Folks we get many inquiries as to “How do I get a Service Dog?”. Hopefully this page will help clear up some of the misconceptions and get the conversation off on the right foot/paw.
Many people see a service dog as a matter of convenience (I am able to bring my dog everywhere). That statement alone should grind the conversation to a halt. There is nothing convenient about a service dog. It is a huge amount of work and responsibility. Before that point in the discussion there is something that needs to be clarified in no uncertain terms.
To have a service dog you must have a diagnosed disability that your medical team is willing to certify impacts your daily life on a prolonged basis and that you can benefit from the use of a service dog.
Now go back and re-read that again. A service dog is a medical assistive device to help mitigate the effects of your disability. This is not convenient, or nice, or cute. This is the harsh reality of living with a disability. Every one of us would gladly ship our disability back if it meant living a normal life without the effects. But we cannot. That is reality. So on a go forward basis we work to have the best quality of life that we can under the circumstances.
Step One: You must have your medical team certify that you are disabled and that you could benefit from the use of a service dog. This is your prescription letter/letters. (We recommend that you review the Eyes Wide Open piece on the information page so that they are aware of some of the new challenges you will face. We work in collaboration with your health care team, not as a replacement for other forms of treatment or therapy)
Step Two: From there you need to complete the initial screening application and we need to find out how your PTSD affects your daily life. Can a service dog be of assistance to you. Some people have unrealistic expectations (No, a service dog cannot provide guard dog duties). Please be advised that most of the schools that we work with do not do owner trained dogs unless you live in 2 very narrow geographic regions, so please do not ask. There are schools that will do that, just know that we do not use that model outside of 2 very specific regions (Ottawa, Vancouver Island).
Step Three: The interview and training process. The schools will take the initial screening app and interview you to see what task specific skills the dog needs to be trained for to help with your disability. Many think that advanced obedience makes a service dog. Those are the skills that grant public access. Service Dog Task training is what makes the dog a service dog and the dog must be trained to complete a minimum of 3 tasks for the handler (keeping in mind emotional support and guard duties do not qualify)
Step Four: Acceptance and Pairing. The school will make the decision to find and train a suitable dog for your needs. Currently, most schools have a wait list from 9 to 18 months. When the dog is trained and ready, then the hardest part of the process occurs.
Step Five: Team training and Public Access Testing. At this point you are paired with your new service partner and you need to learn to operate as a team and to function in Public. This is an ongoing and dynamic process. A service dog, though technically a medical appliance, is a living, breathing sentient being with needs and wants of its own, so learning to operate effectively together is a process that is not without its ups and downs. But the schools and other handlers will help you through the learning curve and share their experiences. The first 90 days post pairing can be a real challenge as you learn to operate in public with your new team member. Just because you have passed your Public Access Test there is no way to envision the multitude of challenges you will face as a team. The more time you spend working together in those first 90 days, the better the next few years of your life will be as a team.