A “career change” service dog is a dog that didn’t make it through the service training program. If you want to adopt one as a pet, the process is different than if you’re applying for a service dog to assist you with a disability. You’ll need to find an organization nearby that adopts out these dogs. Keep in mind that there’s generally a long wait list for career change dogs. If you want a service dog to assist you with a disability, you don’t just “adopt” the dog. You must apply for the program, be accepted, and go through training before receiving a dog.
EditFinding a Service Dog to Adopt
- Look for service dog organizations in your area though the internet. Many service dog organizations have dogs up for adoption. These dogs may either be ones that couldn’t make it through the program or who have retired from service. Try searching “adopt service dog” with your city.
- These organizations are more likely to be in larger cities, so you may need to travel a bit if you live in a smaller city.
- Check out the dogs for adoption on the organization’s website. Most of these organizations have a website. On that site, they’ll usually have a specific tab that lists dogs they have available for adoption. Each dog will likely have a picture and biography. You can peruse the options on your own time to see if any of them look like a good match for your family.
- Ask why the dog didn’t make it through the program. Most of the time, the dogs just aren’t suited for the training needed to be a service dog. In that case, they will likely make perfect house pets. However, you should always ask just to make sure the issue is something you can live with as a pet owner.
- Visit the organization in person. It’s also a good idea to visit in person. That way, you can meet the dogs and see if 1 of them has a personality that will be a good fit with your family. Plus, you can check out the facility to make sure it looks clean.
EditAdopting a Career Change Service Dog
- Check the organization’s requirements. Dogs that train service dogs may have slightly more stringent requirements than a regular shelter. Check the website for these requirements, or go ask in person. For instance, you may need to be 21 or older, and you might have to agree not to use the dog as a service dog.
- Keep in mind that many of these organizations have wait lists. You may have to wait years to get this type of dog.
- Choose a dog that’s a good fit for you. Begin by deciding which dog you want. Look for playful, happy gestures, such as the dog licking your hand, wagging its tail, dancing around, or bowing its head with its behind up in the air.
- Bring other family members to make sure the dog is a good fit. Even if it responds well to you, it might respond badly to someone of the opposite sex or to children.
- Fill out an application. Most of these organizations have an application process. The application will likely you ask you about things like how you will care for the dog, whether you will be able to keep it indoors, and what other pets you have.
- You may also be asked to write a short answer about why you want this kind of dog.
- Answer any questions the agency may have. After the agency receives your application, the staff may have some more questions. You should answer these as openly and honestly as you can.
- For instance, if you’ve had multiple dogs in a short period, they may want to ask you why you went through so many dogs. They might also ask you how you plan to help the dog adjust to your home.
- Take the dog home on a trial basis. Most of the time, you’ll take the dog home for a trial period, generally a week or so. That gives you and the dog both a chance to see if the dog is a good fit in your home.
- Give the dog a day or two to adjust. Have the dog spend time with each family member individually to make sure it likes and gets along with each person. Also, slowly introduce the dog to other pets to see if they get along.
- Sign the adoption papers and pay the fee. Once both you and the agency are satisfied that the dog is a good fit, you can sign the adoption papers. You’ll also need to pay the fee, which can run anywhere from $80 USD to $500 USD, depending on the agency.
- In some cases, you may need to pay the fee before taking the dog home on a trial basis.
EditGetting a Service Dog for Assistance
- Find a program for service dogs. Your city may not have a program that trains service dogs. However, most programs are open to people traveling to them to get a dog. Pick a program that trains service dogs for your specific need.
- For instance, some focus on seeing-eye dogs, while other dogs are trained to help veterans or other people who are disabled.
- Check the cost. Some programs may require you to pay for your service dog. However, many provide service dogs to people for free, so you may not need to pay a cent. Keep travel costs in mind, though, if you need to travel to another area to receive your dog.
- Apply for the program by filling out an application. You should be able to find the application online. The applications for most of these programs are fairly extensive, as they receive many more applications than they have dogs. Therefore, they want to make sure every potential candidate is a good fit. An application can take several months, so prepare ahead of time.
- You may need to fill out information about your medical history, as well as information about your education, employment, travel skills, and any previous experience you have with service dogs.
- You’ll also likely need to provide references. In some cases, you may need to provide proof that you can travel independently.
- Go through training. Service dogs receive extensive training, but they’re not the only ones who need it! You will also need training on how to work with the dog, so that you can use its training properly to help you. Training can take 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the program you choose. 
- Often, you’ll work 1-on-1 with a trainer and your dog to learn everything you need to know.
- Some training is done at home. It just depends on the organization.
- Bring your new service dog home. Once you complete the training, you can bring your new service dog home with you to be a part of the family. It may take a while for the dog to integrate into your home, so be patient. Introduce the dog slowly to other family members and pets.
- Learn your rights as a service dog owner. If you have a disability, you have a right to bring your service dog into most public spaces and to your workplace to offer you assistance. The only exception to this rule is places that must meet specific standards of cleanliness, such as operating rooms; in that case, the organization may refuse entry to your dog.
- Keep your service dog under control in public. While you have a right to bring your dog with you to assist you in public places, you are required to keep your dog under control. In general, that means keeping the dog on a leash or harness, unless that makes it impossible for the dog to help you.
- If your dog needs to be off the leash, it must remain under your control through voice commands and gestures.
EditSources and Citations
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