White service dog in red vest lying outdoors

Could you raise a service dog?

Interested in raising a service dog? Here’s what you need to know.

Dogs that have been trained as service animals to assist the blind, hearing impaired, and people with other disabilities are indeed lifesavers. But these four-footed aides must be trained before they’re qualified for the job.

People just like you, who know how much a dog enhances life, welcome the challenge of helping raise a service dog. They assume responsibility and experience the rewards of helping mold an undisciplined puppy into a highly trained working dog.

(Sorry, no cats, birds or bunnies: only dogs are recognized as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act.)1

Service puppies are primarily golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and German shepherds — breeds chosen for their good health and temperament. Typically, they’re bred by service dog organizations, which count on volunteers to then care for and socialize the pups at home until they’re about a year and a half old.

What’s expected of puppy raisers2

Similar to fostering a dog, raising a service pup involves exposing them to a wide variety of people, pets, and situations to observe their behavior and temperament.

Puppy raisers are also expected to teach their charge basic obedience. The dog will receive more advanced training from a professional instructor.

To raise a service dog, contact an organization that selects and trains potential canine candidates before uniting them with individuals in need of assistance. Typically, you’ll start the process by filling out an application. If you’re accepted into a program, you may need to attend a training course before taking home your puppy, which will happen when he’s about three months old.

If you’re considering raising a service dog, ask yourself these questions before volunteering:

  • Do I have the time to devote to a puppy?
  • Do I have the support of my family?
  • Is someone available during the day to help with housetraining?
  • Is there already a pet in my home? How will they react to a puppy?
  • Am I willing to spend time training the puppy?
  • Am I able to bring him in for advanced training sessions?
  • Can I deal with turning the puppy over to new handlers and saying goodbye when it’s time?

Normally, the cost of raising a puppy is tax deductible if you work with a non-profit service dog organization. However, check with your tax advisor before deducting puppy food, veterinarian bills, and related expenses.

Service dog organizations

Think you’d like to volunteer to raise a puppy? Check out the following organizations for information to get started.

Assistance Dogs International
Refers visitors to service dog organizations worldwide

Canine Companions for Independence
Non-profit, national group

Canine Partners for Life
Non-profit, national

Guide Dogs of America
Non-profit, US & Canada

Guide Dog Foundation
Non-profit, multi-state

Hero Dogs
Non-profit, exclusively for military veterans

International Guide Dog Federation
Accredits guide dog organizations worldwide

Renee Fong has always had a love for animals since she was young. After many years of nagging her parents for a dog, it was at the age of ten that she wore them down; Renee has been training dogs since she was 17 years old, amassing a wealth of experience and developing his psychology-based methodology over the last 10+ years. This refined and successful training method has been used by hundreds of happy dog owners in the world over the years.


  1. ADA Requirements: Service Animals. ADA.gov. https://www.ada.gov/resources/service-animals-2010-requirements/
  2. Reeder Jen. What It Takes To Raise Puppies for Service Dog Organizations. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeds/takes-raise-puppies-service-dog-organizations-important/

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