The Wisconsin Academy for Graduate Service Dogs (WAGS) began in 1987. WAGS mission is to promote functional independence and improved quality of life for people with physical disabilities through partnerships with highly-skilled service dogs.

WAGS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that depends on donations from foundations, local businesses and groups, and individuals. WAGS is also a donor designation agency with the United Way of Dane County.

WAGS has facilitated the partnership of more than 125 service dogs for people with physical disabilities such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Neuromuscular disease
  • Injuries associated with combat veterans (non-ptsd)

For our clients, a WAGS dog provides practical physical assistance by doing such tasks as retrieving dropped and out of reach items, opening and closing doors, operating light switches and buttons, tugging on/off clothing and providing unconditional love and companionship.

WAGS puppies are carefully chosen from selected breeders based on health, temperament and work drive. WAGS finds Golden and Labrador Retrievers uniquely qualified for service dog work due to their size, strength and temperament. WAGS dogs are raised, socialized and trained by volunteer trainers under the supervision of WAGS Training Director. It takes approximately two years and $12,000 to train one WAGS service dog.

WAGS considers many factors before accepting applicants as clients. At a minimum potential clients must:

  • Live within an 80 radius of Madison, WI
  • Care for the dog physically, emotionally and financially
  • Work, practice skills, and play with dog
  • Fully utilize dog’s training


WAGS has crafted and maintained a high level of program standards and ethics for more than 30 years.

Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions section for more details and general industry information.


Aaron Backer, Executive Director Aaron Backer joined WAGS as Executive Director in June 2008. For more than 10 years Aaron has worked in leadership positions at non-profit organizations that work directly with children, youth and families. Aaron has accumulated valuable experience in fundraising, program development and non-profit administration at each of these organizations, utilizing these… Continue reading Staff


We are deeply indebted to our volunteers for the enormous amount of work they have put into our organization, our guests, and our dogs. They have made a tremendous impact on over 100 lives in their community. Meet some of our incredible volunteers below. Interested in volunteering? Check out our Volunteer page for more information.