Puppy Adoption – So You’d Like To Adopt A Service Dog

Have you ever thought about Service Dog puppy adoption? I’m sure you’ve seen Service Dogs out on the streets, in your local mall, or maybe the grocery store, but did you know that you can adopt one of these beautiful, well-behaved dogs? Most of this information how to adopt a puppy is based on my experience and knowledge with Guide Dogs of America.

What is a Service Dog?

Puppy In Training

According to the American Disabilities Act (federal) any dog assisting a person with a

disability is considered a service dog (exclusive of therapy dogs). Service dogs are entitled to freely access buildings and transportation (trains, planes, buses). Some of the common

service dogs are:

  1. Dogs for the blind – Often referred to as “Guide Dogs” or “Seeing Eye Dogs”
  2. Hearing and Signal Dogs – Dogs trained to assist deaf people.
  3. Assistance Dogs – A varied category. Dogs will often help by picking things up, open and closing doors, and pulling wheel chairs
  4. Therapy Dogs – Not considered by law as a Service Dog. Therapy dogs visit hospitals, care facilities, nursing homes, etc to cheer up patients. – For the re levance of this article we will not be talking about Therapy Dogs.

How Does A Puppy Go From Puppy To Service Dog?

First, it’s important to understand the process a Service Dog puppy

goes through before achieving the status of Service Dog.

  1. Breeder Dogs are housed by foster families near Service Dog facilities such as Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar, CA.
  2. Breeder Dogs are bred and have litters at the Service Dog facility.
  3. The litter stays at the facility until approximately 7-8 weeks of age.
  4. At 7-8 weeks of age puppies move on to live with individuals and families called puppy raisers.
  5. Puppies are evaluated and learn basic obedience throughout the puppy raising period for approximately 18-22 months.
  6. At 18-22 months the puppies are brought back to the Service Dog facility for formal training.
  7. Puppies attend formal training for 4-6 months. During formal training puppies learn advanced commands specific to the disability they will assist.

This is just a short step-by-step and does not include every detail in a Service Dog Puppy’s training.

How Can I Adopt A Service Dog Puppy?

Service Dog training programs are very rigorous and not all puppies will become Service Dogs. At Guide Dogs of America it is said that approximately 40% of the puppies who start the program will not make it as a Guide Dog. So what happens to the puppies that are career changed (don’t make the guide dog program)? The puppy raiser has the first choice to keep the puppy. If the puppy raiser declines to keep the puppy then the puppy is adopted out. Who gets to adopt the puppy? Currently at Guide Dogs of America there is a 5 year wait list for people interested in adopting a retired or career change guide dog. They are not accepting new applications.

Guide Dogs are not working service dogs their entire lives. Working Guide Dogs can be retired due to health problems or old age. The blind partner has the first option of adopting his/her retired working Guide Dog. The puppy raiser has the second option of adopting the retired Guide Dog. Finally, if neither opt to adopt the dog then the dog is adopted out to a family/individual who applied for puppy/dog adoption.

What about other Service Dog Groups?

There are many other Service Dog groups and their policies and procedures for puppy adoption are probably similar to Guide Dogs of America. However, other groups may be accepting applications for new adoption families. Here are a few groups I’ve come across on the web with headquarters in California:

Guide Dogs of America

Guide Dogs for the Blind

Guide Dogs of the Desert International

Canine Companions for Independence

Are you interested in Service Dog puppy adoption? Have you ever raised a Service Dog puppy or adopted a Service Dog? I’d love to hear what you have to say.


  1. DeAnn De Soto says

    I need a service dog to help me walk and get around the house. I have MS and i don’t have alot of balance so i really need you to help me find out what dog will help me around the house.
    Thank You.
    DeAnn De Soto

  2. says

    @DeAnn De Soto, if you’re looking for a service dog you might try checking with one of the large national organizations like Canine Companions for Independence. Here’s a link to their website: CCI.

    The Assistance Dogs International website has a list of many service dog organizations that also might be able to help you. Here’s a link to a list of organizations separated by country/state:


    Best of luck finding a service dog and I hope the links I listed help you on your way.

  3. Tracey Reither says

    Just wondering if dogs are cross trained for vision impaired and mobility impaired individuals or would this be too confusing for the dog? My 20 yr old son has cerebral palsy. He uses a walker to move about but is also legally blind. What type of service dog should I be looking for? Thank you.

  4. says

    @Tracey, I work with dogs as a puppy raiser and train them in socialization and basic obedience from about 7 weeks until about 1 1/2 years of age. Unfortunately I’m not an expert in this area, however, you can probably find the answer if you check with Canine Companions for Independence. Try contacting them at http://www.cci.org.

