What is in a Cape? EVERYTHING! 

Meet Can Do Canines, Our Next Change Unleashed! Partner

We all love superheroes — those amazing cape wearers who do good and help others — right? Now imagine a furry, four-legged superhero in the form of a dog, dedicated to supporting people who need assistance. Unlike TV and movie superheroes who are pretend, canine superheroes are real and they reside right here in our community at Can Do Canines.

Located in New Hope, Can Do Canines is one of the largest assistance dog organizations in the nation. Its mission states that it is “dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for adults and children with disabilities by creating mutually beneficial partnerships with specially trained dogs.” The Can Do Canines pups who grow and train to become assistance dogs wear special vests called “capes” — so naturally we think of them as superheroes!

Check out these stats:

  • Since 1989, Can Do Canines has provided more than 900 assistance dogs to people with disabilities in MN and WI.
  • The fully trained dogs are provided to clients who live with disabilities that involve mobility challenges, hearing loss or deafness, seizure disorders, type 1 diabetes complicated by hypoglycemia unawareness, or childhood autism.
  • Can Do Canines places Facility Dogs to work with people at locations such as hospitals and EMS stations.
  • More than 600 people currently serve as Can Do Canines volunteers. Many welcome one or more of our dogs into their home for days, weeks, or even a year or more at a time to help the dog(s) develop initial skills.
  • The organization also partners with eight area prisons, where select inmates help raise and train the dogs.

Through our Change Unleashed! initiative, Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out will be partnering with Can Do Canines for the next six months. Our goal is to help raise awareness and funds to support their amazing programs.

At about 2 ½-3 years of age, the dogs enter final training at the Can Do Canines campus. That is when staff trainers take over, discovering the dog’s specific career path and customizing it for its individual client’s needs. Since Can Do Canines is accredited by Assistance Dogs International, each dog must be certified with at least three skills for its person.







Diabetes Assist Dogs are trained to monitor for a specific scent from their human partner that is related to low blood sugar levels. If detected, the dog then “alerts” the person, usually by pawing or nudging them. The dog can also retrieve juice or glucose tabs, get another person to help, or retrieve a phone.

Hearing Assist Dogs can alert a person who is deaf or hard of hearing to sounds (alarms, oven timers, doorbells, phones, a baby crying, dropped items, etc.) by making physical contact with the person. The dog paws or nudges their human partner and then leads them to the source of the sound.

Seizure Assist Dogs help people during a seizure and afterward during recovery. Some of the tasks they perform include licking or nudging their partner’s face to bring them back to consciousness faster, retrieving an ice pack or compress, nudging their partner to their side or onto their back during the seizure, and touching a life-alert button.

Mobility Assist Dogs are often trained to open and close doors, pick up dropped objects, activate push plates, carry small objects, turn light switches on or off, and retrieve a phone. Some Mobility Assist Dogs can also act as Diabetes, Hearing, or Seizure Assist Dogs.

The most common skill for Autism Assist Dogs occurs in public when a child wears a specially designed belt that connects the dog to the child while an adult handles the dog’s leash. If the child attempts to bolt (a common behavior for autistic children), the dog becomes a gentle, steady anchor to keep the child safe. The dog can also help mitigate harmful stimming behaviors and provide deep pressure therapy.

Facility Dogs model medical procedures for a child and motivate hospital patients for physical activity. They might also de-escalate emotions to allow productive communication or provide deep-pressure therapy.

Many potential clients hesitate to apply for an assistance dog, thinking their disability is not severe enough. However, they soon realize that the dog can help preserve their energy even on “good” days, so the difficult days are more manageable and less frequent.

One recent client shared, “It took an extraordinary dog to give me an ordinary life.”

Although each dog costs about $45,000 to raise, Can Do Canines is able to provide them to every client free of charge, thanks to the generosity of donors.

Can Do Canines’ Development Director Sheila Ross says, “Can Do Canines is excited to be working with Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out! As a nonprofit that relies primarily on individual contributions and on a vast network of volunteers to achieve our mission, Can Do Canines greatly appreciates this opportunity to help spread the word about who we are and why we matter. We are grateful to share the same values as Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out — a sincere love of dogs and their impact on their human partners.

To learn more about how you can join us in helping Can Do Canines make life-changing partnerships between these specially trained dogs and their humans in need, visit https://dtdogs.com/resources/.

Abbe is our Retail & Community Outreach Liaison and the editor behind all Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out blogs. A life-long dog lover in her own right, Abbe is wife to Ralph (whom she calls “the Big Dog”). Together they parent resident bloggers Frannie, Helen, and Lyle.