Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is TLCAD?

Founded in 1998, Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform lives with service dogs.  TLCAD has maintained accreditation with Assistance Dogs International since 2007.

What types of assistance dogs does TLCAD train?

TLCAD trains and places service dogs for individuals with autism and Wounded Warriors.

  • The At Ease Program is for Wounded Warriors
  • The Leash-On-Life Program is for individuals with autism

TLCAD also trains and places facility dogs for professionals that provide medical, therapeutic and educational services to populations that benefit from animal assisted therapy.  


Where do you get your dogs?

TLCAD obtains purpose bred puppies through our membership with a service dog breeding cooperative. We also adopt carefully assessed shelter and rescue dogs and train them to become service dogs. TLCAD currently partners with the following local shelters:

  • San Diego County Department of Animal Services
  • Rancho Coastal Humane Society
  • San Diego Humane Society

TLCAD is not accepting dog donations at this time.

Does TLCAD use specific breeds?

TLCAD uses medium to large breed dogs.  The most common breeds are Labrador Retrievers & Golden Retrievers but other breeds or mixed breeds may be accepted as well.  Due to military base breed restrictions, TLCAD does not use Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, or wolf hybrids.

How do you train your dogs?

TLCAD dogs are taught using only evidence based positive reinforcement training techniques.  TLCAD dogs are never given harsh corrections or trained utilizing aversive equipment.  Utilizing clicker training as part of the curriculum encourages the dog to offer appropriate behavior.  This technique creates a stronger human/animal bond and a “thinking” dog, a crucial recipe for a successful service dog/handler team.

Who trains your dogs?

Prison inmates are taught by TLCAD training instructors to raise and train service dogs using TLCAD’s training curriculum and only positive reinforcement training techniques. There are two inmate trainers assigned per dog. Instructors work with inmates on a weekly basis as well as with the community volunteers who take dogs out of the prison weekly for community exposure. The program was developed based on best practice standards in the industry and adheres to Assistance Dogs International (ADI) standards.

Why a Puppy Prison Program?

Due to the limited number of volunteers available to train service dogs, TLCAD has not been able to meet the demand for service dogs. The Prisoners Overcoming Obstacles & Creating Hope (aka POOCH) program allows for TLCAD to increase the number of service dogs available to those in need, in a shorter time, while providing an opportunity for self and community improvement within the prison system through the experience of training a dog.  Research concludes that inmates who train dogs are less likely to re-offend. In teaching positive reinforcement to incarcerated individuals, TLCAD is able to more successfully fulfill its mission to transform lives through service dogs.

How is TLCAD funded?

TLCAD is funded by private & government grants, foundations, individual businesses & corporations, and individual donations.

What is the application procedure?

  1. Join our applicant pool by completing an application summary form. The long-term success of each placement is very important to TLCAD, which is why we utilize an applicant pool rather than a wait list. Each dog, based on his or her individual strengths and personality is carefully matched with the specific needs and personality of an applicant from this pool. 
  2. Spring and Fall applicant screening. TLCAD strives to increase the number of dogs available for placement to better meet the high demand for service dogs for those in need. At this time, groups of service dogs in training will become available for placement in the Spring and Fall. Once dogs become available for placement, each  qualified  applicant will be contacted with the option to a pursue a service dog at that time 
  3. Phone screen. Once TLCAD has received correspondence from all applicants interested in pursuing a dog, phone screens will be conducted to help narrow down the applicants to the most suitable matches. 
  4. In-home interview.  In-home interviews are done prior to selecting the most suitable match. 

**As our demand for service dogs far outweighs our supply, we encourage applicants to pursue applying for service dogs from multiple organizations to increase their  likelihood  of obtaining a service dog.  For more information, please visit our resources page  HERE

How long is your wait list?/ How do you match applicants to dogs?

We do not have a wait list but rather an applicant pool since the matching of the dog’s skills to the applicant’s needs, along with the matching of their personalities, is very important  for the long-term success of the placement. At this time, we only place service dogs with clients in San Diego County or within a 60-mile radius of Ione, CA, due to the intense need for follow up and custom training. Facility Dog placements outside of these areas will be considered on a case by case basis.  

As the demand for service dogs far outweighs the supply and we cannot guarantee that every applicant will receive a dog, we encourage applicants to apply to other reputable organizations in their pursuit of a service dog to increase your likelihood of obtaining a dog.  For more information, please visit our resources page  HERE

How are dogs placed with recipients? / What is Team Training?

All service and facility dog recipients are required to attend TLCAD’s  Team Training.  TLCAD’s 3–phase Team Training  model  prepares  clients  to effectively utilize a service dog to mitigate the symptoms of their disability and increase independence in all environments.  Team Training sessions take place twice per year in the Spring and Fall,  when dogs in  training become ready for placement.  It is important to note that phase 1 of Team Training Requires that the client/handler  travels to and  resides in a hotel (at their own expense) locate near  one  of TLCAD’s two sites,  in either San Diego or the Greater Sacramento Area, for  5 days of intensive training.  Click here for more information about: 

Service Dog Team Training                                   Facility Dog Team Training  

 As the demand for service dogs far outweighs the supply and we cannot guarantee that every applicant will receive a dog, we encourage applicants to apply to other reputable organizations in their pursuit of a service dog to increase your likelihood of obtaining a dog.  For more information, please visit our resources page  HERE. 


What does it cost to receive a TLCAD service dog?

If you are selected to become a service or facility dog recipient, there is an initial application processing fee of $500.  Service and facility dog recipients are responsible for the cost of:

  • Supplies and equipment required for their dog. 
  • Travel, hotel lodging and meals for Phase 1 of Team Training (5 days of intensive training) that takes place at either one  of TLCAD’s two sites,  in either San Diego or the Greater Sacramento Area. Click HERE for more information about Team Training. 
  • Travel and hotel lodging (if needed) to attend a graduation ceremony for their dog at the correctional facility from which it was trained.
    • Note:  In most cases, service and facility dog recipients will receive dogs trained in their local correctional institutions, but in some cases, recipients will be required to travel to attend their graduation ceremony at a correctional facility in another city.  

 We do not charge for our dogs, although it costs our organization anywhere from $10,000-$28,000 per dog (depending on the length of time the dog spent in training).   We do encourage clients to make donations, sign media waivers, apply for funding from sponsors, and occasionally speak at events. 


How long does each TLCAD service dog work?

The average working life of a service dog is ten years, however there are many variables that can affect this number such as the age of the dog at placement and the types of task behaviors the dog does on a daily basis.

Can you train my pet dog to be a service dog?

TLCAD does not train pet dogs to become service dogs.  However, we do occasionally offer workshops on how to train your own service dog.  When these workshops are offered, they will be posted on the website’s home page, check back regularly.