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 are under the age of 70.
- Your medical professional has determined that you would benefit from a service dog.
- 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 one-week training program in Ocala, Florida.
- You are dedicated to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the dog's life and can provide for the well-being of the dog.
- 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 “puppy raisers” outside the correctional facility. Later, dogs spend longer periods with puppy raisers.
Our dedicated volunteers 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 volunteer raiser writes a report to let the trainer know how the dog responded to certain situations. Through this teamwork, each dog receives personalized training.
During a one-week Advanced Training program, dogs meet their veteran and begin working together. At the end of this training, teams must pass the Assistance Dogs International Public Access test to become fully certified teams.
What Breeds of Dogs do We Use?
Most of our dogs are Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers. We also have a pilot program with Rottweilers and have successfully placed a Bernese Moutain Dog, mixed breed dogs, poodles. Whitman's Warrior Project is designed to sponsor a rescue dog for service dog training.
Patriot Service Dogs no longer trains poodles or poodle-mix dogs.
A Few of the 89 commands we teach:
Turn on Lights
Pick up, Retrieve, and Bring Items
Take off Shoes/Socks
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.