The Service Dog Connection places fully trained custom service dogs with families within a 6 hour drive of Bend, Oregon. Our only exception to this rule is if we are placing successor service dogs with our previous service dog recipients. We specialize in Psychiatric, Autism, Mobility and Medical Response Service Dogs, and combinations of these. 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. We do not train guide dogs, hearing dogs, or medical alert dogs.
Our program has gone through significant changes in 2023, and our applicant requirements have also changed. Anyone interested in being placed with a fully trained service dog from us must meet all of the following requirements below:
-Applicant must be 18 years of age or older (with the exception of children with Autism). Applicants needing the task of bracing must be at least 20 years of age.
-Applicant must be within a 6-hour drive of Bend, Oregon unless they have previously received a service dog from our program and are applying for a successor dog.
-Applicant must have a documented disability to a disabling level.
-Applicant must be willing to puppy raise an older service dog in training for a minimum of one month (this is to ensure that the applicant can handle the demands of caring for a service dog and also gives the applicant practice with service dog handling skills and commands before receiving their own service dog). Once the month of puppy raising is complete, our team will review the experience and decide if placing a service dog from our program is right for your situation. Only after passing final review of your puppy raising experience will your application be eligible for being matched with your own service dog.
- Applicant must pay a 50% nonrefundable deposit to The Service Dog Connection once matched with their service dog before customized task training begins.
-The remaining 50% of the service dog placement fee is due at the time of placement (generally 2-5 months after being matched).
Our fully trained service dogs range from $14,000-$24,000 depending on tasks needed and where the applicant is located. We do not offer payment plans.
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.
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. Most of our service dog puppies come from our breeding program or other reputable breeders.
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 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 75% of them make it as service dogs. When one of our dogs passes the evaluation phase, we review our approved 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 3-6 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.
The first phase of our service dog placement requires the applicant to spend 7 days in Bend, Oregon working with our trainer and their new dog. The team bonds, and learns how to work together in a variety of settings. The team then travels back to their hometown to spend 1-2 weeks just getting settled in.
After the initial settling process, our trainer travels to the applicant's hometown to help with any location-specific training and home training needs. This also allows us to help train friends and family on service dog rules. Our trainers spend 4 days with the service dog team during hometown placement to ensure everyone is confident working as a team moving forward.
Deep Pressure Therapy, Responding to signs of anxiety, interrupting self-harming behaviors, light forward momentum, hug, blocking others from getting too close, tethering.
Getting the attention of others to get help, retrieving the phone, retrieving medication, waking up the handler, Deep Pressure Therapy to help with pain or other conditions.
Picking up dropped objects, object retrieval, carrying objects, opening doors, pushing handicap and crosswalk buttons, untangling the leash.
Weight-bearing tasks that will require a mobility harness, hip and elbow clearance, and a size requirement of the dog.
This fee is to cover the cost of a hotel for one of our trainers during 7-10 days of placement in the applicant's home town.
(We are only accepting longer-distance applicants that have already received a service dog from us in the past) This fee is to cover the cost of plane tickets, hotel booking and rental car for one of our trainers during the 5-7 days of placement in the applicant's home town.
Due to a high volume of applications received, along with lots of program changes, we have had to scale back on the volume of service dogs in training and focus just on fulfilling the needs of our current applicants. Applications will not be opening up again for the foreseeable future.