What is KSDS?

Our Mission Statement

To provide professionally trained guide, service, and facility dogs for people in need of a canine partner to enhance their independence, to fully function in society, and/or to enrich their professional career responsibilities with the ongoing support of our trainers to ensure proficient working partnerships.

In 1990, KSDS began as Kansas Specialty Dog Service and was incorporated as a non-profit. The organization was established with assistance from the State of Kansas Department of Rehabilitation Services and from individual donors. Today, KSDS has celebrated over 30 years of service and 600+ assistance dog teams placed in 36 states.

Located in Washington, Kansas, the KSDS campus includes the Administration Building, Canine Housing Unit, East Training Building, West Training Building, Agility Center, and six-plex and duplex apartments.

How KSDS Works

Puppies born and bred on the KSDS campus are initially trained by selected volunteer puppy raisers and subsequently by our certified training staff. Our trainers then decide which dog would pair best with one of our clients, and that individual will usually travel to our campus for a one to two week training program. Training is complete once the team (individual and canine) partnerships are formed and the program successfully completed.

Most of our dogs are born at KSDS in Washington, Kansas from our ongoing breeding program of Golden and Labrador Retrievers. We are also a member of Assistance Dogs International’s North American and International Breeding Cooperatives (ABC/IBC) which provide breeding stock standards with documented successful genetics.

Newborn puppies spend their early days isolated from other dogs and the public with their moms and litter mates in the Canine Housing Unit (CHU). They are then moved into the public kennel area in the CHU where they continue to receive loving attention by our staff. During the next six weeks, the pups undergo a scientific program of early puppy socialization and environmental exposures, including handling, crate training, recordings of thunder storms and street noises, and routine health checks, including deworming and vaccines. At six weeks of age, the puppies are weaned and begin socializing with volunteers including adults, children and students from K-State to prepare them for their next step in life.

At eight weeks, the puppies go out into private homes with their puppy raisers. Some puppies are placed into the “Pooches and Pals” program at the women’s correctional facility in Topeka, KS (TCF). As a Puppy-In-Training (PIT), the pups learn basic obedience and are exposed to the daily routine of the puppy raiser’s family and their local community. The pups are returned to the KSDS campus at 18 to 20 months of age. Before advanced training begins, the pups are evaluated for temperament and then transported to the Veterinary Health Center at Kansas State University (VHC at KSU) for complete physical examinations including OFA radiographs (bone and joint) and CERT’s (eye exams). If the puppy passes all of these rigorous health and temperament checks, they are evaluated for specific intermediate training in the guide, service, or facility training programs. Some puppies are sent to TCF to learn intermediate and/or specific working dog skills. The next step in training is matching the temperament and physical attributes of the dog to the specific needs of a person who has submitted an application to KSDS. Further training then continues with the goal of providing the perfect dog for each individual.

In order to graduate from the program, the team (student and dog) must train together on the KSDS campus or in the handler’s home town (commonly for guide teams) for one to three weeks. The estimated cost of each dog placement is in excess of $25,000. However, other than the initial $25.00 application fee, training is provided at no cost to the applicant. The students are housed in totally accessible housing on campus and most meals are provided. Transportation for classes off campus and training materials (special collars, leashes, and harnesses) are also provided. Before graduation from the program, all recipients of a KSDS assistance dog must demonstrate their ability to give effective commands and maintain control of their new partner in public and pass both the KSDS Assistance Dog skills and the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) Public Access Tests. They must also be able to provide a safe and loving home environment as well as feed, groom, and clean up after their new canine partner.

After returning home, the KSDS training staff provides on-going training support to all graduate teams including a group Graduate Retreat each year on the KSDS campus, as well as individual help, as needed. KSDS has trained and maintained over 600 teams (guide, service, facility).  As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, KSDS operates entirely on donations and no tax dollars are used to support these programs.