TLCAD began as a small non-profit, all volunteer organization in 1998 with a goal
to train Service Dogs for those seeking a fuller, more independent life. At the
time, the demand was for dogs who could assist with mobility, seizures, cerebral
palsy, Tourette's and hearing issues. Responding to the needs of our changing world,
TLCAD now endeavors to focus their high standards of Service Dog training in two
specific arenas. The first of these is the Leash-On-Life Program, developed to assist
children and families who have been impacted by autism. The second is the At Ease
Program, created to serve the needs of our country's Wounded Warriors.
Both programs are distinct and yet share similarities. Both are worlds of their
own. Both benefit from the gift of a dog whose instincts and abilities have been
schooled for service. TLCAD starts with the centuries old belief that a dog is mankind's
true companion...and the benefits begin almost immediately.
Why is TLCAD's Dog Training Program unique? Because we custom train our dogs for
each individual client's needs. We do not have a one-size-fits-all assistance dog
program. If a child with autism has problems with running out in the middle of the
street, we work with the dog to assist with this. If an Iraq veteran has issues
with people standing too close in line, we train the dogs to help specifically with
The dogs begin training at eight weeks of age, living with the trainer in their home; TLCAD does
not operate a kennel operation. The volunteer trainer works with a mentor and trains
the dog in the foundation cues and behaviors for 12-18 months using positive reinforcement
methods. The dog's strengths are then determined and it is decided what Service
Dog "job" would be best for that individual dog. Applicants needing this help from
a skilled dog are interviewed, and the personality of the dog and individual are
then matched. Once a match is made, the volunteer trainer works with the client
and dog to determine what customized cues that recipient needs. These cues are then
taught to both the client and the dog until the client-Service Dog team demonstrates
proficiency in public settings.
Once the client is determined to comfortably and safely handle the dog in public,
a Public Access Test is administered. After the dog-client team passes this test,
the dog may live in the client's home and the client may take the dog, vested, in
public, without trainer supervision. The trainer will continue to work two times
weekly with the dog and client for four to six months, teaching the customized cues
for that client and to ensure that the client is able to accomplish these cues effectively
in a high-distraction environment. Once accomplished, a Certification Test is given
and when passed, the client takes ownership of the dog. This customized training
is what differentiates TLCAD from most other service dog organizations.
After certification, TLCAD sees the client monthly for six months and then provides
subsequent annual evaluations for the working life of the dog.
TLCAD uses positive, reward based training to optimize the dog's potential. The
organization takes into consideration the breed, gender, age and personality of
each dog to determine its individual motivation and way of learning. TLCAD trains
by teaching, not forcing, in keeping with the motto "Slow is Fast". The result of
this philosophy is a well-trained dog doing a needed job for a person with limited
To satisfy an unfulfilled need for Assistance Dogs in San Diego County, California,
the original founders, Steven Ross Fritsche, Heather Jo Fritsche & V. Lee Wells,
established an organization that would not only help fill the demand for Assistance
Dogs, but would also do so with a personal touch that is not easily met by large
Assistance Dog organizations: customized training.
The original founders have since moved on to new things in life leaving behind a
solid foundation that has enabled TLCAD to keep their mission strong, and very much
The TLCAD of today provides specially trained Assistance Dogs for people with disabilities.
The organization emphasizes the well being of their dogs as well as the needs of
their clients. The training process for each dog that TLCAD places with a client
follows the same guideline: each trainer takes in one dog at a time and trains that
dog from start to finish (a time period of approximately 24 months), and beyond
placement, for the life of the dog.
TLCAD helps people the best way they know how – one at a time.
Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs, Inc. stands apart from other organizations
that share their mission of improving the lives of individuals through the use of
custom-trained Assistance Dogs because of the following attributes:
- The use of Puppy Raisers is not practiced. The trainer is matched with the dog from
when it is a puppy until it is ready for placement.
- The dogs are trained and placed in the homes of the trainers and clients, as opposed
to being kenneled.
- Each trainer only works with one dog at a time until they are placed with a client
to provide the best possible outcome with the most focus and attention.
- Each client is matched with the dog that best suits their needs and only after the
establishment of a concrete bond between the two. The trainers handpick different
dogs to meet with the potential client for multiple sessions in order to observe
the interaction of the two until the right match is found.
- Once a trainer has placed a dog with a client, the relationship between them does
not stop. The trainer is involved with the client and dog for the lifetime of the
dog after being placed. Trainers are continuously working with the team to maintain
and improve upon the partnership between the two for the best possible results.