Canine Companions for Independence

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Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is a US-based 501(c)(3) (non-profit) organization that trains and provides assistance dogs.[1] As of May 2014, it had sponsored and trained about 4,400 dogs.[2]

Canine Companions for Independence.svg


CCI was founded in Santa Rosa, California in July 1975 by Bonnie Bergin as the first program of its kind.[3] While teaching in Asia, she had seen burros being used by disabled people and thought that dogs could serve a similar role in the US.[4] Since then, it has grown to a national organization with five regions.

The organization pairs people with disabilities (other than blindness) with highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support at no cost to the recipient.[1] All expenses of the dogs (breeding, raising, and training), are paid for by private donations from separate foundations, corporations, or individuals, as well as fundraising projects. The Lions Club Project for Canine Companions for Independence (LPCCI), which was founded in 1983 as a significant provider of financial and volunteer support to CCI, has donated a total of $2 million.[5] In 2015, CCI partnered with Henry Schein Aniimal Health, a provider of animal health products to veterinarians, which provides puppy raisers with free health care products.[6]

A special program, "Wounded Veterans Initiative," provides trained companion dogs for wounded war veterans.[7][8][9] The program receives funding from a partnership between PetSmart and CCI.[10] In December 2014, the organization joined the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in a study to determine whether service dogs improve the quality of life for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.[11]

The dogs[edit]

CCI trains four types of dogs- service dogs (primarily mobility assistance), skilled companions trained to work with an adult or child with a disability under the guidance of a facilitator, hearing dogs for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and dogs for "facility teams." Facility teams are made up of a dog and partner, who is usually a rehabilitation specialist, educator, or caretaker. Primarily, these dogs exist as specialized therapy dogs, and help out in the mental, physical and emotional difficulties experienced by a person with disabilities.[12] These dogs also carry most of the skills of service dogs as well as specialized skills for whatever type of facility the dog will be working in.

Breeding and raising[edit]

CCI employs a breeding program to supply their dogs.[13] They use purebred Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, as well as a cross between the two known as an LGX, and corgis.[14]

Puppies are raised by volunteers who commit to keeping the dogs for 14 months, [14][15] until it is time for them to enter the training program .[16]


The six- to nine-month advanced training, which costs up to $45,000 per dog, begins when the dog is returned by the volunteer puppy raisers.[12] The first three months of training reviews what the dogs have learned.[17] The second three months concludes with the dogs learning the commands for their final job, such as opening doors and switching on lights. The dogs are also put in real-life situations to determine if they have the temperament to function well in actual situations.

For final training, the individuals receiving the dogs travel to the regional center that serves their state for a two-week class that teaches the recipients about their new partners. This includes learning about dog psychology, dog grooming and care as well as the commands that the dogs know. Matching the dogs with the person is done carefully to make sure their activity levels and personalities match. At the conclusion, the individuals go through testing and then participate in a graduation ceremony. [18]

Six weeks after finishing the training, teams return for follow-up. CCI dog users may also periodically return for reunions or extra follow-up training at any time.[19] Their usual term in service is about eight years.[20]


  1. ^ a b Derr, M. (2004). Dog's Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship. University of Chicago Press. pp. 309–311. ISBN 9780226142807. 
  2. ^ "'She’s helped me have my manhood back': Service dog changes wounded veteran's life". Today (U.S. TV program). 2014-05-23. Retrieved 2015-06-28. 
  3. ^ Bozzo, L. (2010). Service Dog Heroes. Enslow Publishers. ISBN 9780766031999. 
  4. ^ "Dogs and the Disabled: New Role". New York Times. 1989-04-16. Retrieved 2015-06-28. 
  5. ^ 2006, Lions Project for Canine Companions for Independence,
  6. ^ "Canine Companions for Independence, Henry Schein Animal Health Form Partnership to Support Volunteer Puppy Raisers and Their Veterinarians". New York Times. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Jackson, Tim W. "Organization Offers Free Service Dogs for Veterans in Wounded Veterans Initiative". Paralyzed Veterans of America. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "Service Dog Given to Wounded Vietnamese-American U.S. Army Captain". PR Web. 21 May 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Joan Beder, Advances in Social Work Practice with the Military pg. 165. Routledge, 2012
  10. ^ "New Partnership Between PetSmart and Canine Companions for Independence Helps Wounded Military Veterans". MarketWatch. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "Study examines impact of service dogs on veterans with PTSD". Stars and Stripes (newspaper). January 31, 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  12. ^ a b Zauzmer, Julie (17 March 2014). "Service dog comforts children who have been abused". Washington Post. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  13. ^ CCI's breeding program
  14. ^ a b Davis, Patricia (7 November 1996). "A pup with a purpose". Washington Post. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  15. ^ "Canine Companions for Independence". Indianapolis Monthly. November 2000. pp. 107–108. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  16. ^ Puppy-raising for CCI
  17. ^ Aron, Wendy (26 November 2006). "ANIMALS; Canine Companions Help People Deal With Disabilities". New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  18. ^ CCI training
  19. ^ About follow-up training at CCI
  20. ^ "Aspirations Beyond Guard Duty". New York Times. November 13, 2006. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 

External links[edit]