APAW Vision

Why was APAW created?

APAW began in 2007 as a one-person non-profit organization dedicated to training Standard Poodles (as well as occasional Minis/Toys and Poodle mixes of any size) as Service Dogs to aid partners with mobility impairment and Social/Therapy Dogs to visit and work with others through settings such as nursing homes, hospitals and schools. As an ultimate goal, APAW has always intended to branch out to providing Poodles for every type of working role, including Search and Rescue, various types of other scent detection, hunting, and assorted performance sports such as agility, obedience, disc, freestyle, and certain aspects of protection.

APAW founder and trainer Jillian (Gartner) Emerson quickly realized that there was a strong need for a carefully designed purpose-breeding program to focus on breeding dogs with suitable temperament, structure and health characteristics to graduate as working Service and Therapy Dogs. From our inception, APAW has been dedicated to acquiring and strategically breeding purebred Standard Poodles towards the many characteristics needed for these roles. After our initial period of accepting mixes and rescues into our training program and finding none able to meet minimum criteria for graduation, we shifted our focus entirely to purebred Poodles with known backgrounds. APAW separately has also cultivated high-intensity working temperaments suited towards the other roles in which we wish to provide Poodles.


Ups & Downs

APAW’s size has fluctuated over the years, even renting a dedicated facility for a few years and building a volunteer base equaling the work hours of multiple employees, though financially never reached the ability to hire. For a few years founder Jillian was able to receive a meager salary for her round-the-clock care and training of the dogs in addition to all other aspects of running the program, but ultimately needed to return to pure volunteer status.

Current Status

Eventually Jillian got married and APAW moved into a converted garage space at her home. Jillian now is raising her young children and APAW has been down-sized to the base level of maintaining the genetics of the carefully cultivated breeding program, and finishing out the training of Service Dogs for clients who were on the waiting list prior to the program’s redirection.


Welcome to Jillian’s APAW Blog!

A selection of APAW dogs in-training/working, 2012.


Left; Atlas and I after competing in rally and weight-pull.

My daughter reading to  pregnant Dawn.

Welcome to my blog!

Let me introduce myself; my name is Jillian (Gartner) Emerson, and I’m a service dog trainer, Standard Poodle breeder, and homeschooling mom of two young children. I raised my first assistance dog puppy when I was 11 years old, and have been involved in the industry ever since – volunteering, interning, and temporary employment through a large local organization, then moving across the country to pursue formal education in the field, followed by returning home and starting my own program with a focus of filling a huge gap in the industry… that is, the focus of purpose-breeding purebred Poodles for the characteristics required for assistance work, and training/placing many of the Poodles as service dogs for partners with disabilities.

The organization I founded is American Poodles At Work, Inc, also known as APAW. It’s always been a small program, but the size has fluctuated over the years and at it’s largest APAW was renting a 4,000sf facility and had 100+ hours of volunteer assistance per week, in addition to my own volunteer round-the-clock role. APAW has worked towards the requirements set forth by Assistance Dogs International, but has not remained large enough to apply for accreditation. Over the years APAW has graduated over 15 fully-trained service dog teams, and many therapy dog teams, partially-trained young adult dogs who’s owners have completed their personal task training, and many more dogs placed as assistance prospects, emotional support dogs, performance dogs, as well as a few show and breeding dogs.

I’ll be writing articles on many dog-related topics, with particular focus on the assistance dog industry, training (for assistance as well as in general), and running a breeding program with a purpose.

As with nearly everything in life, there are many correct answers and opinions. The information I share is the perspective I have come to develop based on many years of learning from others combined with my own experiences over those years. I do not suggest that my philosophy or methods are the only “good” ones, and I encourage my students and followers to learn from many sources rather than to take any single source as gospel. 

My hope is that these articles are interesting and educational, offering both insight and perspective into topics that are often not discussed beyond those individuals actually participating.

Feel free to request topics that are of interest to you – I guarantee there are other people who would like to hear about it too!

Best, Jillian