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New Program Trains Shelter Dogs to Become Service Dogs

By June 12, 20235 Comments

Dogs for Better Lives launches From Shelter to Service Dog Program in Texas

CARROLLTON, TEXAS – Dogs for Better Lives (DBL) and Operation Kindness (OPK) are eager to announce a new partnership, with a goal of transforming the lives of shelter dogs and people.

The program, “From Shelter to Service Dog,” identifies shelter dogs at Operation Kindness that have the ideal temperament and abilities to become a Service Dog and places them in a unique training program to become a Hearing Assistance Dog, Autism Assistance Dog or Facility Dog through Dogs for Better Lives. The program is a significant opportunity for all shelter dogs that are selected to participate. Even the dogs who do not go on to be Service Dogs will have received additional training that increases their adoptability.

Operation Kindness brought nearly 2,000 dogs into their care in 2022 and adopts out nearly 100 animals every week through its animal shelter. It also provides lifesaving medical care, foster homes, and resources for pet parents and animals in the community.

“Shelter dogs are truly special animals that possess many of the qualities needed to excel as service dogs, including resilience, loyalty and intelligence. We’re honored to collaborate on this unique program that will train shelter dogs to become hearing assistance dogs and place them into loving homes,” said Kelly Furnas, Chief Operating Officer at Operation Kindness.

Dogs for Better Lives has trained shelter dogs to become Service Dogs since its inception in 1977, but in recent years, it has been more challenging to find shelter dogs suitable for Service Dog programs near their headquarters in Oregon.

“The population of shelter dogs in the Pacific Northwest has dwindled since the pandemic, leading to fewer available dogs to be trained to assist people,” said Trish Welch, Vice President of Operations at Dogs for Better Lives. “We’ve been actively working to find ways to continue to train shelter dogs, and this partnership with Operation Kindness is an important step in achieving that goal.”

Shelter dogs selected to enter the program will live with an Operation Kindness foster family for the duration of their training and will work with a Dogs for Better Lives Assistance Dog Trainer throughout the training period to learn the specific skills needed to become a Service Dog. Shelter dogs who don’t graduate to become a Service Dog will be adopted out in the community, benefiting from the additional skills they learned in the program.

The impact of the From Shelter to Service Dog Program will be experienced by more than just the dogs in the program. There is a waitlist for all types of Service Dogs trained by Dogs for Better Lives, with some individuals waiting up to three years to receive a dog. By increasing the number of dogs that become Service Dogs through this program, it will be possible to place Service Dogs with more people with disabilities.

“The demand for our Service Dogs is as high as ever, and we are thrilled to be partnering with Operation Kindness to train shelter dogs who will go on to significantly change the lives of people with disabilities,” said Bryan Williams, CEO of Dogs for Better Lives. “We know this program will transform the lives of both shelter dogs and people.”

For more information about the program, visit www.dogsforbetterlives.org/shelter To become a foster volunteer with Operation Kindness, visit www.operationkindness.org/foster.



About Dogs for Better Lives

Dogs for Better Lives is a nationally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focusing on the professional training and placement of Hearing Assistance Dogs, Autism Assistance Dogs, and Facility Dogs and is accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and recognized by Charity Navigator as a top 4-star nonprofit. Dogs for Better Lives has trained and placed more than 1,600 dogs with people in need since 1977. Assistance Dogs are placed at zero cost to the client, thanks to donor support. Learn more at dogsforbetterlives.org

About Operation Kindness

Operation Kindness, a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal welfare organization, operates a lifesaving animal shelter and programs to assist people and pets. Founded in 1976, Operation Kindness is a pioneer in Texas for assisting animals in need of veterinary care, companionship and most of all, a home.

In addition to pet adoptions and lifesaving medical care, Operation Kindness’ programs provide foster care for vulnerable animals, behavior and training support for pet parents, affordable veterinary services for community pets, a pet food pantry, and volunteer opportunities. To learn more about Operation Kindness, please visit their website at www.operationkindness.org.


Media Contacts

Sara Ifert, Vice President of Marketing
Dogs for Better Lives


Natalie Buxton, Director of Marketing & Communications
Operation Kindness



  • Anna Bernhardt says:

    That is fantastic news to pair up with Operation Kindness to provide training future shelter dogs as hearing assistance dogs. Mixed breed medium and smaller dogs are incredibly smart and loyal. I am sure that people would love having a smaller hearing dog if a lab breed is too big for them. I had received a former shelter certified hearing 1 year old female medium hound mix dog from the now closed Red Acre Hearing Dog Farm in Concord, MA in 1984 which became my best friend and loyal loving hearing helper for 15 years. She was incredibly capable hearing assistance dog, and quietly well behaved inside planes and restaurants. It was a very sad day when I had no choice but to put Jenni to sleep at age 16 because of severely deteriorating health.

  • Roger Freimarck says:

    The fact that DBL attempts to train shelter dogs is the main reason I support DBL and also now volunteer as a dog transporter. I wish that more organizations would make an effort to do the same as DBL. If they did, there may be fewer shelter dogs looking for a forever home. Kudos to DBL for doing this.

    • Sara Ifert says:

      Thank you, Roger! Training shelter dogs is a core part of Dogs for Better Lives’ mission, and we’re proud to give these amazing dogs a purpose!

  • Janis Singleton says:

    I received my Hearing Dog from “Dogs for Better Lives” during the Pandemic. Casey traveled for the Central Pointe Oregon location by vehicle all the way to Lexington Kentucky to be placed with me. My trainer spent a total of 5 mornings showing me what Casey was trained to do. Casey is amazing and we have had an incredible bond since our placement. Casey showed signs of depression after boing everywhere with me for 2 years and needed a Canine Companionship for him to be complete so I adopted a medium mixed breed from a no kill shelter in KY. Casey is much happier and does his Job by alerting me to sound with Gusto. He and my Adopted Dog are great Pals and he shows much affection towards her. I am thrilled that “Dogs For Better Lives” have this kindness program to save Shelter dogs from a misfortunate fate and to give them the opportunity to show their true Potential. Thank you Dogs For Better Lives.

  • Gregory Ryman says:

    I received my Home Hearing Dog 5 years ago, I think. He was a shelter dog and is absolutely a wonder. He was trained to alert me about door knocks, smoke alarm, telephone and oven timer. I get too many fake telephone calls so gave up that training early on. I live alone and have tested him religiously three times a week on oven timer and smoke alarm. While he pretty much doesn’t alert me by touch he does come and sit by me and gets my attention. When someone knocks he does go to the door and wags his tail. Oh well.
    Bottom line: Flynn is a fantastic dog and we are attached at the hip. All due to Dogs for better Lives.

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