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How to Get a Service Dog (In the United States)

May 26, 2024

Before I start with this post, I first want you to know that I am located in the USA. This information is all the information that applies to my country. If you are located outside of the US, your country may have different laws and regulations that apply to you with the service dog process.

With that out of the way, let’s jump right in!

In the United States, to qualify for a service dog, you must…

  • Have a disability
  • Be impacted in most aspects of your life by said disability
  • See improvement/management with a task trained dog (or suspect you will)

If you check all of those boxes, you can move on to the search for a dog that meets your needs.

There are two main routes that you can go to get a service dog in the United States: purchasing a fully or partially trained dog from a program (or receiving one for free) and training a dog yourself.

For most handlers, I recommend first looking into receiving:

Program Trained Service Dogs

This is because owner training is hard, takes time, and requires a lot of work on your part. If you can avoid the stress and anxiety by working with a program dog, I always encourage that! 

Some great program dogs with a great history of training and professionalism that I’ve found personally are…

Most of these programs (with the exception of MD Dogs) do not train for medical alert tasks, and they require that you do not continue training with the dog. Brigadoon is the exception. If that is a task that you need, I recommend owner training at this time.

There are no programs that I currently recommend for allergen detection training.

These programs usually have a year or longer wait list.

However, training a service dog from a puppy usually takes two years or longer, so it will be a lesson in patience either route you choose!

If you have decided against a program, or you don’t qualify for whatever reason, your next option is to

Train a service dog yourself.

This means that you will purchase a puppy or dog (usually from a breeder for the best chance of success) and train the puppy yourself until they graduate into fully trained status.

This does not mean that you will have no support.

There are plenty of owner training service dog lessons, classes, and more offered by professional trainers to help you, including my programs!

Here at Delta Tails, I have breeder lists that I trust and know well to produce great service dog prospects for any disability.

I help my clients choose a breed that fits their needs, choose a breeder to match that, and evaluate litters of puppies to choose the best option for a service dog prospect with the breeders’ assistance.

When the pup is ready to come home, I support you through the whole process from afar or in person in Northern Colorado.

The process of owner training takes time, energy, and money, but it is so rewarding.

Many of my clients discover a love of dog training and go on to help others or learn more about how dogs learn and how best to teach them.

It is always amazing to watch how much owner trainer handlers learn throughout their time in lessons or our memberships.

Just a caveat to the owner training process:

Professional training is not required by law in the US. However, I will always consult with other trainers for my own dogs and recommend others do the same because of how involved and emotional training a service dog really is.

From your decision to owner train or find a program dog, your next step is to learn and prepare for the process!

If you opt for a program dog, that program will best help you during the transition and can provide resources to help you learn more about their specific style and dogs.

If you opt for owner training, read my post Owner Training Your Own Service Dog to learn more about what goes into owner training your own service dog.

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