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A golden retriever puppy laying down next to two buckets filled with red apples. The puppy is in an apple orchard with apple trees in the background.


How Our Program Works

Brigadoon sources Labrador and Golden Retriever puppies through our partnership with other ADI-accredited members in an international breeding cooperative. These puppies are purpose-bred for temperament and health, and are promising candidates for service dog work. Volunteers raise and socialize our puppies and receive ongoing support and training as we work together as a community to nurture and develop our future service dogs.

When the puppies reach adolescence, they rotate into one of our four cooperative prison programs with the WA State Department of Corrections. The dogs live 24/7 with their incarcerated trainers who provide daily training, enrichment, and care. We visit these facilities and hold classes for our incarcerated trainers to increase their skills and techniques. These programs improve the mental health of our incarcerated trainers by offering them much-needed purpose, vocational skills, and the companionship of the dogs. They also help us place more service dogs at a lower overall cost.

Brigadoon’s dogs cycle between the prison programs and periodic breaks in volunteer homes, until they are ready to come to our Bellingham, WA, campus for advanced training. Here, our trainers prepare each dog to be ready for placement with a client, focusing on tasks that mitigate that client’s disabilities. Clients receive coaching at the time of placement, and we continue to deliver ongoing support after graduation. This empowers clients with the skills and knowledge to thrive and evolve as a successful partnership throughout the dog’s service life.

What are Assistance Animals?

There are four main types of animal assisted interventions utilized for medical and/or therapeutic benefits in the United States: service animals, therapy animals, emotional support animals, and facility animals. There are different laws and/or general rules that apply to each type of assistance animal. Use this guide to help explain the difference between each type of assistance animal.

  • Service dogs or Assistance Dogs are specially trained to aid an individual with a disability; are required to go through training to handle a variety of environments and situations; are legally allowed to accompany their handler in public places including the cabin of an airplane; are allowed to live in housing even if there is a no pet policy.

  • Therapy Dogs are pet dogs that partner with a handler and receive training to visit other environments, such as libraries, hospitals, or schools, to provide comfort and affection to others.

  • Emotional Support Animals are companion pets who provide emotional or therapeutic support to an individual with a mental health condition or emotional disorder simply by being present.  They are allowed to live in housing even if there is a no pet policy.

  • ADI Certified Facility Dogs are specially trained to work alongside a professional in an organization or facility that serves others, such as schools, health care facilities, courthouses, or public service agencies. The dogs are trained to do specific, skilled tasks that provide therapeutic benefits to the population served, rather than merely being of comfort as a presence in the facility. Brigadoon Facility Dogs and their handlers are trained to the same standards as all other Brigadoon Assistance Dogs.

a yellow lab wearing a yellow service dog vest looks upwards while standing in a grassy courtyard
A young golden retriever wearing a yellow service dog vest greets a group of three children. The children are petting the dog.

Interacting With a Service Dog Team

Service dogs are focused on their jobs helping people with disabilities live more independently. Distracting a service dog from their job risks the safety of the handler and can cause unwanted or dangerous behaviors from the dog. Even friendly attention may prevent the dog from doing their job and undermine the dog’s training. 


The law prohibits interfering with the use of a service dog. (RCW 9.91.170)

When you encounter a service dog team in public, keep in mind service dog etiquette:


  • DO speak to the person, not the dog.

  • DO take care to provide both the handler and dog with adequate room to pass in aisles or crowded spaces.

  • DO let the handler and dog go about their business without being interrupted by questions about the dog or requests to pet them.

  • DO teach young children to be calm around service dogs.

Do Not's

  • DO NOT touch the dog without asking permission.

  • DO NOT offer food to the dog.

  • DO NOT speak to the dog or make sounds to get their attention.

  • DO NOT ask about or make assumptions about the nature of the person’s disability.

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