The Right Dog
Which dogs can become service dogs? There are a lot of considerations!
Whether you enter the AVSDA program with your own dog or are seeking a dog through AVSDA, there are important considerations for making sure the dog is up to the task of becoming your working service dog partner.
If you already have a dog you are hoping might become your service dog, AVSDA trainers will evaluate your dog and give you an honest assessment. Timid, elderly, and dogs with health problems, as well as defensive, reactive, or aggressive dogs are not suitable candidates for becoming a service dog. Adding responsibilities to a dog who already has difficulties dealing with environmental and social stressors would not be fair to the dog, nor would this dog be able to help you with your medical needs.
If your dog does not meet criteria for becoming a service dog, we will discuss other options with you that might include possibilities such as training your dog to help you at home, or possibly adding a second (AVSDA selected) dog to your family.
If you are interested in receiving a dog from AVSDA we will interview you about your specific needs and help determine the most suitable breed. While any breed of dog can legally become a service dog (provided they meet all temperament and behavior criteria), we stick with breeds that have been selected for many generations to have the best genetic temperament and health traits to improve odds of successful graduation.
We generally place golden retrievers, and sometimes Labrador retrievers and standard poodles. On specific occasions we will search for an appropriate small breed dog for veterans who require a small service dog.
After deciding upon breed and locating a litter with excellent health backgrounds, we then individually evaluate each puppy's temperament and training aptitude through a series of assessments. Once we have selected puppies, they come to live in the home of our training director for early socialization and introductory training. The puppies begin to participate in group training with enrolled veterans when they are approximately 12 weeks old. They remain with the training director for at least 6 months before beginning to spend increasing amounts of time with their prospective veterans. When a match is decided upon, the assigned puppy will begin going on 'dates' to their veteran's home, gradually transitioning to sleepovers and then full transition to living with their human partner.
Upon graduation, the AVSDA service dog puppy is adopted by the veteran!