MSAR Service Dogs- Process of receiving a service dog

Consult with your medical team and evaluate the needs and see if a service dog will fit into your long term treatment plan. If this is a go, you need a letter from your doctor (treating your PTSD or other disabilities). At the request of the medical teams, we have developed a standard form that we provide due to the fact that some doctors may not know what to write.

2. Call and discuss a service dog and your needs with an MSAR trainer – generally, it is George Leonard. This is a simple conversation to answer questions and provide some basic program details.

Interview / Assessment for the need of dog is then done (in person or phone). For example, A person with PTSD would have this conversation to determine the category of PTSD the person falls into, the tasks needed for the service dog, the breed of the service dog required, how much the person can participate (or even able to) in the training.

The MSAR trainers discuss the appropriate breed related to tasks, category, and allergies.

The next step is that paperwork is then sent out for reading, consulting (medical and legal) and after any questions are addressed signed and the commitment is made.

6. The training team develops the training plan and the transition plan – the process to match the handler and service dog, this process varies in times.

The handler then either comes to our training center we send a trainer / dog to train with them. We then develop a training support plan to get the team ready for final certification and testing (generally takes six months of the team working together prior to final testing and certification.

MSAR Service Dogs

Please note that we have three levels of certification

Level 1: In training and the dog is only allowed with a trainer in public.

Level 2: Public Access Test by the team must be completed and passed to work in public space, this test takes 4 days over a one month period. If they complete these public access training for 4 consecutive weeks (with the guidance of a trainer) they are certified with the In-Training Status. The team is now able (after one month) to work and fine-tune their public access training and task training for a minimum of six months. This minimum size month period gives the handler and dog to bond and becomes a team, working towards full certification.

Level 3: Complete the final test for full certification and must pass with no less than 90%. The dog must be at least 2 years of age (neutered/spayed) and the team must have worked at Level 2 for a minimum of 6 months. The Level 3 test takes days of testing.

Recertification: All teams must complete recertification minimum every 3 years. As people’s disabilities may have changed the need and tasks of the dog in may require upgrading or fine-tuning.

For more information please Contact Us

Our Vests


This is probably the most asked question, ”Where did you get your harness, and how can I get one?”

The MSAR harness is exclusive to our dogs and not available to the general public. Early on in the program government and military agencies from multiple countries asked us to find an exclusive and adaptable dog harness that cannot be acquired by the public. MSAR has a long history of working with K9 Storm through our working dogs and it was only natural to ask the best working dog equipment provider to develop a unique harness for our Service Dogs. After a year of development, the harness that we now have was developed, it can be adapted for different attachments and disabilities. The harness is made of superior materials just as there working line……How good are K9 Storm harnesses?….. Good enough for the Navy Seals to use their harnesses and the dog that was utilized in the Osama Bin Ladin take down was wearing a K9 Storm Harness. We are proud of our partnership with K9 Storm and their dedication to continually improving their methods of production and accessories. So in conclusion, the only way to get one of our harnesses is to become part of our program.

Breed Selection


MSAR thrives on putting out the best Service Dogs we can offer, in order for that to happen we have a specific program organized and managed by Master Dog Trainer, George Leonard. Here you will find information on our dogs, how they are selected, and how they are trained to become the best Service Dogs they can be.

As a puppy, before a dog comes into our program it undergoes many tests to ensure it will be able to hold up to the challenge of being someone’s Service Dog. There are a few different breeds we like to use at MSAR for their genetics, disposition, and conformation. The breeds we usually select are, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, and Doodles (Golden Retriever x Poodle, or Labrador Retriever x Poodle).

Please read more below about the breeds we typically choose for Service work.

Golden Retriever (click to read more)
The Golden Retriever is a large-sized breed of dog bred as gun dogs to retrieve shot waterfowl such as ducks and upland game birds during hunting and shooting parties, and were named ‘retriever’ because of their ability to retrieve shot game undamaged. Golden Retrievers have an instinctive love of water, and are easy to train to basic or advanced obedience standards. They are a long-coated breed, with a dense inner coat that provides them with adequate warmth in the outdoors, and an outer coat that lies flat against their bodies and repels water. [wikipedia] These dogs are ideal for Service for a number of reasons, their laid back disposition makes them easy to match and train with anybody is a very prominent one. We use many Goldens in our service dog programs for Autism, Mobility Assistance, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Down Syndrome, Bipolar, Anxiety Disorder, and Hearing Assistance.

Trainable – yes very trainable
Family – great family dogs
Shedding – regular brushing required
Bonding – very attentive
Health – make sure to get them from a good breeder
Other animals – great with other dog and cats
Protective – this is not a guard
Exercise – needs regular exercise and play
Size – large breed

These dogs are truly amazing for Service Dog work, they are not big on barking, bond with their handlers deeply and are always a happy dog and love working. We highly recommend Golden Retrievers for work as Service Dogs.

Please watch the video from our friends at Animal Planet: Golden Retrievers

Australian Shepherd (click to read more)
The history and origin of the Australian Shepherd breed is not as clear cut as we might like it to be. The breed we now think of as the Australian Shepherd wasn’t recognized until 1957 with the formation of the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA). At this time the National Stock Dog Registry (NSDR) served as the official breed registry until the ASCA took over in the 1970s. [cite] Regarding the origin of the Australian Shepherd dog, many trace these dogs from the Scottish Border Collie that was sent to Australia to herd sheep, and there crossed with a Merle Collie belonging to a rancher. As the pups lacked the stamina required for herding sheep over the vast plains of Australia, the were bred to a Dingo, the wild dog of that Country. [cite]

The Aussie aka the “Ghost Dog” sacred to Aboriginals because of their two colour eyes and a favourite of our founder George Leonard. Our lead dog and public relations dog is an Aussie (Bennie) and people are amazed at his temperament, bond with his handler and his level of training. Of course George is biased when it comes to talking about Aussies but he states..”He literally knows me better than I know myself, and I owe my life to this amazing friend and partner.”
These are one of our go to breeds and we use tons of Aussies in our service dog programs for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Seizure Detection. These dogs are known as velcro dogs and bond deeply with their partners, so they are very in tune if their partner is out of balance. And for seizures – well you can’t beat their stalking ability since they were originally bred as herding dogs.

