Dr. Bonnie Bergin – The Mother of Mobility Assistance Dogs!

Marcie Davis on Pet Life Radio

What an honor it is to welcome Dr. Bonnie Bergin to the show! Bonnie has had such an impact on my life and so many others as the original mother of the assistance dog industry! Bonnie shares her amazing journey with us from the moment she had the idea that dogs could assist people with mobility limitations, to establishing the first service dog organization, and to creating the educational institution, the Bergin University of Canine Studies that she leads today. Bonnie is a true pioneer and trail blazer who has done so much to develop and support people with disabilities, dogs and the service dog industry! This is a monumental show that you don’t want to miss!  



Bonita M. Bergin (also known as Bonnie Bergin) is an American canine researcher. She is the inventor of the concept of the service dog. She is the founder and president of the Bergin University of Canine Studies and the founder of Canine Companions for Independence.

Located in Rohnert Park, California, Bergin University is the "first and only program in the world that focuses on training dogs and learning about dogs." The school was originally founded as the Assistance Dog Institute. The university is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Students come to Bergin from all over the world, and graduates leave equipped with the skills and knowledge to start their own assistance dog organizations or dog-related businesses.

The school offers Associate, Bachelor and Master degree programs and follows a unique model where students enrolled in the university train assistance dogs with the goal of placing the dogs with people with emotional and physical disabilities. The school offers classes on all aspects of dogs, from genetics to behavior, nutrition and dogs in popular culture. As part of the curriculum, students also train dogs at local animal shelters, helping those shelters place those dogs in their forever homes. The Bergin University dogs, which are bred on site, start being trained at 3 to 4 weeks old and work with for up to two years to learn 106 different commands. After graduation, dogs may be placed to work with paraplegic or quadriplegic people or others with emotional or physical disabilities. These people join a waitlist and are provided a dog at the cost of $2,750. The cost to train a dog at Bergin University is upwards of $25,000. In 2013, the university awarded Cesar Millan an honorary degree in canine science.