Skilled, Therapy and Assistance Dogs

Skilled Dog


A skilled dog provides assistance in a home with a person who has special needs.  Skilled dogs are more than just pets, and provide assistance beyond comfort and companionship.  In addition to their proficiency with basic manners including house training and basic obedience, skilled dogs are trained specific tasks to assist a person with special needs including: disrupting compulsive behavior, engaging and re-focusing on tasks, syncing arousal states and calming anxious energy. 

The age of the dog at time of placement varies based upon the needs and abilities of the recipient and family. 

Unlike Assistance Dogs, skilled dogs are not granted public access rights within the Americans with Disabilities Act, Air Carriers Access Act or the Fair Housing Act.  

Therapy Dog


Therapy dogs provide affection and comfort to various members of the public, typically in facility settings such as hospitals and retirement homes.  These dogs have a special aptitude for interacting with members of the public and enjoy doing so. A therapy dog has no special rights of access, except in those facilities where they are welcomed. 

Service Dog


Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Giving Retreiver Placement


"The MATCH" Process Overview

1. Initial Phone Consultation

2. Family Meeting and Needs Assessment

3. Recipient Training (Individualized Curriculum and Canine-Integrated Therapy Sessions)

4. Social Style Profile

5. Placement Planning Meeting

6. "The Match" (Puppy/Dog Selection Process)

7. Partnership Training (Bond-Based Training between Dog and Recipient) 

8. Puppy Placement (Co-Custody)

9. Post-Placement Continuing Education


10. Lifetime Support

Explore the possibility of adding a Giving Retriever to your Family

Family Placements and Testimonials


Anna & Rose

Rose is a special dog with great intelligence, determination and love for learning.   She is a sensitive dog with the keen ability to problem solve while using her sense of smell to navigate the world. Throughout her training, we were always in need of new and creative ways to challenge her skills.


In early 2016 Rose was placed with Anna.  She helps by providing an extra set of eyes and ears for Anna’s family who is always bracing for Anna’s oncoming seizures.  Although Rose does not detect the seizures before they occur, she is there for Anna as she recovers.  


Henry & Beibhinn

Beibhinn was selected and “matched” with Henry to help mitigate his anxiety, reduce his social isolation and disrupt his rigid, compulsive behaviors.  Beibhinn could not be a more perfect fit for this important role.  She is kind, gentle and wise beyond her age.  Patient and forgiving, she is dedicated to their partnership. 


Since her placement, Henry’s confidence has flourished and his desire to be social, connect and interact with others has strengthened.  With Beibhinn by his side, he has less anxiety and is more independent both inside and outside the home. 

"My son and our family have had a magical journey working with Heidi Bonorato of "Giving Retriever, LLC." to find the "just right dog" for my son who has an anxiety disorder, ADHD, and is dyslexic and dysgraphic. .

Heidi has a remarkable gift for working with dogs and children. We had previously researched getting a therapy dog, and didn't pursue it because they were too expensive. They were also not trained in a way that would be helpful to my son. He didn't need a dog who could pick up things or push elevator buttons, he needed a dog that would be his match: tolerate his outburst, be devoted to him and nuzzle in to interrupt his anxiety when needed.

Heidi has worked with us to pick and train a dog to meet his exact needs. It seems impossible, I would not have even dreamed of such a perfect match for my son. I am pinching myself, and I am definitely awake.

Henry is beyond thrilled that the dog that he picked out with Heidi at 8 weeks old, that he named, and has been training with Heidi for 4 months is now officially his dog! Beibhinn (Bayvyn) seems equally thrilled to have found her "forever person".

If you have a child or teen with special needs, contact Heidi. The Canine-Integrated programs were exceptionally helpful to us. Heidi is brilliant: and so kind, thoughtful and loving, and I am beyond grateful." 

Hope, Giving Retriever Therapy Dog

Hope & Dan, Marcia

Giving Retriever Hope was successfully matched and placed with Dan and Marcia, a retired couple whose lives were profoundly changed when Dan suffered a life-changing spinal cord injury.   

Hope provides unconditional support for their family.  She is a vigilant companion inside the home with Marcia and outside the home in Dan’s rehabilitation therapy.