  5. Linda Heck says

    I had a service dog for 10 years, and I recently lost him, he had a seizure on night, Morris just never came out of it. I am looking to be able to have another service dog.
    I was told by ECAD, that I would need to raise another $6,500.00 and unfortunately I don’t have the contacts that I was once able to do.
    I have a dystrophy name Refelx Sympathetic Dystrophy. I have had this condtion for over 11 years now, and do still have the impacts of the RSD. My skin burns at times like I am having acid spilled all over me. My joints and my muscles hurt, and there is some atrophy to my muscles. Other than the RSd, my health is in perfect shape. I do take medications that help with the pain in my body, and am followed by a Dr, and in order that I receive my medications.
    I am in need of a service dog to help me get up and down stairs, and in and out of a chair at times. My hands hurt at times, as along the top of my feet.
    I need a dog that has some training, as I am unable to take any kind of pulling on my hands.
    If a service dog wasn’t able to be given to me, I would like to be able to have a companion dog to be with me.
    I look forward to hearing from you soon, and hope you can help me.
    Linda Heck

  6. says

    @Linda, I’m sorry to here about the loss of your service dog. Unfortunately, I’m probably not the best contact for getting a new service dog. I’ve been raising guide dog puppies for the past few years, but I’m not involved with placement whatsoever.

    You might try contacting Canine Companions for Independence. They have locations across the United States and may be able to help you get a new service dog. Their website is http://www.cci.org.
    .-= Colby´s last blog ..Are You Ready For Earth Hour? =-.

  7. Nellie says

    I am looking for a family dog. I have a daughter with down syndrome. She is 5 years old. I have other children as well. A 15 and 2 year old daughters. I have been researching through so many websites but it’s frustrating when you can’t seem to find what you are looking for. I know the internet is suppose to make things easier but sometimes it’s more confusing.
    Breanne is a child with Down Syndrome. Her eyesight is poor and she has what is call Dancing Eyes. Her pupils move drastically fast and when she walks it’s hard for her to distinguish the difference patterns on the sidewalk. She uses a wheelchair occasionally as she has a condition call Hypotonia. She is a happy child but occassionally her mood can change. Her therapist suggested we get her a dog to keep her company and make her more independant.
    Please advised on what you might think is best for her or who I may call. Thank you so much.

  8. Nancy Shaffer says

    The Southeastern division of Canine Companions is not conducting any interviews at this time.

    Last spring (2010) and early summer, I went through the preapplication, application, dr. referrals with no problems. The next step was the formal interview and then IF I met their criteria I would be invited to attend a 2 week training session and leave with a Service Dog.

    In December 2010 I received an email stating that no interviews would be scheduled due to the number of people already on the waiting list. CCI reviewed the decision in June and another email was received. No interviews would be scheduled at this time. Another review is scheduled for this December.

    • says

      @Nancy, thank you for telling us about the process you are going through with Canine Companions. I just took a peek at the Guide Dogs of America website and they still are not taking new applications and it also lists that the waiting list is 6 years. Good luck to you and hopefully everything works out soon.

  9. says

    We have adopted an 8 year old former seeing eye dog, who developed seizures as a result of his work. The dog was given to someone who died one month later, so he has had some transitions in the last month. All of us, two adults and two kids, are sighted, which I think he has picked up on. But he often watches me very closely to see what I am up to. I have never seen a seeing eye dog work in the home with their blind master, so not sure if I am seeing him on task or not. I am wondering if he has ever been alone, and how to make his transition easier. We also do not want to lose the effectiveness of his training, so when we give him a command, like ‘down’, and he does it, do we give him an ‘attaboy’? Thanks. All hints appreciated.

    • says

      @Mike, as a guide dog puppy raiser I only take the guide pups through there first 18 months of training and socialization. The final 6 months of formal training is done at the school. As for your question: If it were me I would continue to praise your dog when he obeys his commands.

  10. stacy mcnicholas says

    Can you guide me to an organization in the Central NY area that have dogs that can be adopted that just did not make the cut at a Companion training program? Don’t they go up for adoption? But where? Thanks!

  11. Dennis Rabalais says

    Hi. i’m a quadriplegic male and I live in a nursing home. I want to transition to independent living. Can I still train assistance dogs in nursing home until I get housing (example. if I will be transitioned to home within two weeks)? Reason is, I cannot live alone.

    • says

      Hi Dennis,

      You might want to check with some of the different assistance dog schools and trainers in your area to see what they recommend. One of the largest in the United States is Canine Companions for Independence. There website is http://cci.org. Good luck with your training!


  12. Nicole says

    Howdy all :)
    My 11mo old daughter is legally blind (has some light perception) & I am curious as to when (what age) & where we could obtain a guide dog for her. We live in the mid Hudson Valley region of NY. Thank you :)

    Our Best,
    The Sheridans

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