What We Do

Puppy Training Program

Japan’s First Hospital Facility Dog Training Program

Our HFD candidates Ty (left), a male Golden Retriever born 2/23/2019, and Masa, a male Labrador Retriever born 3/7/2019

In 2019, Shine On! Kids launched a puppy training program for Hospital Facility Dogs created in compliance with international Assistance Dog training and program standards.

No other organization in Japan has raised and trained young puppies specifically to be Hospital Facility Dogs (HFD).



Annie (right), our HFD at work in Kanagawa Children’s Medical Center.
Mayuko Ohashi, the handler at Tokyo Metropolitan Children’s Medical Center,
thoroughly sanitizes the child’s hands before and after the interactive session with HFD Ivy.

As no organization in Japan had experience raising and training HFDs complying with international standards, back in 2009 we partnered with Assistance Dogs of Hawaii (ADH) and acquired trained HFDs, mentorship, and oversight for the handler training program. However, with increased demand for our amazing dog teams, Shine On! Kids decided to take matters into our own hands to ensure a safe, reliable supply of amazing dogs for our Hospital Facility Dog program.

Baliey (right), Japan’s first HFD, with the director of ADH and puppy raisers
who visited Japan for Bailey’s retirement ceremony in 2018.

About the Hospital Facility Dog Training Project

Shine On! Kids operates its HFD training program in accordance with the international standards and ethics set by Assistance Dogs International (ADI), a global organizing body of Assistance Dog organizations. The future HFDs are trained by an Assistance Dog professional and mentored by a senior Assistance Dog instructor and trainer. Both are highly skilled and experienced in training HFDs with organizations accredited by ADI.

Marina Rodriguez

Shine On! Kids’ Dr. Natsuko Murata, who has a PhD in animal behavior, and Marina Rodriguez, an Assistance Dog trainer, welcome puppies at Haneda Airport in Japan.

Assistance Dog trainer, occupational therapist. Ms. Rodriguez has trained Assistance Dogs at internationally accredited organizations—ADH in the US and Bocalan in Argentina. Out of 52 dogs she has trained so far, 10 are working as HFDs in the United States and Japan.

Catherine Dorr

Assistance Dog instructor and trainer, doctor of occupational therapy, MS in global medicine, occupational therapist licensed/registered. Dr. Dorr is a senior occupational therapist at a top rehabilitation hospital in the United States, with more than 13 years of experience as a certified Assistance Dog instructor and trainer. She has trained and placed numerous service dogs and HFDs, and launched and overseen HFD programs at both civilian and military hospitals across the United States.

Shine On! Kids’ two HFD candidates came from Career Dogs Australia. The puppies’ temperament and health are evaluated from an early age, and the younger ones are carefully selected for indications of talent and competency to become HFDs. Shine On! Kids partners with CDA because it is a globally recognized organization specializing in breeding dogs for Assistance and Service Dog work with superior skill in assessing each puppy’s potential.

Annie (center) initially trained with Dr. Catherine Dorr (right), Assistance Dog training supervisor, when she arrived at Kanagawa Children’s Medical Center.

The positive reinforcement training process takes 18 months to two years and is divided into four stages, during which the dogs learn up to 100 commands. Simultaneously, the puppies undergo socialization following a curriculum including field trips to locations such as shopping malls, hospitals, and schools, and exposure to a variety of people and physical stimuli. At the end of each stage, the dogs are evaluated on three criteria: temperament, skills and obedience, and reaction to stimuli. Finally, the Assistance Dog trainer and supervisor determine their suitability for working as HFDs by evaluating their progress throughout the training and via a field observation.

What Can YOU DO?

This is a huge and exciting new adventure for Shine On! Kids and we need your help to continue to nurture this important initiative.

In addition to basic items for our growing puppies which you can donate via our Amazon Wish List, we also need the support of puppy sitters, puppy raisers and other volunteers!

For more details: info@sokids.org

Finally, as we add training staff and expand our facilities, donations supporting this endeavor are critical. We have so many amazing ways to thank our supporters of this program, including visits by our puppies, office visits, and educational visits to schools and preschools – Contact us for more information!

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