Our dogs can help with the following common disabilities
If you are a veteran interested in applying for a service dog, please review the following information to determine if you meet our eligibility requirements.
- You have served in any of the U.S. Armed Forces branches from any era and have received an honorable discharge.
- You have combat-related PTSD or other related problems.
- You are a disabled veteran and comply with the ada.gov.
- You are willing to have an in-home visit.
- You are willing to have an interview to learn more about the program and tell us more about you and your needs.
- You can participate and will be committed to our two-week training program and schedule.
- You are dedicated to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the dog's life and can provide for the well-being of the dog at approximately $100 per month.
- You can meet the physical and emotional needs of a dog and have an appropriate support system in place to do so if/when you are unable to yourself.
- You meet all of the ADA Service Animal Guidelines.
About Our Dogs
Patriot Service Dogs places high-quality service dogs with veterans. After two years of intensive training, each dog is evaluated to determine how their personal strengths match our pool of veteran applicants' needs. While not all dogs are born to be service dogs, we train and love them all for the time they are with us. The journey from pup to a service dog is always an adventure!
Training begins at eight weeks old when the puppies are brought to the Lowell Correctional Facility in Central Florida to meet their inmate-trainer. This trainer often remains the dog’s lead trainer for the full two-year program. Puppies are taught basic manors and obedience commands like sit, stay, and wait. These form a strong foundation so that the puppies can learn more advanced commands as they grow older - like turning lights on and off and opening cabinets. Once the puppies have mastered the obedience commands, they begin taking bi-weekly exposure trips to volunteer “weekend raisers” outside the correctional facility.
Our dedicated weekend raisers work with our inmate-trainers through letters and reports to work on specific skills that cannot be practiced in an institutional setting, like behaving in a restaurant, ignoring other animals like ducks, and working around shopping carts. Before the dogs are returned to their inmate-trainer, the weekend raiser writes a report to let the trainer know how the dog responded to certain situations. Through this teamwork, each dog receives personalized training.
Dogs finishing their training or need a little extra help mastering a skill, spend time at Patriot’s Landing, our training facility. The Landing gives the dog time to work in a home-setting with experienced dog trainers.
During a ten-day Advanced Training program, dogs meet their veteran and begin working together.
What Breeds of Dogs do We Use?
Most of our dogs are Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers. Each class includes one rescue dog chosen from our WOOF Program partners at Hailes Angles. We also work with Standard Poodles and Goldendoodles. Occasionally, we try other breeds like a Bernese Mountain Dog or Portuguese Water Dog.
Golden Retrievers and Labs generally have the right size and temperament to be service dogs. A very large dog might be difficult for a veteran to take in restaurants or on planes, while a smaller dog might not be able to reach someone in a wheelchair or perform all of our commands. Other breeds like German Shepherds and shepherd mixes often become very attached to their trainer and do not transition well to a new person when it is time to place with a veteran. Rescue dogs have been successful in our program, but often have to be released because they do not pass our medical exam, which requires good eyes, elbows, and hips. Of course, there are always exceptions to these generalizations.
A Few of the 89 commands we teach:
Turn on Lights
Pick up, Retrieve, and Bring Items
Take off Shoes/Socks
Pop the Corner
Check the Room
Speak (This is taught as both a verbal and hand signal command. Veterans can use their dog’s barking as an excuse to leave an uncomfortable situation.)
Push (This is commonly used to open handicap accessible doors.)
Load/Unload from a Vehicle
Will We Train Your Dog/Will We Train a Specific Dog for You?
No. We do not certify personal dogs. While we encourage all honorably discharged veterans to fill out our application, we do not train specific dogs for specific veterans. Veterans cannot request a breed or gender when they are placed with a dog.
Each dog we train has its strengths and personality, so we make matches based on how the dog fits with each veteran’s lifestyle and needs. If we were to take any eight-week-old puppy and train it for a certain veteran, it is unlikely the dog would grow up to fit that veteran’s needs. We don’t make promises we can’t keep and we don’t force dogs to do what makes them uncomfortable.
Do We Ever Release Dogs?
Yes. In every class of dogs, about 40% do not place with a veteran to be a service dog. This can be due to medical issues; service dogs lead more physically demanding lives than the usual house pet, so we require good eyes, elbows, and hips before placement. And some dogs do not have the temperament to be service dogs.
At Patriot Service Dogs, we do not force any dog to be someone it's not. We often remind our trainers and weekend raisers, who put so much love and hard work into the program, that we asked an eight-week-old puppy to be service dogs; they didn’t ask us. Shy dogs who are happy to live with a family in a familiar setting, but are easily frightened in new situations do not want to be service dogs. We understand that. Some very high-energy dogs never settle to the level we need them to for placement. We understand that.
If a dog is released from the program, we find the right fit for them to have a happy life.