Recognition for Transparency and Ethics


 Guidestar Exchange Platinum ParticipantCharities Review Council, Meets StandardsApproved charity


  The Pawsitivity Team

Staff, board, and volunteers of Pawsitivity 


Our Story

Tom and Julie Coleman of Pawsitivity Service DogsWe are Julie and Tom Coleman, a Minnesota couple with no children, and we founded Pawsitivity five years ago after a good friend, a single mother with a child with autism, told us the story how her boy was so greatly helped by his dog that it changed the course of his life. We then discovered that there were no autism service dog providers in the state, nor in any of the surrounding states. 

It's hard to admit how scared we were in founding Pawsitivity. The thought of tackling this problem was daunting, and the more we worked, the more challenges came up. Getting trained service dogs into the hands of the people who need them so badly takes not just dogs, not just trainers, but also a whole coordinated system of organization. How to fight the Goliath of regulations, fundraising, insurance, licensing, communication, the costs of training and a decade of support, as well as the emotional strength to manage the years of pain, tears, and heartache of working with both dogs and disabilities?

The element that really saved us (both in the early years and now) was the power of leveraging of community. It just wasn't possible to do this alone. With Pawsitivity's unique model of relying heavily on volunteers, we found help in many ways: Grand Avenue Veterinary Center vowed to manage the spaying and neutering, Garrison Keillor donated autographed items to be auctioned off, John D. Docken VP and Corporate Counsel of First Intl. Bank & Trust of ND, MN, and AZ advised on compliance, the Minnesota Wild awarded Pawsitivity "Charity of the Month", and together, we discovered that unwanted dogs can be rescued and rehabilitated, the dogs and families can be trained to work as effective dog-handler teams, and experts can be used in every step of the way. And Pawsitivity discovered that you, too, can be a part of the solution

Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed  apdt_1.jpeg     


Tom Coleman, the Executive Director of Pawsitivity Service Dogs, is a certified dog trainer and an American Kennel Club approved Canine Good Citizen evaluator. 

Julie Coleman, CPDT-KA, the Head Trainer (and Managing Director) at Pawsitivity, is a certified dog trainer and trained at CATCH Dog Training Academy at the Saint Hubert Animal Welfare Center in Madison, NJ in positive-reinforcement force-free training methods. Julie is a professional member of the APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers), and has taken dog-training seminars in person from Ian Dunbar, Sue Sternberg, and Connie Cleveland. Julie has also studied the Volhardt Four-Drive dog-assessment theory at Mahogany Ridge in Culpepper, Virginia. Julie has earned the certification CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Pet Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed). The Council for Certified Professional Dog Trainers is the only independent, standardized certification for dog training professionals, and this rigorous certification program was developed by dog and animal behavior professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada, representing organizations like the Delta Society (now Pet Partners), American Humane Association, Association of Behavior Analysis, Animal Behavior Society, Animal Behavior College, and Animal Behavior Systems. Until the creation of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers in 2001, there was no true certification process for dog trainers. Many schools teach dog trainers and offer certification for their specific programs. These certificates, therefore, reflect the teachings and quality of a specific school. Other organizations offer take-home tests for "certification." The trainers are not monitored to make sure they are completing the test without any assistance or collaboration, nor is the testing process standardized. The CPDT-KA examination is an unprecedented process which was originally implemented by the APDT, the largest association of dog trainers in the world, founded by noted veterinarian, behaviorist and author Dr. Ian Dunbar. A task force of approximately 20 nationally known dog training professionals and behaviorists worked for three years to research and develop the comprehensive written examination. Many dog and animal behavior professionals took part, representing organizations like the Delta Society (now Pet Partners), American Humane Association, Association of Behavior Analysis, Animal Behavior Society, Animal Behavior College, and Animal Behavior Systems. The APDT also hired Professional Testing Corporation to ensure the process met professional testing standards. It then created a separate, independent council - the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers - to manage the accreditation and pursue future development. Candidates who pass the exam earn the title Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed and may use the designation "CPDT-KA" after their names. All certified trainers must earn continuing education credits to maintain their designations or take the examination again in three years. The CPDT-KA title is one that less than 2,000 trainers have worldwide--to even apply to take the test requires a minimum of 300 hours of experience in dog training within the last three years.

Board and professional volunteers: Dr. Kris Butler, Dave MackMiller, Dr. Michelle Parkinson, and Dr. Todd Savage serve as the board of directors, Dr. Jen Seidl DVM of the Grand Avenue Veterinary Center volunteers her medical services, and Dr. and Professor of Psychology Kim Halvorson volunteers her professional expertise and guidance. In the last year, Dr. Beth Rausch, DVM, of the University of Wisconsin River Falls has partnered with Pawsitivity, as well as served as medical advisor.

Compared to standard heavily-funded charities, Pawsitivity is a small underdog, yet we adhere to the highest standards of training, ethics, and transparency. Pawsitivity is a Partner Member of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) and a proud member of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Each Pawsitivity dog is individually trained with tasks to match the handler's individual disability, needs, and circumstances. Pawsitivity's EIN is 47-1446634 and all donations are tax-deductible. Pawsitivity's financials are public information, all in accordance with GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles).   

The 100% Model

We believe that your donations are incredibly important and should only be used in the very best way. Thus, 100% of your donations go directly to rescuing dogs to rescue people. Pawsitivity has an "angel donor" who covers our operating expenses, therefore, every penny you donate goes to rescuing and training these amazing dogs--who then help children and adults with disabilities lead successful and fulfilling lives.     

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