Service Dogs

A Little About Our Service Dogs

We take great pride in getting the best dog breeds and service dogs for our first responders and veterans suffering with PTSD.  We use many resources and partners to help us make this happen. Our main goal is to help first responders and veterans find a better quality of life after their lives of service.  We have found that service dogs bring great comfort to those hurting and help with mental health. Service dogs are also security for those who are feeling weak. We are able to provide service dogs for many different areas of need. 


Application Process 

Our application process is open twice a year, January and June. The number of pups we place each year depends on both funding and need for that year.


If you are thinking a service dog may be the right fit for you please watch the announcements banner for open application dates and see our application page to apply during those open dates. 


Partners and Resources

http://www.norseretrievers.com/

https://germanshepherdman.com/


Help Our Cause

There are multiple ways to make contributions to our service dog program:

  1. Monetary donations are always welcomed, see front page for donation link or see us in person at an event
  2. Dog and/or training supplies:   dog food vouchers, treats, beds, toys, kennels, food/water dishes, balls, collars/leashes, chew bones, etc
  3. Donation of a puppy

           A dog trainer will make a visit to assess your proposed puppy for our service/therapy dog program. 

              Criteria detailed below:

               -  Puppies are preferred to be 5 -8 weeks old for a visit but MUST be under 9 months to be considered

               -  All breeds/genders are considered as different breeds and sizes provide various therapeutic benefits 

               -  Email Matt if your puppy meets this criteria and you would like to schedule a visit

                     mdoughty@firefighterswithptsd.org


We would like to thank each and every donor who are helping make dreams come true for first responders and veterans in need.


Ziva, our first service dog in training

Ziva, our first service dog in training

Moments with our dogs

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Liberty, our youngest dog, training 

during a trip to Home Depot

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After getting heat installed in our training area.

This was a great day!

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Training with temptations nearby

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PetSmart awarded us with a $500 in-store donation. 

We thank you for this generous donation!

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Fire dog!

Basics About service and therapy dogs

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What is a Service Dog?

A Service Dog helps a person with a disability lead a more independent life. According to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), a “service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.”


Key words in this definition include “dog” “work or task,” and “disability.”    


“Dog” is important, since dogs are the only species recognized as service animals. Although miniature horses are also permitted to assist a person with a disability, they are regulated under new and separate provisions. Service dogs are defined by the ADA as being primarily working dogs and are not considered pets.  


“Work or task” means the dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. The task performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.


“Disability” is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual.

Type of Service Dogs

There are three types of service or assistance dogs:

  • Guide dog - assist blind and visually impaired individuals navigate the environment
  • Hearing dog - assist by alerting deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to important sounds
  • Service dog - assist individuals with a disability other than those related to vision or hearing. This includes dogs trained to work with people who use wheelchairs, have balance issues, have autism, need seizure alert or response, need to be alerted to other medical issues like low blood sugar, or have psychiatric disabilities.


The most common breeds for guide dogs and mobility assistance dogs are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.  Service dogs range from very small to very large in size. The dog must be able to comfortably execute the tasks needed to help mitigate a disability. For example, a Papillon is not an appropriate choice to pull a wheelchair, but could make an excellent hearing assistance dog or emotional support dog. Increasingly, many service dogs are rescued from shelters.

Service Dog versus Therapy Dog

Many people confuse service dogs with therapy dogs, but they play two completely different roles that require nearly opposite characteristics.


Service dogs are one dog for one person and perform specific tasks to help that person cope with a disability. Therapy dogs are one dog for everyone—they bring cheer and comfort to hospital patients, assisted living center and nursing home residents, homeless families, and students.


Service dogs must be handler-focused, desensitized to distractions, and highly trained to do specific tasks. They should not be distracted by the public, as they should focus solely on their owner when working. For service dogs, training can last up to two years before they are placed with a client. Service dogs typically wear a vest that identifies them as a service dog and asks the public not to pet them.


Therapy dogs should be friendly and outgoing, yet calm and obedient, and socialized to a variety of people, places, and things. Therapy dogs need to be trained in basic manners and obedience, and are required to take continuing education workshops. Therapy dogs and their owners provide opportunities for petting and affection in a variety of settings on a volunteer basis.

Cost of Service Dog

Service dogs can be a large expense, regardless of where the dogs come from. Organization-trained service dogs can cost up to $25,000. That includes two years of training, plus the organization’s expenses for food and veterinary care. Many organizations offer financial aid for people who need, but cannot afford, a service dog. Owner-trained service dogs can be just as expensive when you calculate the cost of professional training assistance and daily living expenses. It is strongly recommended that the owner and dog work with a professional trainer for the life of the dog to ensure working reliability.

The Epidemic of Fake Service Dogs

Because service dogs have public access into restaurants, stores, and the cabin area of airplanes, some people obtain fake service dog credentials just because they want their dog to be with them. For a certain amount of money and minimal application standards, a dog owner can receive a vest and certificate for an untrained pet. This practice is unethical and detrimental to the well-being of working service dogs. The exploitation of service dog laws is a federal crime.

Information above in Basics section cited from:

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/service-dog-training-101/

Tips for training your own dog

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Qualities of a Service Dog

  • Calm but friendly
  • Alert but not reactive
  • Able to be touched by anyone, including strangers
  • Willingness to please
  • Tendency to follow you around
  • Socialized to many different situations and environments
  • Ability to learn quickly and retain information

First Steps to Train Your Own Service Dog

Even if you plan to train your own dog as a service dog, you should seek the help of a professional dog trainer. But there are foundation skills that you can start at home that will give your dog a great start on a service dog career.


These include:

  • Potty on command
  • Focus on handler and ignore distractions
  • All AKC Canine Good Citizen objectives
  • Public Access skills

Public Access Skills

Service dogs and their handlers have a responsibility each time they go into a public place. The teams should be relaxed and present a positive image of service dogs. Assistance Dogs International has established standards for service dog behavior in the Public Access Test including, but not limited to:

  • Controlled loading into and unloading out of a vehicle
  • Controlled approach to a building
  • Controlled entry and exit through a doorway
  • Heeling through a building
  • Six-foot recall on lead
  • Sit on command in various situations
  • Down on command in various situations
  • Control in a restaurant
  • Control when the leash is dropped

Tasking Skills

The main purpose of a service dog is to perform a task specific to the handler’s disability. Often, service dogs perform a range of behaviors that qualify as tasks, in addition to providing unconditional love and companionship to the handler.


Commonly known tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf to noises like ringing phones, pulling a wheelchair, and retrieving dropped items. However, not all disabilities are obvious, and service dog tasks can also include alerting a person with a seizure disorder or diabetes to an oncoming attack, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with PTSD during an anxiety attack, or any other duties specific to a disability.

 Information above in Tips section cited from:

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/service-dog-training-101/