A unique feature of ECAD is our vocational program which takes place at four residential treatment facilities specializing in helping at-risk youth with emotional, behavioral, and learning issues. All of ECAD’s dogs are educated by these at-risk youth.

On the surface, the ECADemy™ is a vocational education program designed to teach much-needed work skills and expose students to career choices to consider pursuing after high school. By assuming the roles of teachers and service providers, the students learn to set goals and solve problems using patience, communication skills, self-control, frustration tolerance, and motivational techniques. The students also perform a community service by helping people with disabilities to become more independent. Please see the ECADemy video for more details. 

The therapeutic benefits of working with dogs go far beyond the educational, though. Most of our students are struggling with anger and pain, have difficulty succeeding at traditional schoolwork, and often feel incapable of giving or receiving love. In ECAD programs, working with the dogs helps even the most difficult children establish a sense of self worth, master their tempers, and learn to trust again. Every day, we see the dogs provide students with immediate and non-judgmental feedback about their own behavior, and teach them new ways to modify that behavior. For many of our students, it is the first time they have experienced ongoing success. The pride they gain from their accomplishments (and their dogs) is invaluable. 

The benefits work both ways, though. Thanks to the inexhaustible energy, dedication, enthusiasm, and creativity of the teen trainers, ECAD is able to produce a high number of extremely well-trained, well-socialized, highly skilled Assistance Dogs. The students and clients also learn a lot from each other, and not just about training dogs! ECAD would like to recognize its ECADemy™ partners: 

ECADemy™ Therapeutic Findings

During the summer of 2011, one of the agencies that contract ECAD’s services conducted an independent survey of their at-risk youth involved in ECAD’s Service Dog Education Program. 

Below are the some of the results:                               

Because of my participation in the program…

Agree/Strongly Agree

I gained confidence in my ability to perform tasks successfully


I learned how to better cooperate with others


My ability to be patient with others has increased


I learned to work in a team atmosphere


I learned to take accountability for my actions


My grades have improved


I am less likely to get into fights with others


I think it is important to help others


Compiled by Chloe Goldstein, CV Volunteer and Adelphi University, Gordon F. Derner, Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Ph.D. Candidate.