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

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?

The first step in the application process is to complete the Pre-Application Summary Form.  When we have a dog available for immediate placement, we will notify you. At that time, you will have the option of applying to interview for that particular dog. We have a limited number of puppies in training and receive a large number of applications, but we are working to take on more dogs at this time. When a dog is ready for placement, we screen and interview applicants whose needs match the strengths and skills of the dog.  Once a match has been made, individualized placement typically takes 4-6 months. TLCAD trainers work with clients in all settings to teach them how to best utilize a service dog to mitigate their disability.

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

We do not have a waiting 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 do not place dogs outside San Diego County due to the intense need for follow up and custom training.

What does it cost to receive a TLCAD service dog?

If you are selected, the only fee is an initial processing fee of $500.  At this time, 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.