getting an SD

The Service and Therapy Dog forum is for all service and therapy dogs regardless of whether or not their status is legally defined by federal or state law, how they are trained, or whether or not they are "certified." Posts questioning or disputing a person's need for a service or therapy dog, the validity of a person's service or therapy dog, or the dog's ability to do the work of a service or therapy dog are not permitted in this forum. Please keep discussions fun, friendly, and helpful at all times.

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Member Since
Barked: Tue Oct 15, '13 10:36pm PST 
I am looking for an SD and finding websites that want you to make "donations" of $6,000 or affordable fees of $15,000- $20,000. for them to find and train you a dog. Then you have to pay to go to them and pay to have another trainer show you how to handle your SD which takes 3-4 days that you have to pay for hotels, food, etc. Is there an easier cheaper way to get an SD? Are these companies even legitimate and to be trusted? I am on disability and would have to do fundraising to pay for all of that, but would like to not get ripped off by a place that does not properly train a suitable dog.

Barked: Wed Oct 16, '13 9:08am PST 
I think your best bet is to research the reputation of the programs first, then see if the program is a good match, then breathe deep and fundraise.

I've always found it ironic and somewhat cruel how expensive service dogs are, but the reality is that you can either pay a single lump sum to receive a program dog or spend similar amounts of money in small installments to owner train. I'm technically "owner training", but Oberon and I go to training classes every single week and have since Puppy Kindergarten. We have two more levels to complete and after that I'll be looking for more intensive, higher demand-on-the-dog courses. If Oberon can perform safely, reliably, and happily as a service dog at two years old we'll have spent no small amount of resources getting him there.

I know it sucks to hear that there's not really a cheaper or quicker way, but I've read many shared stories of people who plug away at fundraising a little bit whenever they can until their goal is reached. Fundraising that kind of money seems huge and daunting, but if you take it a little bit at a time you can do it!

My Sammi
Barked: Wed Oct 16, '13 12:09pm PST 
Just a couple questions to help answer yours...

What kind of service dog are you looking for? In other works-sticking to the two questions allowed by law to be asked of you by, for example, buisinesses into which you take your dog-what task/tasks would the dog need to do for you to mitigate your disability? also, are you a military veteran?

The answers to these questions may have a dramatic impact on your search for a service dog, and the costs of attaining the appropriate dog.

Generally speaking, a dog trained to do tasks such as seeing-eye, or for hearing impaired will cost the most to train and place. Dogs trainined to do tasks along the lines of picking things up, opening things, turning on lights, balance, etc, will usually cost somewhat less, but can still be expensive to train to reliability.

On the other hand, a psychiatric service dog may, as it turns out, cost the least amount to get it to full service. Why? Because a dog that has to be tuned in to you enough to mitigate mental disabilities must live with the handler, (you), full time in order to get inside your head and be useful to you. You do a majority of the training, with the guidance/assistance of a trainer. So, if you've ever had a dog before, the maintinance costs are about the same. The expense comes in the form of trainer's time, travel to and fro, and special equipment you may choose to use, ie, vest, hands-free leash, etc.

I ask if you're a veteran because there are many good organizations that will evaluate your needs, find a rescue/shelter dog that is a good fit, provide the training and equipment, and assist with food, equipment, vet bills, etc...often at no cost to the veteran.

If you're not a veteran, there are still many reputable organizations that place fully trained dogs with disabled persons at no cost to the individual; but the waiting lists are long, usually. Taking the time to find the right place the first time will get you the right dog sooner than rushing into anything, so take your time, for sure!

Good luck and God speed in your search!

dog walk

Member Since
Barked: Wed Oct 16, '13 5:15pm PST 
My SD would be for my PTSD and anxiety. I am not a Veteran. I don't really know how to research the company's reputabilites, which is why I made this post.

One that I was able to find info on was the one that was the most expensive. I found a forum that someone had asked about the particular company. People pointed out lots of things on the website that sent up red flags such as their claims to train the SD to biochemically predict a panic attack before you have one. Though even untrained dogs can sense drops in blood sugar, onset of seizures and other conditions, this is not something you can train a dog to do. There were also many other things users to that forum stated that would dissuade someone from seeking their services.

Other companies I tried to google but only found their websites.

One site I found does not charge clients for their SD, the wait time is 2-10 years, but they are not accepting applications for people with my conditions right now. They are only accepting applications for children needing specific types of SDs.

