Frequently Asked Questions
I have a great dog at home. Will you train my personal dog or certify my dog?
If you are looking for a trainer for a dog you own, these websites may offer resources:
- Assistance Dogs International
- Association of Professional Dog Trainers
- Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
Who can apply for a dog from Service Dogs, Inc.?
- Have a medically diagnosed hearing or mobility impairment
- Live in Texas
- Be at least 25 years old by the time you receive your Service or Hearing Dog. (Usually 1-2 years after acceptance to our wait list.)
- Have a stable, independent living arrangement or home life
- Deal personally and directly with Service Dogs, Inc. (An applicant may get assistance, but family members or other support people may NOT be the primary contact.)
- Not have another dog in the home by the time you receive your Service or Hearing Dog. (Usually 1-2 years after acceptance to our wait list.)
Do I have to have an email account and cellphone texting to apply?
Yes, you must have both. We use use email throughout the application process, run an education program for people on our waiting list via email, and stay in touch with working teams through email. In addition, our trainers support the entire state of Texas and texting is required to set appointments and communicate when they are traveling and may not have access to a computer. We use texting sparingly, but email is frequent.
Do you train for other disabilities?
No. We train mobility Service Dogs, Hearing Dogs, and Facility Dogs only.
We do NOT provide service dogs for the following:
- Dogs for in-home use primarily
- Seizure detection
- Allergy detection
- Blood sugar detection
- Guide dogs
- Emotional support dogs
- Psychiatric service dogs
Am I eligible to apply? I don’t work and need the dog mainly at home.
SDI trains dogs for full-public access and not for in-home use primarily. Consequently, our clients are typically working or involved in activities that take them into public situations daily such as volunteering, parenting activities, and full-time or part-time work. This requires a considerably higher level of training that SDI specializes in providing. Whether you are eligible depends on how often you need your dog with you in public. We assess each application individually.
Dogs that work only in the home are called Skilled Companions and you can find organizations that train in-home dogs at www.assistancedogsinternational.org In addition, depending on the help you need, a professional trainer may be able to teach the behaviors you need in the home.
How much does it cost?
SDI provides each dog free of charge to the client. We have to raise $50,000 in donations to pay for training both the dog and the recipient. We welcome donations from applicants and appreciate any fund raising efforts, but these are not required.
The charges clients must cover are:
- Application Fee: $50, non-refundable
- Travel Expenses: Travel and lodging expense to our training campus in Dripping Springs, Texas (near Austin) for:
- Applicant Orientation Day (1 day)
- Matching (one or more 2-hours sessions)
- Team Training (5 days)
- Expenses for the Hearing, Service, or Facility Dog Living with You: Approximately $2000 annually for premium dog food, veterinary needs, training supplies, equipment and other needs. This typically exceeds the cost of a pet dog in your home. See What’s Required of Assistance Dog Partners for more information.
How long is the application process?
The application process takes 3-6 months. If your application is accepted, you go on our waiting list which is usually an additional 12-24 months.
What kind of dogs does Service Dogs, Inc. use?
We do not select by breed. We select young adult dogs with a temperament suited to this type of work, which includes both mixed breed and purebred dogs. Hearing Dogs are typically small to medium dogs (30-50 pounds). Service Dogs are generally larger (50-75 pounds). Facility Dogs can be any size or breed.
Temperament is the key for our dogs. It is a rare dog that can deal with the constant flow of new people, environments, and situations our dogs will encounter. They must be people focused, quick to recover if startled, responsive to training, able to refocus from distractions, and have a sort of courageous willingness that is hard to find. In fact, we screen many hundreds of dogs to find the 30 or so that will make up each year’s class.
How old are the dogs when they are matched with a partner?
Service Dogs, Inc. dogs are usually 1-2 years old we adopt them. As the training to be an Assistance Dog takes nearly a year, they are usually 2-3 years old when matched with their partner.
I have a dog now. Can I keep him when I get a dog from SDI?
No. This is sometimes a hard choice for applicants, but the Assistance Dog must be the only dog in the home. That is so its focus will be on helping its partner, not the distraction of another dog. One positive aspect of the waiting list is applicants have plenty of time to find a relative or friend who can provide a good home for their current pet.
I have other pets. May I keep them?
Other pets are usually not a problem, though cats affect how quickly we can match you with a partner, as many dogs react to cats. Remember you will be responsible for keeping both your other pets and your Hearing or Service Dog safe and healthy, which may mean keeping them separated.
Do I have to have a fenced yard?
Yes, if you live in a house. You will still need to take the dog outdoors for exercise and toileting. We do not allow recipients to leave their Hearing or Service Dogs in the backyard unattended.
If you live in an apartment, you will need to take your dog outdoors multiple times daily for exercise and toileting. You must also arrange to clean up after your dog routinely. We will not place a dog with you if you cannot meet these requirements.
If I raise money, will I get a dog sooner?
No. We greatly appreciate donations, but we do not prioritize matching on fundraising. Finding the best dog for you and training it to your needs is what affects how long it takes to get a dog.
What if I have a question?
Please address your concern directly with the Applicant Coordinator or a Service Dogs, Inc. staff member listed on the “Our Staff” page.