Canine Programming


Canine Programming

Canine Programming is a  three phase training program designed for Veterans that are invested into the theory of the human-animal bond as well as the healing power of animal training. Since the earliest days of human existence dogs have provided a level of companionship unique to anything else. The Canine Program aims to help Veterans establish a foundation of communication with their currently owned dog or a matched dog from a partnering shelter. Once this communication is established, Veterans will begin to connect with their dogs on a mutually beneficial level, developing the ability to train new behaviors and synchronize in a unique partnership. While in this program, Veterans will learn the value of force-free training techniques that will enhance and build upon the unconditional bond that their canine companion has to offer.

“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” – Orhan Pamuk (author, My Name Is Red)

Veterans interested in applying for this program must meet the following criteria:

  1. Must be a Veteran, or Active Duty Service Member that is pending retirement or separation from the military.
  2. Must have a service connected disability rating from the Veterans Administration for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with Military Sexual Trauma.
  3. Be able to provide a medical referral from current or previous clinician that shows proof of treatment for a period of no less than six months.
  4. Must be able to identify at least three people that are part of a support system. Peer Support is available for those that express interest or identify need.
  5. Must have a clear understanding that the program is not designed to train Service or Emotional Support Animals only.
  6. Must have an increased desire for independence.
  7. Be open to learning new coping mechanisms to deal with anger/frustration.
  8. Show the willingness to provide support for the dog's physical and mental wellbeing.
  9. Be willing and able to implement modern and force-free training concepts from Clear Path’s Trainers.


Dogs will be selected for Canine Programming is based on the following criteria:

  1. Must be up to date on all vaccinations including rabies and distemper
  2. Must be spayed or neutered
  3. Must regularly receive flea and tick preventatives
  4. Must be cleared by veterinarian to participate in training
  5. Must have no history of aggressive behavior
  6. Must be cleared for training by program manager and trainer(s) for enrollment

*For those entering the application process, it is not recommended that a dog is selected without first consulting with the Canine Program staff. Dogs entered into the program are carefully screened for temperament, health, and behavior. The process of matching a dog with a prospective Veteran is taken very seriously and there are several considerations that must take place to ensure the best possible chance at a successful team.*


(Find a larger version of the flow chart above by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on the graphic.)


Veteran/Dog Teams that successfully complete Phase I of the Canine Program may be considered for Phase II training - Team Building. This would require further training (up to three months) highlighting public access, introduction to tasks and CGCA preparation. This opportunity is based on trainer’s observations and overall team progression during the course of training.  This will be openly discussed when this opportunity presents itself. Understand that this is not the goal of Phase I, but is made available for consideration under the appropriate circumstances.  Phase III of Canine Programming is Synchroniation.  This phase is an additional three months of training highlighting behavioral modification, generalizing tasks and a public access test.

Those selected for Service Dog Training must meet the following prerequisites:

  1. Must meet all aforementioned requirements for Phase I, and dog must be at least six-months of age but no older than 2-years-old.
  2. Following Phase I training, selected Dogs must meet breed requirements and not have any significant behavioral issues.
  3. Must be able to commit to a minimum of 6-months and up to 1 year of weekly training sessions.
  4. Must understand that the outcome of this program does not guarantee a service dog.
  5. Must maintain communication regularly and complete homework as assigned.
  6.  Must meet with our Behavioral Health Consultant (if accepted into Pahse II)

This program requires a high level of commitment on both the Veteran and the Trainers at Clear Path and it is important that training is occurring during a consistent frequency outside of training sessions.


Not all breeds are recommended for service dog training. Bully breeds or mixes can be a social barrier in providing a neutral bridge between the Veteran and the community. Bully breeds include but may not be limited to: American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, American Bulldog and Bull Mastiff. Clear Path does not take a stance against bully breeds; however, these breeds are not recommended for our owner/trainer service dog program. Bully breeds are accepted in all other training programs. Please note: Giant breeds are not accepted into the program if they are more than 3 years of age. If you are starting with a puppy, we highly recommend attending our puppy classes first. These are offered on Saturday mornings (please see our calendar). Puppies may take longer to bring through the program as maturity plays a role in a dog’s ability to do service and emotional support work.

After reviewing our Canine Program webpages, if you have questions about the program, please contact us at