The Boy Wonder
Barked: Wed Oct 16, '13 7:43pm PST 
There are very few programs that train service dogs for psychiatric conditions. Not many of the ones that do are reputable and I can't really recommend a lot of them. If you want to email I can see if I can help find you a trainer near you or a program that would work for your needs. My email is on Happy's dogster page.

My Sammi
Barked: Thu Oct 17, '13 10:53am PST 
You're in luck, my friend! Why, you ask? A PTSD dog is about the least expensive SD you'll ever need for many of the reasons I outlined in my first response; the dog lives at home so it's no more expensive than a pet to maintain, and, you get to write off all expenses on your taxes!

Forget "Organizations" that provide trained dogs. Nobody can train a dog to get inside your noggin. The dog has to live by your side 24/7 from day one; and I mean strapped to your wrist. (Okay, maybe not in the shower, or when you're on the pot at home...). You just be you, the dog will figure out the rest.

If you're paying close attention, you will see what the dog is picking up on, and you reward it for responding in a way that serves you best. This takes time, patience, and support from your family. As far as public access training, ie, manners, socializing, etc., this is what you need help from a trainer for. This is pretty rudamentary stuff, so you don't need a "specialized" trainer.

If you do a little on-line research about SD's and the ADA, you'll find specific definitions, limitations, and requirements that apply to you. There isn't a whole lot of stuff that pertains to everyday living, so it's not an insurmountable task. Also, if you reasearch PSD's, (psychiatric service dogs), and PTSD, you will find several tasks that you can teach your dog to help with your dominant symptoms. Your trainer can show you how to do these kinds of training.

There is a lot more I could share with you, but these are the bones of the issue. When I started my journey with my five week old Sammi, I never knew how different my life would be less than two years later! Even the process has been cathartic. Let me know if you'd like references to material/laws/regs/etc.
blue dog

The Boy Wonder
Barked: Thu Oct 17, '13 8:29pm PST 
Sam I completely disagree. I think the average person is not remotely prepared for the amount of training that goes into a service dog. Let alone a PSD, in order to properly train a dog to respond to your particular situation you need to either have someone with a level head with you or someone who can do the training For you. Programs are a good and viable option for a large number of people.

There are matters of etiquette, and handling that there is no place to learn about online. A badly handled service dog reflects badly on the whole community.

This is not to say that you Can't train your own dog but it's not an easy process and it isn't a Cheap process when you do it correctly. Service dogs require a level of general maintenance that the average pet does not.

In all honesty I believe a large part of the so called 'faker' problem is a reflection of so many people thinking it's an easy thing to train their own service dog and their lack of knowledge about general handling, training, and behavior with a service dog.

Barked: Thu Oct 17, '13 10:23pm PST 
Owner training is only cheaper if you are prepared to put your heart and soul into training your dog. Service dog training is not pet level training (which a lot of people cannot even handle themselves so they seek out obedience trainers). Just because it CAN be done for not much more than the cost of a pet dog, doesn't mean everyone should attempt it. You also have to keep in mind the wash out rate can be pretty high, and it isn't easy to re-home a dog that you have been bonding with for a while.

Also, it takes at least a year of constant training for a puppy to become stable enough in public to be any help to you. And then you have to work on more proofing after that. Owner training is very slow process.

This is why program trained dogs cost a lot of money.
Brady SD

Full steam- ahead.
Barked: Sat Oct 19, '13 1:07am PST 
My apologies for the length.

I agree with Happy and Sun. I was able to owner train Brady because I had the time out of work, I had raised him as a puppy, and I knew how to train a dog in all things pre-SDiT. I’m a member of the local Obedience Club in my area, which means socializing, training, and manners are already taught to all my dogs (and I don’t compete). As Sun said, that is not normal for most pet owners, to have the time or ability to train their dogs even how to walk on a leash without pulling or gagging themselves, forget SDiTs/ SDs. Happy and Sun both mentioned good points, and to show you what we all mean here is a recent story that I just had but not a week ago.

