New Pet Owner

Could You Raise a Service Dog?


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

People just like you, who know how much a dog enhances life, welcome the challenge, assume the responsibility and experience the rewards of raising an undisciplined puppy and helping mold it into a service dog*.

Service puppies are primarily Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds chosen for good health and temperament. Typically they are bred by service dog organizations, which count on volunteers to then care for and socialize the pups at home until they are about a year and a half old.

What’s Expected of Puppy Raisers

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. More advanced training from a professional instructor involves educating a potential service dog about where (and where not) to relieve itself, not to jump on people, good manners are much more.

To raise a service dog, contact an organization that selects and trains potential canine candidates before uniting them with an individual in need of assistance. After you fill out an application, it will be reviewed. If you are accepted into a program, you may need to attend a training course before meeting your puppy, which will be about three months old when it is turned over to you.

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

  • Do I have the time to devote to a puppy and 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 and bring him in for advanced training sessions?
  • Can I deal with turning the puppy over to new handlers and saying good-bye when it’s time?

* Sorry, no cats, birds or bunnies: Only dogs are recognized as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Normally the cost of raising a puppy is 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