The Service Dog Connection places fully trained custom service dogs with families all over the United States to fit their needs and lifestyle. We specialize in Psychiatric, Autism, Mobility and Medical Response Service Dogs, and combinations of these. Fully trained service dogs from most organizations cost between $15,000-$30,000. This price makes receiving a fully trained service dog unattainable for most people. This is why The Service Dog Connection's entire business model aims to reduce the cost of fully trained service dogs while not compromising quality. Service dogs must pass the ADI Public Access Test and are task trained to assist an individual with their disability. Individuals who want assistance from The Service Dog Connection in obtaining a fully trained service dog must have proof of a documented disability.
Our biggest goal when placing service dogs with people is making sure that the dog and the individual are a great match. We make sure that the dog is willing and able to help with the disability need, but we also look at lifestyle, activity level, and personality of the dog AND the recipient! Every dog and person is different, and we do our very best to match you with the best dog for you. Because of this, we ask recipients to describe themselves and their lives as accurately as possible and understand that we do not let people pick out their dog from our available program dogs. While we train service dogs for a wide variety of disabilities, we do not train service dogs for visual impairments.
If you are wanting a fully trained service dog from The Service Dog Connection, the first step is to fill out the SDC Recipient Application in the link further down on this page and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will review your application and then schedule a phone interview to get a better sense of your needs and what dog would be best for you. During the phone interview we will also give you a specific quote for the total cost of the service dog, which includes the cost of a SDC trainer traveling to your hometown for placement. When we have a dog available that has passed its ADI Public Access Test and meets your needs, we will contact you. From there, we require a 50% deposit on the dog before custom training the dog to your needs, as well as our service dog contract signed.
Once matched with a dog, you will be regularly updated on the progress of the dog's training and we will schedule their placement date. The final 50% of the dog's cost is due at the time of placement. A SDC trainer will travel to your hometown and do training with you and your new service dog for about a week to ensure that everyone is transitioning smoothly and becoming a solid service dog team. The cost of fully trained service dogs from The Service Dog Connection is between $6,000-$12,000 based on the type of dog required, the amount of tasks required for the service dog to perform, and travel cost of placing a dog if the placement is not local to us. PLEASE NOTE: If you are needing tasks involving scent work, the cost may be higher since we contract out the work to a local trainer that specializes in this.
After placement, The Service Dog Connection team is still a text, phone call or email away for additional support. We are committed to the success of each service dog team, and will do what we can to offer continued guidance throughout the dog's entire life.
Service dogs are dogs that are specifically task trained to assist one person with their disability and meet public access behavior standards. They are given public access where pets, therapy dogs and emotional support animals are not allowed, including restaurants, stores, and malls, and have the highest training standard of those groups.
Therapy dogs are dogs trained to serve a larger group or community and are only allowed in places that have given permission to the handler and their dog ahead of time. They are frequently seen in schools, hospitals, therapy offices, and assisted living facilities.
Emotional support animals are allowed to live in residences that have a "no pets" polity with people that have a psychiatric condition that benefits from the presence of an animal. In the past, ESA were allowed special access on airplanes, but regulations have changed starting in 2021 and now dogs that were previously ESA will now be restricted by size, must be kept in a carrier that can fit under the seat, and will be charged the regular pet fee for doing so. ESA are not specially trained in any way and do not have public access rights to go into public places that aren't pet friendly.
We get our dogs from a wide range of places including shelters, rescues, breeders, and people surrendering their pets that they can no longer keep. No matter where they come from, we temperament and health test our dogs to make sure they they have what it takes for service dog life and that they enjoy having a job.
Once a dog has joined our program, our team of staff and volunteer trainers work to teach them the basic commands, such as come, sit, down, stay, heel and leave it. This is our time to really figure out what the dog is motivated by and start setting basic behavior expectations using positive reinforcement.
We rely heavily on volunteer Puppy Raisers to help expose our training dogs to lots of different environments where they will practice the basic commands until they are more of a habit. Our service dogs in training live with their Puppy Raisers and accompany them to school, work, and on errands.
Once the service dog in training has had several months of basic public access training and is over a year old, we bring them in for evaluation and put them through the ADI Public Access Test. This is the minimum requirement for service dog behavior out in public that all of our program dogs are required to pass. Out of all of the dogs that enter our training program, only about one third of them make it as service dogs. When one of our dogs passes the evaluation phase, we review our applications and match the dog with the applicant that is the best fit. Those that don't make the cut for service dog work either become therapy dogs or become adoptable as wonderful pets.
Service dogs in training that have been paired with an applicant go to live with one of our trainers for several months of customized task training. Task training is the specific training that will help the applicant's disability, such as interrupting signs of anxiety and self-harming, picking up dropped objects, or retrieving medications. Since every dog and person are different, we work closely with the applicant during this phase to make sure we are preparing the dog for the person's lifestyle and disability needs as much as possible. Applicants get weekly updates on their service dog's training progress and a plan is made for when one of our trainers will travel to their hometown for placement.
Most service dog organizations have their applicants travel to the program's location to receive their service dog, but we have found this to be difficult for many of our applicants and actually less successful for the service dog team overall. Instead of making applicants travel to us we have one of our trainers travel to them. This allows recipients to get the much needed support in integrating their new service dog into their home and life, and our trainers can assist in location-specific training such as riding the New York subway, or getting used to snowplows in Alaska. Our trainers spend 7-10 days with the service dog team during placement to ensure everyone is confident working as a team moving forward.