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

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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.  If you’re interested in adopting a service dog then check out our list of service dog schools with adoption programs.

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
    We Like: Mighty Paw Naturals Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
    We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

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  1. My 10 month baby had a seizure on Friday 8/26/16 my daughter saw my baby shaking n his lips were purple n I immediately gave him CPR he was non responsive for 2 to 3 mins n came back to life but he was quiet Soo I’m unable to sleep I’m scared I’m looking how i Can get a small service dog asap to help me n alert me with my baby.were ever the baby is the dog will be.my son was in his crib n I went to close the door wen I came back to lay down on my bed he was shaking.I’m considering getting him a clear bed n cameras with sound n motion detectors.but a service dog I know will bark n alert me if my baby’s sezuring. Pls help me….

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your baby. Try visiting the Assistance Dogs International website http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org. Look for and contact organizations in your area. Here are a couple other articles I wrote that are targeted towards adopting retired service dogs, but they may help you locate an assistance dog organization near you:


      Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your search.

      1. Thank you Colby I’ve been looking for service dogs but there all big dogs n cost from $7,000.00 fully trained.I need a small dog Soo he can go to daycare with my baby.I will check the websites u sent me thanks Soo much

        1. Yes, most organizations train larger dogs like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds. A good place to start would be to contact some of the organizations on the Assistance Dog International list I sent you so you can start asking questions about how a service dog can and cannot help you.

  2. I have been diagnosed with PTSD almost 4 years ago following a terrible accident i seen, I havent been able to work since then. I have a hard time being out in public places. Shopping has been done mostly by family members. Im learning to control my anxiety with medication but it does get away from me at times, like when i go to doctors if the room if full i shake and feel like i cant breathe or move and i panic. I would like to get a service dog to help me get out into more public places without the fears of a panic attack. Is there a process I need to go through? I have limited funds from social security, so any and every bit of information would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you, Andrea

    1. We are writing a follow up to this article, but until then my short answer is to go to the Assistance Dogs International website: http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org and search for service dog organizations in your area. Some of these organizations will have forms where you can apply directly online for a service dog while others will require you to email or contact the organization directly. Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your search.

  3. i am in need of a service dog asap I’m located in CT and I don’t know the process or know where to turn. Please help. Thanks you

  4. I am 62 and deaf in one ear i have a degenerative back decrease that will in time make it hard to walk i fight depression …not sure if you can help i would like a dog for a companion to be with me at all times go every where with me so i am never alone..i live with my daughter and her kids i was told a sevice dog might be best for me possibly a retired one …what do you think… ty for your time god bless you…. mary

    1. Hi Mary, we are currently working on placing more service dogs, but unfortunately we won’t have any available for approximately two years time. If you’re interested in a service dog check the Assistance Dogs International (http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org) website for service dog organizations in your area. Good luck with your search.

  5. How can I get my dog to love people and other animals? I would love for her to be my emotional support dog but she doesn’t do well with other dogs really. 🙁

    1. Early socialization with all people, dogs, places, sights, sounds, and smells always helps to make a dog better adjusted to different things including people and animals. However, not all dogs are meant to be service dogs or emotional support 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.”

  6. 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

  7. 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.

    1. 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!


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