Trainable – yes very trainable and extremely intelligent and must be kept busy.
Family – great family dogs, make sure to stay on top of their nature to herd.
Shedding – regular brushing required
Bonding – velcro dogs
Health – make sure to get them from a good breeder
Other animals – great with other dogs and cats
Protective – this is not a guard dog
Exercise – needs regular exercise and play
Size – mini size and regular

Aussies (except Spirit) from Lonesum D Australian Shepherds – big thanks to Pearl and Naomi for – Bennie, Bernie, Miki, Strat, Cully, Mia
Please watch the video from our friends at Animal Planet: Australian Shepherds

Labrador Retriever (click to read more)
The Labrador Retriever is a retriever in the class of Sporting dogs. They are considered a ‘flushing’ dog that will retrieve the game for the hunter once down. They are generally used to hunt both upland game birds and waterfowl. More recently some have worked on perfecting a pointing characteristic with Labradors. No matter what it’s AKC classification, Labradors have come to be one of the favorite family house pets in America today due to its wonderful personality, gentle disposition and loyalty.

The King of Service Dogs – the Lab. And yup this versatile dog is Canadian and named after the sea that the breed initially worked in. They are very easy to train and extremely smart. The have a soft mouth for picking up objects gently and retrieving them. They come in three colours black, yellow and chocolate. Great family dogs, extremely loyal and the most utilized service dog breed. They excel in any Service dog category and we use them for Autism, Guide, PTSD, Assistance, Detection, Response and on and on…plain and simple the most versatile and best breed to be a service dog.

1. Trainable – very intelligent and easy to train
2. Family – great family dogs, make sure to watch them as puppies they are very mouthy with their little teeth
3. Grooming – easy to care for
4. Exercise – very active dog and are great for service dog work
5. Size – large
6. Other animals – great with other dogs, cats etc.
7. Health – long life and few issues

Please watch the video from our friends at Animal Planet: Labrador Retrievers

Access & Rights


A Service Dog is a canine specifically trained to minimize functional limitations of a person with a disability.

– Service dogs may also be referred to as assistance dogs.
– Includes but not limited to guide, mobility, medical alert,
medical response, hearing, psychiatric, autism and PTSD.
– Does not include therapy, emotional support / companion, facility.

Access & Rights –

Service dogs have access to any public space that the public is allowed to go – example a service dog is allowed in the restaurant with its handler but not in the kitchen where food is prepared. Dogs are allowed in any public transit, building – basically anywhere that the handler can go the dog can go, and many are allowed with the handler in the ambulance or hospital. Access in any condo no matter what the pet policy is, and employers must also allow the dog at work – with a few exceptions where the dog may be in danger or at risk of harm due to a harsh or dangerous work environment. An example would be a service dog is allowed with a veteran on base and at work but with a developed SOP (standard operating procedure) the dog would not be allowed in a metal fabrication shop or heavy vehicle repairs due to the dangers.
Visible vs Invisible. One issue that people that are looking for a service dog must understand that with having an invisible disability such as PTSD – people will ask what the dog is for, not sure if it is for the handler or someone else and many of the questions can be intrusive and handlers must be taught how to handle this type of interaction with the public.
Public Magnet. People have a natural draw to dogs and being in public with a dog has its challenges as people feel compelled to talk to you about their dog or your dog or even pat and engage with the service dog. This is also something that people have to be trained to handle and deal with being in public.

Types of support dogs

Emotional Support Animal – An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal that does not have any specialized training, but provides comfort and support to a person with or without a disability. This type of dog does not have public access rights.

Therapy Dog – Therapy dogs are personal pets who offer support and companionship to individuals or groups of individuals in long-term care facilities, hospitals, or even in schools. Many Therapy groups or facilities have their own therapy programs and acceptance is based on dog’s temperament and the owner’s ability to properly and safely handle their dog in a variety of situations. These dogs may or may not have training. This type of dog does not have pubic access rights, they are permitted at the assigned location.

Facility Dog – A specially trained dog that is working with a volunteer or professional. The work of a facility dog can include visitations or professional therapy in one or more locations. Public access is permitted only when the dog and handler, who is a trained volunteer or professional, is directly working with a client with a disability.

Fake Service Dogs

There are internet websites that offer registration to people for their “service dog”. Unfortunately people that are owner training or have a dog that may not qualify as a service dog (emotional support) purchase this gear and commence public access with their dog. Many without any formal training and assessment for the ability of the dog for public access or delivering on the tasks needed to be a service dog. The problem that arises is if something happens in public or to the public from one of these dogs; a legal case may be launched and then the problem will arise of the dog’s training and if it is a real service dog. MSAR can attest to this scrutiny as we have brought forward many legal challenges and cases – such as against the Brandon Police for not upholding the rights of a veteran and his service dog. The legal case started with lengthy assessment and questioning of the capabilities of the dog and the service dogs training. MSAR had to provide our training standards and trainer qualification that make it a service dog. Most people and many agencies would not pass this type of audit and review. And for those that do not they could be charged with having a fake service dog and receive a fine.