A student of my basic class came in with her year old Newfie, such a beauty and a soft spot for me. I could tell right away that she was struggling with this dog; he wasn’t healing well and wasn’t listening to her but a third the time. When I asked her about her dog, she said he was in training to be an SD for her, for her fibro and narcolepsy. She had never owned the breed, knew little other than their ‘sweet and easy going temperament’ and size to help her. Well those are the average Newf traits, but not all are the same. She mentioned her late husband had an SD, she wanted one to help with her stability and to alert her in daily activities. If she ever reads this, I’m sorry, but there were flags everywhere to me, not just as a trainer, but as an SD handler.

First she had never OT an SD before, never trained a giant male dog before, full of hormones and strength, and finally that he was a rescue from a less than ideal beginning. Even though she got him at three months, she didn’t enroll him in puppy class or even beginner obedience then, but waited until he was already a year to train in the basics with us. She admitted she had been so sick and tired that she hadn’t had the time or effort to really get into his training in those crucial early months. She said he already goes everywhere with her yet he couldn’t even focus on her at all, his attention at a heel was always on the ground or the air, as if there was a female in heat nearby. Not even a tasty morsel could get this boys attention for more than a minute and this is normal for him outside of class. I am truly worried for her, sent her talk to a Newfie savvy friend to see if it is hormones or if this boy is too independent minded to serve her.

Even if he can help her with some of her problems, what if he never has the manners or focus for PA work? What if he becomes too much for her to handle with her fragile state? I never even mentioned the possibility of him not working out or getting his hips/elbows clearanced for mobility work. I hope things work out for her, as Sun said, it’s hard and heartbreaking to washout a pup that just couldn’t cut it. Sadly, most OTs won’t wash out a dog but will continue to use the dog, faults and all, even if presenting a bad image for us all.

Not everyone can or should train their own dog, same as every dog can’t be a SD. I recommend not just getting any dog or any trainer. The dog must also be reliable, sure some have luck with rescues or really young puppies but that is not the norm and is risky for washing out. You might need a trainer that knows more than AKC rally to train an SDiT or SD candidate, especially to help train a task or for a specific disability, even PSD work. As for the dog, be very picky. Even breeder bred dogs (like many programs use) have a high enough wash out with all the careful rearing, raising, and training so just imagine what a recycled dog can have for baggage. One unknown, one opps, and the dog can be washed out in a day. IMO, lots of SD organizations, from what I have seen, that use rescues do so to be both altruistic and as a way to easily acquire cheaper dogs. No matter where a dog is acquired from, the wash out is high enough, best to stack the odds in your favor and not against, and try to be patient. Brady beat four others that failed their candidacy to be my SD, because he had the right stuff, and the others did not. I don’t look forward to finding his replacement someday; there are many here who will attest to that with their own SDs.

Cost is still a factor; you must have the money to spend, no matter how much of a tax break you get in the end. Remember that the amount spent on medical services/devices (SDs) has to be enough to count on taxes verses your income or it doesn’t count at all.

There is a lot that goes into SDs, selection, knowing your disability, knowing what the dog can do to mitigate it and is the stress of the dog worth the benefit. There are years of early training and on-going training for life, battles and harassments, family and friend drama, work drama (ask Harley’s mom), and using them as a tool for you and not just about having a dog with you 24/7. It’s a long road, I wish only the best and know that there are others, like on here, that are more than willing to help.

I would take Happy’s advice on helping you with finding a PSDs, I would also talk to Olivander’s mom and Iris’s mom. Take care and good luck!

Work hard; Play- harder.
Barked: Sat Oct 19, '13 9:32pm PST 
First, Sam, hearing dogs don't cost that much to train. The reality is that the in-home only versions are the least expensive since public access training. Second, it is a fallacy that PSDs must be with their person 24/7 in order for them to work; if that were the case, LEK and similar programs wouldn't be producing dogs. Then there is the fact you are completely glossing over the flip side; dog washes out and then you're stuck with the fallout which can be heartbreaking.

There aren't that many programs for non-veterans and one must be careful when making their choice. There are far more fly by night operations than those using sound business principals.

For the OP: reputable programs will generally assist you in fundraising. Yes, they have wait periods and expect you to attend team training. That team training is where you learn all of the dog's commands and they get a chance to see how well you work together, but also what your strengths and weaknesses as a handler are. If you have any desire to travel outside the US, your best bet is an ADI program; it won't guarantee that the the country will allow the dog to work with you, but it certainly helps (providing you meet all the other entry requirements).

Happy pretty much summed up the whole situation. She knows her stuff.
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