowded places like malls and outdoor events and gatherings. Their responses to panic attacks or other emotional effects of PTSD will be calming (staying and snuggling with their owner), grounding (touching with their noses or paws to bring a person back out of a traumatic memory and into the present), or even just laying on their person to provide a steady, calming pressure and remind them where they are. 

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Hearing Dogs tend to be on the smaller side; smaller Labs and Goldens, or terriers and Shelties, who are known for their instinctive alerting ability. These dogs work with people who are deaf/hard of hearing and are trained to alert to noises like the doorbell ringing, or alarms. They will alert their person by touching with their nose or paw in a certain way. Due to the fact that they need to be highly alert and aware, dogs like Shelties or Fox Terriers make great hearing dogs because they are highly responsive to sudden outside stimulus. People who own these breeds know them as great guard dogs!

Certified Facility

Facility dogs are group-healers and community workers. They provide a calming presence to multiple people, either in groups or individually in appropriate facilities. Many times these facilities are community places that cater towards children or families, such as a family center or a social services office where these dogs can assist with physical, social, or emotional improvements in the people seeking the facility’s service. Dogs and their handlers work towards specific goals. These would be the dogs you see in schools assisting kids and students with emotional and social support, or at a social services center where they may be dealing with groups of people at a low point in their lives or dealing with mental illnesses and disabilities.


VIP dogs are just as the name sounds–Very Important Pets. These are the pups that took to their training really well, but don’t do super well in public. They end up being more suited to the domestic life rather than the working one. Their training and behaviour are fantastic, and this makes them incredible support animals for people with disabilities who would benefit from having the love and companionship of a dog, but who may not have the time or resources to devote to training and raising the perfect pup.

Oftentimes these dogs end up being the first pet for a family with a disabled child, because they don’t have to train the dog to be respectful and good with the child. Although these dogs don’t  get into the public eye and haven’t been trained for special skills, the service they provide is just as necessary and helpful for their families. These dogs (usually Labs or Goldens) are free to be goofy and endlessly loving for people who need a companion. 

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PADS and their dogs have been able to help hundreds of people with physical or mental disabilities become independent and start the path to healing and happiness. The services they provide–from emotional support to manual tasks–are indispensable to those who are unable to be independent otherwise. Many of these dogs have helped people start their journey of healing and growth, and will continue to do so. 

How to Support

There are tons of ways to support PADS! Donations are always accepted and sharing on social media is a great way to spread the word. Plus, PADS is almost always looking for puppy fosters and trainers!

Pets are an incredible boon to our lives. Many studies have shown that dogs and cats, as well as other companion animals provide a physical benefit to us. Any pet owner can testify that the emotional support a pet provides us is something that cannot be replicated. PADS takes it a step further to ensure that people who need an extra-special pet get that extra support.

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As the only accredited program of their kind in Canada, we need to recognize PADS and the work they do and share with everyone we know that service dogs are an important and crucial part of many people’s lives. If you’re in the area you can attend the PADS graduation Ceremony of 2019, located at the Michael J Fox Theatre on October 6. Sign up on their website today and support PADS today!

article by Matthew Staton

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